Trend Following

Are Financial Crises Predictable?

Who among us wouldn't want to be the savior that predicts a market crisis and saves our clients from losses in capital -- or even better -- profits from them? A central topic of interest for academics is whether there are more precise tools to predict financial crises. Those who believe so dedicate their efforts to finding early warning indicators.

Are Stock Market Bubbles Identifiable?

Robin Greenwood, Andrei Shleifer, and Yang You authors of the study “Bubbles for Fama”, published in the January 2019 issue of the Journal of Financial Economics evaluated Fama's claim that stock prices do not exhibit price bubbles. Based on a fixed threshold for the industry price increases (e.g., a 100 percent price run-up during two consecutive years) to filter their events and to analyze what happens afterward, they examined U.S. industry returns over the period 1926‒2014 (covering 40 episodes) and international sector returns (1985‒2014).

Using Momentum to Find Value

Value and momentum are two of the most powerful explanatory factors in finance. Research on both has been published for about 30 years. However, it was not until recently that the two had been studied in combination and across markets. Bijon Pani and Frank Fabozzi contribute to the literature with their study “Finding Value Using Momentum,” published in The Journal of Portfolio Management Quantitative Special Issue 2022, in which they examined whether using six value metrics that have an established academic background combined with the trend in relative valuations provide better risk-adjusted returns than Fama-French’s traditional HML (high minus low book-to-market ratio) factor. The value metrics chosen were book value-to-market value; cash flow-to-price; earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA)-to-market value; earnings-to-price; profit margin-to-price; and sales-to-price. Using six different measures provides tests of robustness, minimizing the risk of data mining. However with so many dials to turn there is a risk of achieving positive returns that aren't material or achieving postive results with the potential for overfitting.

Trend Following: Timing Fast and Slow Trends

A large body of evidence demonstrates that momentum, including time-series momentum (trend following), has improved portfolio efficiency. Research has found that there are a few ways to improve on simple trend-following strategies. Techniques that have been found to improve Sharpe ratios and reduce tail risk include volatility scaling and combining fast and slow signals as well as combining long-term reversals. These have been incorporated by many fund managers into investment strategies. Cheng, Kostyuchyk, Lee, Liu and Ma provided evidence that machine learning could be used to further improve results. With that said, a word of caution on the use of machine learning is warranted. The powerful tools and the easy access to data now available to researchers create the risk that machine learning studies will find correlations that have no causation and thus the findings could be nothing more than a result of torturing the data. To minimize that risk, it is important that findings not only have rational risk- or behavioral-based explanations for believing the patterns identified will persist in the future, but they also should be robust to many tests. In this case, investors could feel more confident in the results if their findings were robust to international equities and other asset classes (such as bonds, commodities and currencies).

Strategies to Mitigate Tail Risk

Investors care about more than just returns. They also care about risk. Thus, prudent investors include consideration of strategies that can provide at least some protection against adverse events that lead to left tail risk (portfolios crashing). The cost of that protection (the impact on expected returns) must play an important role in deciding whether to include them. For example, buying at-the-money puts, a strategy that eliminates downside risk, should have returns no better than the risk-free rate of return, making that a highly expensive strategy.

Can Machine Learning Identify Future Outperforming Active Equity Funds?

We show, using machine learning, that fund characteristics can consistently differentiate high from low-performing mutual funds, as well as identify funds with net-of-fees abnormal returns. Fund momentum and fund flow are the most important predictors of future risk-adjusted fund performance, while characteristics of the stocks that funds hold are not predictive. Returns of predictive long-short portfolios are higher following a period of high sentiment or a good state of the macro-economy. Our estimation with neural networks enables us to uncover novel and substantial interaction effects between sentiment and both fund flow and fund momentum.

