AgPa #47: Equity Factors without Shorting

When Equity Factors Drop Their Shorts (2020)
David Blitz, Guido Baltussen, Pim van Vliet
Financial Analysts Journal, 76(4), URL

This week’s AGNOSTIC Paper examines the important issue of performance contributions from the long and short legs of the major factor premiums. In English: can we profitably invest in factors without shorting a large number of stocks?

  • The long-legs of factors are more important than the short-legs
  • The same pattern holds in international markets

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AgPa #46: Transaction Costs and Capacities of Factor Strategies

Transaction Costs of Factor-Investing Strategies (2019)
Feifei Li, Tzee-Man Chow, Alex Pickard, Yadwinder Garg
Financial Analysts Journal 75(2), 47-61, URL

In this week’s AGNOSTIC paper, the authors develop a transaction cost model and use it to estimate the capacity of the major factors. There are many ways to define capacity in more detail, but the general idea is quite simple. It is the amount of money you can invest in a profitable strategy before you move prices too much and lose your advantage. Unfortunately, what theoretically sounds simple and intuitive is actually quite difficult to estimate in practice…

  • Implementation costs depend on tilt, turnover, and execution speed
  • Capacities of factors for a maximum cost of 0.5% per year
  • There is not yet a consensus on factor capacities

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AgPa #42: Global Factors since 1800

Global factor premiums (2021)
Guido Baltussen, Laurens Swinkels, Pim van Vliet
Journal of Financial Economics 124(3), 1128-1154, URL

This week’s AGNOSTIC Paper is another out-of-sample test of the major factors and goes even further back in time than the last one. The authors examine the major factor premiums among equity indices, government bond indices, currencies, and commodities in a sample that ranges from December 31, 1799 to December 31, 2016.

  • Momentum, Value, and Low-Risk “worked” globally, in different asset classes, and out-of-sample
  • There is little evidence for factor decay

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SA #12: VOO – Global Revenues And Global Diversification Are Not The Same

VOO: Global Revenues And Global Diversification Are Not The Same
February 07, 2023


  • In 2017, about 29% of S&P 500 revenues came from overseas. This fraction increased to about 40% by the end of 2022.
  • Some investors argue that this global exposure is a substitute for true international diversification, i.e., that it is not required to invest in non-US stocks.
  • Global revenues certainly help to stabilize the fundamentals and stock prices of the underlying companies, but they are unlikely to save your portfolio from bets on the wrong country/region.
  • A counterexample from European stock markets shows that true global diversification was much better to escape the region’s underperformance than overweighting European companies with a higher share of global revenues.
  • That said, the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) remains an outstanding instrument to track the S&P 500 Index. But despite global revenues of the underlying firms, it remains a bet on US large caps.

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SA #10: ACWI Vs. VT – Vanguard Wins Again

ACWI Vs. VT: Vanguard Wins Again
January 30, 2023


  • In this article, I focus on the iShares MSCI ACWI ETF (ACWI) and how it compares to the Vanguard Total World Stock ETF (VT).
  • For the longest common period since June 2008, ACWI currently lags VT by about 14%-points or 41 basis points per year.
  • The performance gap mostly comes from different underlying indices. VT tracks an index with >9,400 stocks whereas ACWI ignores small caps and “only” holds about 2,800 positions.
  • ACWI is thus farther away from the academic idea of truly passive investing (holding a market-cap weighted portfolio of all investable stocks).
  • ACWI also comes with higher fees (0.32% TER vs. 0.07% for VT). For investors who seek passive exposure to global stock markets, VT therefore seems the better choice.

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SA #9: VT – As Passive As Practically Possible

VT: As Passive As Practically Possible
January 29, 2023


  • The Vanguard Total World Stock ETF is one of the leading ETFs to invest truly passively in global stock markets.
  • Passive investing means holding the market portfolio. Applied to equities, this is the market-cap weighted portfolio of all available stocks in the world. By definition, this goes beyond the US.
  • Since 2008, the US market has a tracking error of 6.6% compared to VT. The active share currently stands at 41% which makes a pure-US portfolio a quite active strategy.
  • Historically, active bets on the US were well rewarded. But it’s unclear if this pattern continues. The case for passive investing and global diversification is therefore as strong as ever.
  • VT tracks the FTSE Global All Cap Index and holds 9,473 stocks from 49 countries. With just 0.07% TER, it is thus a very efficient instrument for global passive investors.

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AgPa #33: World Cups and Stock Markets

Sports Sentiment and Stock Returns (2007)
Alex Edmans, Diego García and Øyvind Norli
The Journal of Finance 62(4), 1967-1998, URL

Given that this week’s AGNOSTIC Paper coincides with the final of the World Cup, I couldn’t resist the temptation. Below you can see a chart of the knockout stage of this year’s tournament. But since you are visiting a nerdy finance website, the focus is not on the results, but on the post-match stock market returns of the playing countries…

You may (understandably) say that this is some nice storytelling but not much more. However, I didn’t made this up to create a story but the idea of this analysis actually comes from this week’s AGNOSTIC paper…

  • Stock markets of losing countries tend to underperform after important matches
  • The effect most likely comes from bad mood after sport losses

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AgPa #31: Agnostic Fundamental Analysis (2/3)

Global market inefficiencies (2021)
Söhnke M. Bartram, Mark Grinblatt
Journal of Financial Economics 139(1), 234-259, URL/SSRN

The second AGNOSTIC Paper on agnostic fundamental analysis. This one is the international out-of-sample test where the authors apply their methodology to stock markets around the world. The results point in the same direction and suggest robust out-of-sample evidence…

  • Undervalued stocks outperformed overvalued stocks – also globally
  • Agnostic fundamental analysis yielded significant alpha – globally and against up to 80 factors
  • Agnostic fundamental analysis remains profitable after transaction costs
  • The degree of market efficiency differs around the world

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AgPa #24: Market Capitalization vs. GDP

The big bang: Stock market capitalization in the long run (2022)
Dmitry Kuvshinov, Kaspar Zimmermann
Journal of Financial Economics 145(2), 527-552, URL

This week’s AGNOSTIC Paper is admittedly not very practical but probably more relevant today than ever before. The authors examine the outstanding performance of equity markets since the end of the inflationary 1970s and early 80s. A regime shift that they call the big bang. There are some surprising results, especially beyond the general debate about steadily falling interest rates…

  • The Big Bang: market capitalization detached from GDP growth after the 1980s
  • Most of the Big Bang comes from higher stock prices
  • Falling interest rates are surprisingly not the main driver
  • Higher profitability of listed firms is much more important

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AgPa #23: Trading on the Weather

Global weather-based trading strategies (2022)
Ming Dong, Andréanne Tremblay
Journal of Banking & Finance, Volume 143, 106558, URL/SSRN

People tend to be in a better mood when the sun is shining. That’s nothing dramatically new but this week’s AGNOSTIC Paper shows that this apparently also applies to investors. An investment strategy that went long (short) the stock market index from the country with the best (worst) weather on a particular day generated meaningful (hypothetical) outperformance…

  • The global long-short weather strategy returned 15.2% p.a. between 1993 and 2012
  • The long-only version of the strategy returned 13.4% p.a.

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