Factor Attribution of Jim Cramer’s ‘Mad Money’ Charitable Trust Performance

Weekend reading, on a lighter note:

Authors: Hartley, Olson

Title: Jim Cramer's ‘Mad Money’ Charitable Trust Performance and Factor Attribution

Link: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2778724


This study analyzes the complete historical performance of Jim Cramer’s Action Alerts PLUS portfolio from 2001 to 2016 which includes many of the stock recommendations made on Cramer’s TV show “Mad Money”. Both since inception of the portfolio and since the start of “Mad Money” in 2005 (when it was converted into a charitable trust), Cramer’s portfolio has underperformed the S&P 500 total return index and a basket of S&P 500 stocks that does not reinvest dividends (both on an overall returns basis and in Sharpe ratio). These findings contrast with previous studies which analyzed Cramer’s outperformance in short windows before the 2008 financial crisis. Using factor analysis, we find that Cramer’s portfolio returns are primarily driven by underlevered exposure to market returns and in some specifications tilting toward small cap stocks, growth stocks and stocks with low quality of earnings. These results have broad implications for market efficiency, the usefulness of single name stock recommendations made on television, financial education, and the implementation of academic factors thematic in Cramer’s portfolio.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"The usefulness of the financial advice from CNBC financial markets commentator Jim Cramer and other television finance personalities has historically been one of controversy.

Returns data from the Action Alerts Portfolio PLUS are provided by TheStreet.com which are also made available to the public (See Table 1, Figure 1). Subscribers are also given access to portfolio holdings data which we use to confirm some the findings of our risk factor analysis.

The results of the regressions are reported in Table 2. Analyzing the entire history of the portfolio, our CAPM specification finds a CAPM Beta of approximately 0.95 (statistically significant at the 1% level) and a negative alpha of -2.38% that is statistically significant (at the 10% level). Being underleveraged (underinvesting in the market portfolio) in part may be a result of the portfolio’s policy of not reinvesting cash dividends.

Across almost all of our specifications, the results demonstrate that underleverage explains most of the portfolios relative underperformance given the S&P 500’s positive absolute performance over the period. This is also confirmed by the portfolio holdings data which indicates that the AAP portfolio often holds a significant cash position, largely to make its annual cash distribution in March to make charitable contributions.

In our Fama-French (1993) three factor specification, we do find that the portfolio has some exposure to small caps given that the SMB factor is statistically significant at the 10% level, something confirmed by the portfolio holdings data. We do not find such a statistical significance when only looking at the entire history of Mad Money from 2005.

Also, when controlling for momentum factors in our Carhart (1997) four factor specification, statistical significance of the size factor also disappears nor do we find evidence of statistically significant exposure to momentum stocks.
However, we do find that when analyzing the March 2005 to March 2016 time period, when adding the extra size, value and momentum factors in the Fama-French (1993) and Carhart (1997) 4 Factor regressions that the statistical significance of the negative alpha of -3.06%, found in the CAPM for the same period, disappears.

When we include the Frazzini and Pedersen (2014) Betting-Against-Beta factor and the Asness, Frazzini and Pedersen (2013) Quality Minus Junk (QMJ) factor, we find some evidence that Cramer tilts toward growth stocks and away from stocks with high quality of earnings.

Using the factor analysis results obtained above, we also construct a “robo-Cramer” portfolio that uses the same factor loadings as estimated from the regressions. The systematic Cramer-style portfolio is constructed from the same regressions of monthly excess returns, namely the Carhart Four Factor regression using data over the entire time period (August 2001 to March 2016). The portfolio is rebalanced annually at year-end to keep constant weights. The explanatory variables are the monthly returns of the standard size, value, and momentum factors. Note that such a synthetic portfolio outperforms Cramer’s actual cumulative returns for the entire period.


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