Market timing

Momentum In International Government Bonds Can Be Explained By Currency Momentum

18.April 2019

A new academic paper related to:

#8 – Currency Momentum Factor

Authors: Zaremba, Kambouris

Title: The Sources of Momentum in International Government Bond Returns

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3332942

Abstract:

This study aims to offer a new explanation for the momentum effect in international government bonds. Using cross-sectional and time-series tests, we examine a sample of bonds from 22 countries for the years 1980 through 2018. We document significant momentum profits that are not attributable to bond-specific risk factors, such as volatility or credit risk. The global bond momentum is driven by the returns on underlying foreign exchange rates. Controlling for currency movements fully explains the abnormal returns on momentum strategies in international government bonds. The results are robust to many considerations including alternative sorting periods, portfolio construction methods, as well as subperiod and subsample analysis.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"The various types of momentum effects have also been documented in government bonds, implying that the fixed-income winners outperform fixed-income losers. Although the finance literature extensively discusses the sources of momentum in an equity universe, the specific explanations for momentum in government bonds are rather scarce.

This paper aims to contribute in two ways. First, we provide new evidence on the momentum effect in international government bond markets. Using cross-sectional and time-series tests, we investigate a sample of government bonds from 22 countries for the years 1980 through 2018.

Second, and more importantly, we offer and test two new explanations of momentum. Our first hypothesis builds on Conrad and Kaul (1998): we conjecture that the momentum in bonds may simply capture the cross-sectional variation in long-run returns. In other words, the top performing assets continue to deliver higher returns because they exhibit excessive risk exposure. In particular, we assume that the winner (loser) bonds may display high (low) exposure to duration and credit risks, which drive the excessive long-run returns. The second hypothesis is that the momentum in bonds might be driven by the returns on underlying currencies.

Fund flows

The primary findings of this study can be summarized as follows. We document a strong and robust momentum effect in government bonds. An equal-weighted portfolio of past winners tends to outperform past losers by 0.24–0.35% per month. The effect is not fully attributable to the risk factors in government bonds, which explain 38–55% of the abnormal profits. Nevertheless, the phenomenon is entirely explained by the momentum in underlying foreign exchange rates, which is consistent with our second hypothesis. Once we control for the currency returns in cross-section or time-series tests, the momentum alphas disappear. The results are robust to many considerations, including alternative sorting periods and portfolio implementation methods, as well as subperiod and subsample analyses."


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Can We Explain Abudance of Equity Factors Just by Data Mining? Surely Not.

11.April 2019

Academic research has documented several hundreds of factors that explain expected stock returns. Now, question is: Are all this factors product of data mining? Recent paper by Andrew Chen runs a numerical simulation that shows that it is implausible, that abudance of equity factors can be explained solely by p-hacking …

Author: Chen

Title: The Limits of P-Hacking: A Thought Experiment

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3358905

Abstract:

Suppose that asset pricing factors are just p-hacked noise. How much p-hacking is required to produce the 300 factors documented by academics? I show that, if 10,000 academics generate 1 factor every minute, it takes 15 million years of p-hacking. This absurd conclusion comes from applying the p-hacking theory to published data. To fit the fat right tail of published t-stats, the p-hacking theory requires that the probability of publishing t-stats < 6.0 is infinitesimal. Thus it takes a ridiculous amount of p-hacking to publish a single t-stat. These results show that p-hacking alone cannot explain the factor zoo.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"Academics have documented more than 300 factors that explain expected stock returns. This enormous set of factors begs for an economic explanation, yet there is little consensus on their origin. A p-hacking (a.k.a. data snooping, data-mining) offers a neat and plausible solution. This cynical explanation begins by noting that the cross-sectional literature uses statistical tests that are only valid under the assumptions of classical single hypothesis testing. These assumptions are clearly violated in practice, as each published factor is drawn from multiple unpublished tests. In this well-known explanation, the factor zoo consists of factors that performed well by pure chance.

