Blog Archives

Why Vanguard Should Retire The U.S. Momentum Factor ETF (VFMO)

  • In February 2018 Vanguard released a set of five actively managed sector ETF’s and one multi-factor ETF. Here we report on the performance of the Momentum Factor ETF (VFMO).
  • Shortly after the inception of VFMO we published “Why Not To Invest In Vanguard’s New U.S. Momentum Factor ETF” which demonstrated that Vanguard’s selection criteria for this fund was flawed.
  • In the referenced article we stated that it was unlikely that VFMO would show a higher return than the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) over the year following inception.
  • In April 2019 in a follow up article we showed that the actual performance of VFMO since inception was 6.8% lower than that of SPY, confirming the conclusion in the bullet-point above.
  • Again, VFMO has underperformed SPY, and we come to the same conclusion for the following year, namely that the one-year return to Feb-2021 will be less than that of SPY.

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The iM-SuperTimer – Update No.2a:
Timing the Market with the iM-Stock Market Confidence Level

  • For a detailed model description of the system please read the original description and previous update.
  • To make this model more user-friendly we will be providing signals for three different version of this model, all updated weekly.
  • The models’ holdings alternate between ETF (SPY) and ETF (IEF), being proxies for investments during up- and down stock market periods, repectively.
  • The iM-1wk-SuperTimer (SPY-IEF) would have produced an annualized return of 19.9% with a max drawdown of about -10%.
  • Appendix 2 shows that a (50%SPY+50%VCIT)-(IEF) strategy reduces drawdowns to -6.2% but would still have achieved an annualized return of 14%.
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Robust Recession Forecasting With The FED’s Brave-Butters-Kelley Indexes ─ Update February 4, 2020

  • The new Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Brave-Butters-Kelley Indexes ( BBK ) provide useful input for recession forecasting.
  • In the past, low estimates of BBK GDP growth related to the respective recessions, this allow the extraction of a recession warning signal from this growth series.
  • We combine two BBK indexes with the Conference Board LEI and iMarketSignals’ Business Cycle Index BCIg to derive our Long Leading Index (iM-LLI) for the US economy.
  • Currently neither index signals a recession warning.

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Robust Recession Forecasting With Our New Long Leading Index For The US Economy

  • The new Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Brave-Butters-Kelley Indexes (BBK) provide useful input for recession forecasting.
  • We combine two BBK indexes with the Conference Board LEI and our Business Cycle Index BCIg to derive iMarketSignals’ new Long Leading Index (iM-LLI) for the US economy.
  • Our analysis shows that the iM-LLI would have provided an average warning signal about eight months before the start of recessions, as observed for the last seven recessions since 1967.
  • We are replacing the iM-Composite Index (COMP) with the new iM-LLI.
  • Currently this Leading Index is not yet warning of an oncoming recession.

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Recession Forecasting With the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Newly Released Brave-Butters-Kelley Indexes

  • From November 2019 onward, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is releasing new measures of monthly real GDP growth and its components, the Brave-Butters-Kelley Indexes.
  • The data release is for four indicators constructed from a panel of 500 monthly macroeconomic time series and quarterly real gross domestic product growth.
  • Our analysis shows that apart from the Leading Index, the other three indicators would have been extremely accurate identifying recessions were it not for the publication time-lag.
  • This time-lag makes, on average, these indicators about two month late to signal the start and end of recessions in real-time, as observed for the last seven recessions since 1967.
  • Currently none of the Brave-Butters-Kelley Index models are warning of a recession.

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Estimating 10-Year Forward Returns For Stocks With The Shiller CAPE Ratio And The Long-Term Trend – Update January 2020 

  • The average of S&P 500 for Dec-2019 was 3166; that is 852 (i.e. 27% of 3166) above the Jan-2020 level of the long-term trend line.
  • The Shiller Cyclically Adjusted Price to Earnings Ratio (CAPE) is at a relatively high level of 30.1, and the 35-year moving average (MA35) of the CAPE is at 24.2.
  • The CAPE-MA35 ratio is 1.25, forecasting a 10-year annualized real return of 5.9%.
  • Investing in equities for the long-haul when the CAPE-MA35 ratio is below 1.30 should produce reasonable returns, as this level of the ratio does not indicate an abnormally overvalued market.

Posted in 2020, blogs, featured

The iM Tax-Efficient Seasonal ETF Switching Strategy

  • This strategy exploits the anomaly that Cyclical Sectors and Small Caps perform best from November to April, and Defensive Sectors do better from May to October during most years.
  • Three identical models starting 6 months apart are used. Each model holds only one ETF for 18 months selected by a simple ranking system from the cyclical and defensive groups.
  • The effect of this is that the combination model always has 66% of the portfolio in the “correct” direction, defensive or cyclical, and 33% in the “wrong” direction.
  • The combination model trades only twice a year, switching only one position at the end of April and end of October.
  • For the approximately 18.5 year period from end of Apr-2000 to Sep-2019 the backtest showed an annualized return of 12.3% with a maximum drawdown of -24%.

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A Profitable Investment Strategy When The Yield Curve Inverts

  • An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the same credit quality is considered to be a predictor of recessions.
  • Prior to recession it is advisable to exit the stock market and invest in U.S. Treasuries instead; in this strategy using as proxies ETFs (SPY) and (IEF), respectively.
  • This model uses the 2-year and 10-year U.S. Treasury yields as measures of short-term and long-term rates, respectively, and calculates the Forward Rate Ratio (FRR2-10) between the two rates.
  • FRR2-10 is the ratio of the rate at which one can lock in borrowing for the eight year period starting two years from now and the current ten-year rate itself.
  • Currently the FRR2-10 is near 1.0 signifying that US economic activity is near the end of the expansion phase of this business cycle.

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The Almost Risk-Free Investment When The Yield Curve Inverts

  • Prior to recession the yield curve becomes inverted, as indicated by the Forward Rate Ratio between the 2-year and 10-year U.S. Treasury yields (FRR2-10) being less than 1.00.
  • Currently the FRR2-10 is 0.998 and the smoothed FRR2-10 is 1.016 signifying that US economic activity is near the end of the expansion phase of this business cycle.
  • When FRR2-10 falls to near 1.00 the transition from expansion to boom occurs, as during boom times the Federal Funds Rate (FFR) is increased to slow the economy.
  • After the boom period comes the recession, on average 14 months after the FRR2-10 becomes less than 1.00, and concurrently the FFR is lowered.
  • An almost risk-free investment is to buy 2-year Treasury bonds when the FRR2-10 is close to 1.0 and to sell when the FFR is at its lowest after recessions.
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    Good Returns From Switching Between High Yield Bonds And Treasuries According To Stock Market Conditions.

    • The iM-Bond Market Trader exploits the fact that, generally, when equity returns are good high yield bonds outperform investment grade bonds.
    • When equity performs well the model invests in one of the high yield bond ETFs HYG, JNK, or EMB.
    • If stock market climate deteriorates the model switches to Treasury Bond ETF IEF.
    • Backtesting over the preceding 20 years the model showed a simulated annualized return of 14.6% with a maximum drawdown of -9.6%, versus 5.0% and -9.3% for benchmark ETF BND, respectively.
    • Simulations also show that the model’s returns over any calendar year are positive and exceeded those of BND.

    This model uses only four fixed income ETFs:
    Read more >

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    With reference to Section 202(a)(11)(D) of the Investment Advisers Act: We are Engineers and not Investment Advisers, read more ...
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