An Investor’s Guide to Crypto

We provide practical insights for investors seeking exposure to the growing cryptocurrency space. Today, crypto is much more than just bitcoin, which historically dominated the space but accounted for just a 21% share of total crypto trading volume in 2021. We discuss a wide variety of tokens, highlighting both their functionality and their investment properties. We critically compare popular valuation methods. We contrast buy-and-hold investing with more active styles. We only deem return data from 2017 representative, but the use of intraday data boosts statistical power. Underlying crypto performance has been notoriously volatile, but volatility-targeting methods are effective at controlling risk, and trend-following strategies have performed well. Crypto assets display a low correlation with traditional risky assets in normal times, but the correlation also rises in the left tail of these risky assets. Finally, we detail important custody and regulatory considerations for institutional investors.

Momentum Everywhere, Including in Factors

Managed portfolios that exploit positive first-order autocorrelation in monthly excess returns of equity factor portfolios produce large alphas and gains in Sharpe ratios. We document this finding for factor portfolios formed on the broad market, size, value, momentum, investment, prof- itability, and volatility. The value-added induced by factor management via short-term momentum is a robust empirical phenomenon that survives transaction costs and carries over to multi-factor portfolios. The novel strategy established in this work compares favorably to well-known timing strategies that employ e.g. factor volatility or factor valuation. For the majority of factors, our strategies appear successful especially in recessions and times of crisis.

Relative Sentiment and Machine Learning for Tactical Asset Allocation: Out-of-Sample Results

We examine Sentix sentiment indices for use in tactical asset allocation. In particular, we construct monthly relative sentiment factors for the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Asia ex-Japan by taking the difference in 6-month economic expectations between each region's institutional and individual investors. These factors (along with one-month forward equity returns) then serve as inputs to a wide array of machine learning algorithms. Employing combinatorial cross-validation and adjusting for data snooping, we find relative sentiment factors have robust and significant predictive power in all four regions; that they surpass both standalone sentiment and time-series momentum in terms of informational content; and that they demonstrate the ability to identify the subsequent best- and worst-performing global equity markets from along a cross-section. The results are consistent with previous findings on relative sentiment, discovered using unrelated datasets.

Trend Following Says Commodities…But Nothing Else!

The analysis above highlights that we are in a rare regime when commodities are the only long asset with a positive trend. The last time this happened we entered a long period of high inflation and poor real returns. Will this happen again? Who knows. But we do know that post-1973 we entered a world where, for several decades (at least up to around 2007), both bonds and commodities were an important component of a diversified portfolio. The recent past has arguably made investors complacent in their reliance on a stock/bond portfolio as an end-all-be-all solution. When history tells us that incorporating commodities into a portfolio probably makes sense from a diversification standpoint.

Treasury Bonds: Buy and Hold or Trend Follow?

If one had to invest in buy and hold treasury bonds or trend-followed treasury bonds, it is likely that most investors would prefer the trend-followed bond investment. However, in a broader portfolio context, the analysis suggests that how one 'eats' their bond exposure is largely irrelevant and the portfolio's long-term outcome will be driven by equity market dynamics. Bonds systematically lower an equity-centric portfolio's returns, but they also lower the risk profile of the overall portfolio.

Trend Following and Relative Sentiment: Complementary Factors

Since it is likely that both the Relative Sentiment and Trend Following strategies will underperform at some points in the future, “a 50-50 combination of TF and RS might reduce the emotional volatility an investor may experience from holding only the underperforming strategy.”

Combining Reversals with Time-Series Momentum Strategies

Jiadong Liu and Fotis Papailias contribute to the momentum literature with their study “Time Series Reversal in Trend-Following Strategies,” published in the January 2023 issue of “European Financial Management,” in which they examined the reversal property of various financial assets.

Trend-Following Filters – Part 6

This article analyzes six trend-following indicators from a digital signal processing (DSP) frequency domain perspective in which the indicators are considered as digital filters and their frequency response characteristics are determined.

Trend Following and Momentum Turning Points

Trend follower nerd alert: This study is important because it offers a comprehensive analysis of TS momentum strategies, its unifying framework that links performance to underlying variables, and its practical implications for investors seeking to enhance their understanding of momentum investing and improve their portfolio performance.

Trend-Following Filters – Part 7

This article examines four digital filters commonly used for trend-following: moving average linear weighted moving average exponential smoothing time series momentum

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