In this short paper, I follow the p-hacking explanation to its logical conclusion. To rigorously pursue the p-hacking theory, I write down a statistical model in which factors have no explanatory power, but published t-stats are large because the probability of publishing a t-stat ti follows an increasing function p(ti). I estimate p(ti ) by fitting the model to the distribution of published t-stats inHarvey, Liu, and Zhu (2016) and Chen and Zimmermann (2018). The p-hacking story is powerful: The model fits either dataset very well.

p-hacking model

Though p-hacking fits the data, following its logic further leads to absurd conclusions. In particular, the pure p-hacking model predicts that the ratio of unpublished factors to published factors is ridiculously large, at about 100 trillion to 1. To put this number in perspective, suppose that 10,000 economists mine the data for 8 hours per day, 365 days per year. And suppose that each economist finds 1 predictor every minute. Even with this intense p-hacking, it would take 15 million years to find the 316 factors in theHarvey, Liu, and Zhu (2016) dataset.

This thought experiment demonstrates that assigning the entire factor zoo to p-hacking is wrong. Though the p-hacking story appears logical, following its logic rigorously leads to implausible conclusions, disproving the theory by contradiction. Thus, my thought experiment supports the idea that publication bias in the cross-section of stock returns is relatively minor."


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Better Rebalancing Strategy for Static Asset Allocation Strategies

13.March 2019

An interesting financial academic paper which analyzes an alternative approach to rebalancing of static asset allocation strategies:

Authors: Granger, Harvey, Rattray, Van Hemert

Title: Strategic Rebalancing

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3330134

Abstract:

A mechanical rebalancing strategy, such as a monthly or quarterly reallocation towards fixed portfolio weights, is an active strategy. Winning asset classes are sold and losers are bought. During crises, when markets are often trending, this can lead to substantially larger drawdowns than a buy-and-hold strategy. Our paper shows that the negative convexity induced by rebalancing can be substantially mitigated, taking the popular 60-40 stock-bond portfolio as our use case. One alternative is an allocation to a trend-following strategy. The positive convexity of this overlay tends to counter the impact on drawdowns of the mechanical rebalancing strategy. The second alternative we call strategic rebalancing, which uses smart rebalancing timing based on trend-following signals – without a direct allocation to a trend-following strategy. For example, if the trend-following model suggests that stock markets are in a negative trend, rebalancing is delayed.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"A pure buy-and-hold portfolio has the drawback that the asset mix tends to drift over time and, as such, is untenable for investors who seek diversification. However, a stock-bond portfolio that regularly rebalances tends to underperform a buy-and-hold portfolio at times of continued outperformance of one of the assets. Using a simple two-period model, we explain the main intuition behind this effect: rebalancing means selling (relative) winners, and if winners continue to outperform, that detracts from performance.

As stocks typically have more volatile returns than bonds, relative returns tend to be driven by stocks. Hence, of particular interest are episodes with continued negative (absolute and relative) stock performance, such as the 2007-2009 global financial crisis. In Figure 2, we contrast the monthly-rebalanced and buy-and-hold cumulative performance over the financial crisis period, where both start with an initial 60-40 stock-bond capital allocation. The maximum drawdown of the monthly-rebalanced portfolio is 1.2 times (or 5 percentage points) worse than that of the buy-and-hold portfolio, right at the time when financial markets turmoil is greatest.

Rebalanced and not rebalanced portfolio

In earlier work, Granger et al. (2014) formally show that rebalancing is similar to starting with a buy-and-hold portfolio and adding a short straddle (selling both a call and a put option) on the relative value of the portfolio assets. The option-like payoff to rebalancing induces negative convexity by magnifying drawdowns when there are pronounced divergences in asset returns. We show that time-series momentum (or trend) strategies, applied to futures on the same stock and bond markets, are natural complements to a rebalanced portfolio. This is because the trend payoff tends to mimic that of a long straddle option position, or exhibits positive convexity.

