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.

A Deeper Look into Factor Momentum

8.June 2021

Momentum seems to be present everywhere and based on academic studies, it is even hard to find assets where the anomaly does not work. Among the large number of research papers related to momentum, the discovery of factor momentum is still relatively new. It is a truly important finding in the world of systematic strategies – there seems to be a return continuation among factors. The novel research of Fan et al. (2021) builds on the recent academic research and shows that, after all, the factor momentum might be different. To be more precise, the authors show that looking at the universe of 20 factor strategies, the factor momentum seems to work and can span individual equity momentum strategies (standard momentum, industry momentum and intermediate momentum). However, the factor momentum is mostly driven by only six factor strategies, and the return continuation of the remaining factors is weak. Additionally, those sixteen non-return continuation strategies cannot span the momentum effects mentioned above. Therefore, the results show that the factor momentum works on the aggregate but individually works much better. In fact, the factor momentum return of the six return continuation factor is significantly better compared to the rest or buy-and-hold portfolio. Moreover, the authors have also identified that the “best” factor momentum strategy is the Betting against beta and conclude that the reason is the unique weighting scheme utilized by the factor. The beta weighting assigns a higher weight to smaller companies, where the momentum tends to be stronger. Overall, the research paper is an important extension of the factor momentum literature.

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Crowding in Commodity Factor Strategies

13.April 2021

Nowadays, factor strategies are widely spread and used by practitioners, but this factor boom has given rise to some concerns. A key question is whether these strategies stay profitable once published and if they are not arbitraged away. Some strand of the literature suggests that there is a performance decay. A different view on performance decay is presented in the novel research of Kang et al. (2021), which indicates that the performance might be time-varying. Using the commodity market and premier anomalies such as momentum, basis, and value, the authors suggest a crowding in the factor strategies that predicts future performance. Crowded factors tend to underperform in future, and there is a significantly negative impact on the expected return. Moreover, the most substantial returns are connected with the least crowding activity. Therefore, the results are especially important for active factor traders.

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Large Cap Analysis

23.December 2020

Every week, through these posts, we point to interesting academic research papers. This week´s blog is slightly different, yet no less engaging. This blog includes numerous interesting charts from more than hundred charts in the CUSTOM REPORT: U.S. LARGE INDEX by the PHILOSOPHICAL ECONOMICS using OSAM Research Database. The report consists of the visually presented analysis of the U.S. Large index. The analysis includes the composition, returns, individual stocks, sector and factor allocations, and six fundamentals. The report contains comprehensive information about the large caps in the U.S. market from 1963 to 2020 and is worthy of a look.

We wish you all Merry Christmas …

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First-Half Month Cash-Flow News and Momentum in Stocks

24.September 2020

Stock prices react to the new information that investors continually receive from many sources. There are some major events, which are commonly connected with a new piece of information and subsequent reactions of investors. For example, quarterly earnings-announcements are the cause of the post-earnings announcement drift or PEAD. According to the PEAD, prices tend to continue to drift up (down) after positive (negative) news. But news related to quarterly announcements is not the only important information. A novel research paper written by the Hong and Yu explores implications of the month-end reporting, analyst revisions and management guidance that are coming to market usually in the first half of each month and are also connected with drifts that offer practitioners profitable opportunities.

Authors: Claire Yurong Hong and Jialin Yu

Title: Month-End Reporting, Cash-Flow News, and Asset Pricing

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The Effectivity of Selected Crisis Hedge Strategies

30.July 2020

During past months we made a set of articles analyzing the performance of equity factors and selected systematic strategies during coronavirus crisis. These articles were short-ranged with data only from the start of the year 2020, which is enough for the purpose of the quick blog posts, but very short-sighted to see the nature of these strategies. Therefore, we expanded the time range by 20 years. For a better understanding of hedge possibilities of these strategies, we have added a comparison to essential safe-haven assets, not only to equities.

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