Momentum

Momentum is the tendency of investments to persist in their performance. Assets that perform well over a 3 to 12 month period tend to continue to perform well into the future. The momentum effect of Jegadeesh and Titman (1993) is one of the strongest and most pervasive financial phenomena. Momentum investment strategies have been mostly applied to equities (see momentum in equities), however there is large evidence documenting momentum across different asset classes. Typical strategy consists of a universe of major indices on equity, bonds, real estate and commodities. The aim is to keep long only portfolio where an index with positive past 12 month returns is bought and negative returns sold. A well-known example of trend following momentum strategy is from Faber (2007). He creates 10 month moving average for which assets are sold and bought every month based on price being above or below the moving average. Using a 100 years of data, Faber claims to outperform the market with the mean return of 10.18% , 11.97 % volatility and max draw-down of 50.29%, compared to S&P 500 return of 9.32%, volatility of 17.87% and max draw-down of 83.46%.

In general, we distinguish between absolute and relative momentum. Absolute momentum is captured by trend following strategies that adjusts weights of assets based on past returns such as relative level of current prices compared to moving averages. Relative or cross sectional momentum, on the other hand, use long and short positions applied to both the long and short side of a market simultaneously. It makes little difference whether the studied markets go up or down, since short momentum positions hedge long ones, and vice versa. When looking only at long side momentum, however, it is desirable to be long only when both absolute and relative momentum are positive, since long-only momentum results are highly regime dependent. In order to increase performance, the simple momentum strategy is expanded to capture both relative and absolute momentum creating a long short portfolio.

Various extensions to the simple strategies shown above have been suggested. For example we can deploy mean-variance optimisation to re-weight our assets to minimise the risk given return. Moreover, we can diversify the strategy by restricting the weights to different asset classes and risk factors as well as adding various risk management practices to decrease leverage during heightened volatility periods. Furthermore, taking into account the cyclicality and idiosyncratic momentum of various sub-indices to Faber’s original asset classes produces even stronger improvements to risk-adjusted returns. Unfortunately, cross-sectional strategies use high number of stocks resulting in high trading costs. Luckily, it has been found that using sectors and indices instead of individual stocks still earns similar momentum returns while having lower trading costs.

Numerous empirical studies report on benefits of extending momentum strategy across asset classes (see Rouwenhorst 1998, Blake 1999, Griffin, Ji, and Martin 2003, Gorton, Hayashi, and Rouwenhorst 2008, Asness, Moskowitz, and Pedersen 2009). For example, including commodities in a momentum strategy can achieve better diversification and protection from inflation while having equity like returns (Erb and Harvey, 2006). Foreign exchange is another asset class with published momentum effects. Okunev and White (2003) find the well-documented profitability of momentum strategies with equities to hold for currencies throughout the 1980s and the 1990s. Contrary to already mentioned asset classes, bond returns have generally not displayed momentum. However, some later evidence suggests that assorting bonds with volatility adjusted returns leads to observation of momentum. Using 68,914 individual investment-grade and high-yield bonds, Jostova et al. (2013) find strong evidence of momentum profitability in US corporate bonds over the period from 1973 to 2008. Past six-month winners outperform past six-month losers by 61 basis points per month over a six-month holding period. Last but not least, momentum has been documented in real estate with a cross-sectional momentum buy/sell strategy significantly reducing volatility and drawdown of a long only REIT fund.

An often cited benefit of momentum strategies is their sustainable performance attributed to a true anomaly rather than skewedness in the return probability distribution that is cited to be responsible for value and carry strategy. Reasons explaining the momentum anomaly include analyst coverage, analyst forecast dispersion, illiquidity, price level, age, size, credit rating, return chasing and confirmation bias, market-to-book, turnover and others.

Trend-Following in the Times of Crisis

10.June 2022

When someone mentions a financial crisis, most people immediately think of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. Even though this is the most significant economic crisis in recent years, there have been many more significant crisis periods in the past 100 years. This article examines the biggest crises in three asset classes: stocks, bonds, and commodities, during the past century. Additionally, we analyze the behavior of our trend-following strategy during each of the crisis periods and propose it as a hedge for the stock, bond, and/or commodity markets.

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100-Years of Multi-Asset Trend-Following

27.May 2022

Trend-following strategies have gained extreme popularity in the recent decade. Almost every asset manager utilizes trend following, or momentum, in some form – whether consciously or subconsciously. We at Quantpedia are convinced that each and every strategy has to be scrutinized thoroughly before it’s put into use. This is one of our motivations why we will introduce to you our framework for building a 100-year daily history of a multi-asset trend-following strategy today.

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How Often Should We Rebalance Equity Factor Portfolios?

10.May 2022

Quantpedia has already covered a countless number of factor investing strategies and articles, from strategies in our Screener to multiple blog posts. Therefore, we can confidently say that we do like factor investing. However, there is always new research with a unique point of view. For example, we recently found a paper focused on the decay of the factor exposures of equity factor strategies. The study examines five factors: Value, Momentum, Quality, Investment, and Low Volatility, across 12 developed and emerging markets over a 20-year period. This research aims to find out how long it takes for a factor to decay after the portfolio is assembled. In other words, how often should the portfolio be rebalanced? 

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What’s the Best Factor for High Inflation Periods? – Part II

13.April 2022

This second article offers a different look at high inflation periods, which we already analyzed in What’s the Best Factor for High Inflation Periods? – Part I. The second part looks at factor performance during two 10-year periods of high inflation. What’s our main takeaway? The best hedge for a high inflation period is the value or momentum factor. Other promising factors (energy sector, small-cap stocks, or long-run reversal) don’t perform as consistently as value and momentum.

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What’s the Best Factor for High Inflation Periods? – Part I

11.April 2022

Another period of long sustained high inflation is probably right around the corner, as the Russia-Ukraine Conflict keeps evolving, and its end is nowhere to be seen. In this article, we analyzed the Consumer Price Index from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, which includes the rate of inflation in the USA since 1913. We found multiple years during which the inflation was abnormally high and analyzed the performance of the known equity long-short factors. The factors with the highest average performance are HML (value stocks), long-term reversal, momentum, and energy stocks. On the other hand, tech stocks, bond-like assets, and the SMB factor should be avoided during the high inflation periods.

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Nuclear Threats and Factor Performance – Takeaway for Russia-Ukraine Conflict

31.March 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and its repercussions continue to occupy front pages all around the world. While using nuclear forces in war is probably a red line for all of the mature world, there is still possible to use nuclear weapons for blackmailing. What will be the impact of such an event on financial markets? It’s not easy to determine, but we tried to identify multiple events in the past which were also slightly unexpected and carried an indication of nuclear threat and then analyzed their impact on financial markets.

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