Trend exposure and portfolio drawdown

We evaluate how 1-, 3-, and 12-month trend strategies perform during the five worst drawdowns for the 60-40 stock-bond portfolio. Allocating 10% to a trend strategy and 90% to a 60-40 monthly-rebalanced portfolio improves the average drawdown by about 5 percentage points, compared to a 100% allocation to a 60-40 monthly rebalanced portfolio. The trend allocation has no adverse impact on the average return over our sample period. That is, while one would normally expect a drag on the overall (long-term) performance when allocating to a defensive strategy, in our sample, the trend-following premium earned offsets the cost (or insurance premium) paid.

An alternative to a trend allocation is strategically timing and sizing rebalancing trades, which we label strategic rebalancing. We first consider a range of popular heuristic rules, varying the rebalancing frequency, using thresholds, and trading only partially back to the 60-40 asset mix. Such heuristic rules reduce the average maximum drawdown level for the five crises considered by up to 1 percentage point. However, using strategic rebalancing rules based on either the past stock or past stock-bond relative returns gives improvements of 2 to 3 percentage points."


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Why Is Allocation to Trend-Following Strategy So Low?

21.February 2019

Related to all trendfollowing strategies:

Authors: Dugan, Greyserman

Title: Skew and Trend Aversion

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3315719

Abstract:

Despite evidence of the benefits to portfolio Sharpe ratio and variance, actual investor allocations to Trend Following strategies are typically 5% or less. Why is there such a significant discrepancy between the optimal allocation and actual allocation to Trend? We investigate known behavioral biases as a potential reason. While decision makers have other reasons to exclude Trend Following from their portfolios, in this paper, we explore loss aversion, recency bias, and the ambiguity effect as they pertain to Trend Following, and we call the combination of the three Trend Aversion. We quantify Trend Aversion and show that these biases are a viable explanation for suboptimal allocations to Trend. We demonstrate a direct connection between quantifications of known behavioral biases and current suboptimal allocations to Trend Following. Recognition of these relationships will help highlight the pitfalls of behavioral biases.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"Investors may have reasons for excluding Trend Following from their portfolios ranging from time-horizon for performance, to drawdowns, to potential capacity issues. However, the strategy's long performance history shows that a meaningful allocation would have increased portfolio Sharpe ratio and reduced portfolio variance, and yet typical investments remain at or below 5%. Some investors have no exposure.

The strategy's quantitative nature, positive skew, and frequent but small losses act in concert to trigger loss aversion, recency bias, and the ambiguity e ffect. We call the combination of the three Trend Aversion.

Sharpe ratio vs. Fraction invested in Trend


Our results show Trend Aversion is a viable explanation of suboptimal allocations to Trend Following. Decades of psychological research show that people mentally inflate losses by a factor of two. In this paper, we demonstrated that a loss multiplier between 1.5 and 2.5 would cause the typical allocation to Trend of 5% in a simple two asset portfolio, in an 11-asset portfolio with random allocations, and in two other 11-asset portfolio constructions with dynamic allocations. We showed that loss aversion can decrease allocators Sharpe ratios by up to 50%. Using lookback windows in a dynamically allocated portfolio, we demonstrated that recency bias drives down allocations to Trend. Finally, we showed that combinations of loss aversion and recency bias also drive Trend allocations to suboptimal levels.

Many investors who are subject to Trend Aversion as a practical matter, for example due to investment committees or reporting structures, are unsure of how to balance Trend Aversion with the bene ts of Trend Following to reach an allocation decision. By establishing a methodology to optimize allocations under loss aversion, we provide a framework which investors can use to formalize their allocation decisions. Investors who are subject to typical loss aversion should permanently allocate at least 5% to Trend Following, while investors whose loss aversion is lower can benefi t substantially by allocating materially more than 5%."


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Currency Hedging with Currency Risk Factors

23.January 2019

A new research paper related to multiple currency risk factors:

#5 – FX Carry Trade
#129 – Dollar Carry Trade

Authors: Opie, Riddiough

Title: Global Currency Hedging with Common Risk Factors

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3264531

Abstract:

We propose a novel method for dynamically hedging foreign exchange exposure in international equity and bond portfolios. The method exploits time-series predictability in currency returns that we find emerges from a forecastable component in currency factor returns. The hedging strategy outperforms leading alternative approaches out-of-sample across a large set of performance metrics. Moreover, we find that exploiting the predictability of currency returns via an independent currency portfolio delivers a high risk-adjusted return and provides superior diversification gains to global equity and bond investors relative to currency carry, value, and momentum investment strategies.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"How should global investors manage their foreign exchange (FX) exposure? The classical approach to currency hedging via mean-variance optimization is theoretically appealing and encompasses both risk management and speculative hedging demands. However, this approach, when applied out of sample, suff ers from acute estimation error in currency return forecasts, which leads to poor hedging performance.

In this paper we devise a novel method for dynamically hedging FX exposure using mean-variance optimization, in which we predict currency returns using common currency risk factors.

Recent breakthroughs in international macro- nance have documented that the cross-section of currency returns can be explained as compensation for risk, in a linear two-factor model that includes dollar and carry currency factors. The dollar factor corresponds to the average return of a portfolio of currencies against the U.S. dollar, while the carry factor corresponds to the returns on the currency carry trade.

We take the perspective of a mean-variance U.S. investor who can invest in a portfolio of `G10' developed economies. We adopt the standard assumption that the investor has a predetermined long position in either foreign equities or bonds and desires to optimally manage the FX exposure using forward contracts. We form estimates of currency returns using a conditional version of the two-factor model where both factor returns and factor betas are time-varying.

A related literature provides strong empirical evidence, with underpinning theoretical support, that the dollar and carry factor returns are partly predictable. We exploit this predictability to forecast currency returns. Speci ffically, we estimate factor betas and 1-month ahead dollar and carry factor returns in the time series, and then form expected bilateral currency returns using these estimates. This vector of expected currency returns enters the mean-variance optimizer to produce optimal, currency-speci fic, hedge positions. We update the positions monthly and refer to the approach as Dynamic Currency Factor (DCF) hedging.

currency hedging

We evaluate the performance of DCF hedging, over a 20-year out-of-sample period, against nine leading alternative approaches ranging from naive solutions in which FX exposure is either fully hedged or never hedged, through to the most sophisticated techniques that also adopt mean-variance optimization. We nd DCF hedging generates systematically superior out-of-sample performance compared to all alternative approaches across a range of statistical and economic performance measures for both international equity and bond portfolios. As a preview, in Figure 2 we show the cumulative payoff to a $1 investment in international equity and bond portfolios in January 1997. When adopting DCF hedging, the $1 investment grows to over $5 by July 2017 for the global equity portfolio, and to almost $4 for the global bond portfolio. These values contrast with $2 and $1.5, which a U.S. investor would have obtained, if the FX exposure in the equity or bond portfolios was left unhedged."


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ETFs Increase Correlation of International Equity Markets

4.January 2019

Everybody can see that international equity markets are highly correlated (and especially during past 10-15 years). A new interesting financial research paper shows that ETF arbitrage mechanism is one of the key channels through which U.S. shocks propagate to local economies leading to increased return correlation with the U.S. market:

Authors: Filippou, Gozluklu, Rozental

Title: ETF Arbitrage and International Correlation

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3287417

Abstract:

Assets under management of exchange-traded funds (ETF) have been growing significantly, yet the majority of ETF trades still occur on U.S. exchanges. We show that investment decisions of both institutional and retail investors when trading international country ETFs are mostly driven by shocks related to U.S. fundamentals, measured by VIX, rather than local country risks. Investors react only to negative news about local economies. When U.S. economic uncertainty increases, investors leave the country ETF market and switch to Cash ETF products. We demonstrate that ETF arbitrage mechanism is one of the key channels through which U.S. shocks propagate to local economies leading to increased return correlation with the U.S. market both in time-series and cross-sectional dimensions. We find that countries with stronger ETF price-discovery and lower limits to arbitrage tend to have a higher comovement with the U.S. market.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"Signi ficant innovations in financial products made international investments increasingly possible. Over the recent years, exchange-traded funds experienced a double-digit growth in assets under management. Nevertheless, the short-run interdependence of trading across major international ETFs and its association with local and global risk aversion remain understudied. While the majority of earlier studies focuses on direct eff ects of ETFs on the underlying securities in the basket that it tracks, we examine the indirect e ffect of ETF trading as a transmission mechanism of U.S. market shocks to foreign country equity markets.

We provide a view that as the U.S. accommodates the largest share of ETF global trading volume, its market conditions directly impact the decisions of country ETF investors. We show that international ETF market participants trade based on shocks related to U.S. fundamentals rather than local ones, and propagate those shocks to local markets. The shock transmission is performed via ETF arbitrage. We argue that such arbitrage activity is one of the few mechanisms responsible for increasing correlation between the U.S. market and the rest of the world.

This high cross-country correlation limits the ability of investors to cheaply diversify U.S. risk via international ETF investments. In addition, ETFs often provide an easier access to less integrated emerging markets or to countries were direct investments are costly (e.g., Brazil). However, the transmission of U.S. shocks to those markets limits the diversi fication bene ts of emerging market strategies.

correlation

We fi rst test the hypothesis whether country ETF investors react to changes in the U.S. rather than local economic uncertainty, as measured by CBOE Volatility Index (VIX). To this end, we compute order imbalances of retail investors (e.g., Boehmer, Jones, and Zhang, 2017), and trades of di fferent size, capturing high frequency trading (HFT) and institutional trades. Focusing on a large cross-section of 41 countries, we find strong association between ETF order imbalances and U.S. VIX, indicating that international investment decisions are mainly driven by the latter measure, rather than its local counterparts. For example, an increase in the U.S. VIX results in a selling pressure in the country ETF market. Such result is robust to di fferent volatility regimes and is consistent across di fferent types of investors. Asymmetric response analysis confi rms that country ETF investors only react to positive changes in local VIX, which correspond to negative news in the local markets. Moreover, we observe that, when reacting to an increase in U.S. uncertainty, investors switch to safer assets such as cash equivalent ETFs. We also find that investors respond to changes in U.S. political uncertainty di fferently than to economic uncertainty – they leave the U.S. stock market and buy international country-level ETFs. However, they do not react to local political uncertainty and the economic eff ect of political risk is much smaller than of changes in U.S. VIX.

In order to access the impact of ETF arbitrage on correlation of country returns with the U.S. market, we regress daily innovations in such correlation on a proxy for ETF arbitrage during di fferent volatility regimes. We provide time-series evidence that during periods of high volatility in the U.S., an increase in the arbitrage activity by the authorized participant (AP) (as measured by net share creation/redemption) results in an increase in innovation in such daily correlation. We argue that during periods of high volatility in the U.S. market, it is harder for investors to distinguish between noise and fundamental component of the order flow. Consequently, based on wake-up call hypothesis investor may treat U.S. shocks as relevant to their own country and consume such shocks via ETF arbitrage.

We also explain cross-country variation in return correlation with the U.S. market. According to Ben-David, Franzoni, and Moussawi (2018), non-fundamental shocks must be reversed over time. This suggests that if all shocks transmitted from ETF market to local economies were non-fundamental, ETF arbitrage would not contribute towards increased correlation. In contrast, if the price deviation from the NAV is due to faster incorporation of fundamental information in ETF market, then arbitrage should a ffect returns of underlying index, and such e ffect should not be reverted. If such fundamental information is common both to U.S. and local market, one should observe a higher correlation between them.

Consistent with the literature, we argue that ETF transmits both fundamental and noise shocks to the underlying economies. We show that countries that have a higher degree of price discovery in their ETFs have on average a higher correlation with the U.S. market. In these markets fundamental information gets incorporated into ETF prices faster than in the Net Asset Value (NAV), and therefore, market makers closely follow and learn from changes in ETF prices. This is the case when derivative securities price the underlying assets, rather than the other way around. In addition, in order for fundamental shocks to get transmitted to underlying markets, the authorised participants (AP) must engage in arbitrage activity. We find that the lower the limits to ETF arbitrage the higher is the correlation between a country and the U.S. market. Neither the international trade channel nor the business cycles alter this result."


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