AgPa #71: Go Where the Earnings (per Share) Are

What Matters More for Emerging Markets Investors: Economic Growth or EPS Growth? (2022)
Jason Hsu, Jay Ritter, Phillip Wool, Harry Zhao
The Journal of Portfolio Management Emerging Markets 2022, 48 (8), URL/PDF

This week’s AGNOSTIC Paper is one from the myth-busting category and examines the relation between countries’ GDP growth and stock market returns. The idea and analyses are admittedly not new and the paper is basically an update of one of the authors previous work. Nonetheless, I think the question is very interesting and still very relevant for regional asset allocation.

  • GDP growth and stock returns are not correlated over the long-term
  • Theoretically, the missing relation is not surprising
  • Go Where the Earnings (per Share) Are

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AgPa #57: Stocks for the Long-Run – Riskier Than Thought

Stocks for the long run? Evidence from a broad sample of developed markets (2022)
Aizhan Anarkulova, Scott Cederburg, Michael S. O’Doherty
Journal of Financial Economics 143(1), URL/SSRN

Stocks for the Long-Run – this is not only the title of Jeremy Siegel’s popular book but also a well-established idea among investors. If you can wait long enough and don’t need your money on the way, just put it in a diversified index fund and wait. This week’s AGNOSTIC Paper challenges this simple advice and shows that even over very long periods, the chance of losing money with stocks can be higher than previously thought…

  • History offers some scary events of wealth-destruction
  • The US equity market is not necessarily representative
  • Global diversification helps tremendously

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AgPa #53: Investing in Interesting Times

Investing in Interesting Times (2023)
Annti Ilmanen
The Journal of Portfolio Management Multi-Asset Special Issue 2023, URL/AQR

Almost exactly one year ago, Antti Ilmanen (Partner at AQR Capital Management) released his outstanding book Investing Amid Low Expected Returns: Making the Most When Markets Offer the Least. The book is (in my opinion) a must-read and the timing couldn’t have been better. Many of the key themes began to materialize in 2022. Given how much markets have changed since then, Antti released a few updates for six of his major ideas in this week’s AGNOSTIC Paper.

  • The low expected return challenge
  • Investors’ response to low expected returns – private markets
  • What happened in 2022 and where we stand now
  • Long-only versus long-short strategies
  • Downside protection via trend-following

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AgPa #43: Buffett’s Alpha

Buffett’s Alpha (2018)
Andrea Frazzini, David Kabiller, Lasse Heje Pedersen
Financial Analysts Journal 74(4), URL

In this week’s AGNOSTIC Paper, the authors use the major factor premiums to examine one of the best long-term investment track records in the world – Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway. The latest annual report just came out a few days ago and (as usual) summarizes Berkshire’s performance on the first page. From 1965 to 2022, Berkshire returned 19.8% per year versus 9.9% for the S&P 500. That’s a 24,708% cumulative return for the S&P 500, and an unbelievable 3,787,464% return for Berkshire. There are some investors who achieved even better results over shorter time periods. But to the best of my knowledge, there is no 58-year track record that is even remotely comparable to Buffett.

  • How good is Berkshire? Damn good…
  • The Buffett Style: cheap stocks with high-quality and low-risk
  • Don’t practice what you preach – Buffett’s Leverage…
  • Systematizing Buffett and Berkshire

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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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AgPa #41: US Factors before 1926

The Cross-Section of Stock Returns before CRSP (2023)
Guido Baltussen, Bart van Vliet, Pim van Vliet
SSRN Working Paper, URL

This week’s AGNOSTIC Paper is an unprecedented out-of-sample test of the four major factors (Momentum, Value, Low-Risk, Size). The authors construct a novel dataset of US stocks that reaches from 1866 to 1926. It therefore extends the extensively studied CRSP dataset by 60 years.

  • Momentum, Value, and Low-Risk were there before 1926
  • Factors weren’t stronger before 1926
  • Machine learning models find the same factors

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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 #16: Concentrated Stock Markets (7/7)

Mutual Fund Performance at Long Horizons (2022)
Hendrik Bessembinder, Michael J. Cooper, Feng Zhang
SMU Cox School of Business Research Paper No. 22-11 via SSRN, URL

The seventh and final AGNOSTIC Paper on the extreme concentration in stock markets. This one is an out-of-sample test and documents very similar concentration and positive skewness for US mutual funds between 1991 and 2020.

  • Longer investment-horizons lead to extremer return distributions – also for mutual funds
  • Most active managers underperform passive benchmarks – especially over the long-term
  • Compared to the S&P 500, mutual fund investors lost about $1.3T between 1991 and 2020

But a picture is worth a thousand words…

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AgPa #15: Concentrated Stock Markets (6/7)

Extreme Stock Market Performers, Part I: Expect Some Drawdowns (2020)
Hendrik Bessembinder
SSRN Working Paper, URL

The sixth of seven AGNOSTIC Papers on the extreme concentration in stock markets. This one shows that even for the top wealth-creators, the road to success has been anything but smooth…

  • Even the best companies during their best decades had substantial drawdowns
  • Today’s drawdowns of tomorrow’s winners are even worse

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AgPa #14: Concentrated Stock Markets (5/7)

Extreme Stock Market Performers, Part IV: Can Observable Characteristics Forecast Outcomes (2020)
Hendrik Bessembinder
SSRN Working Paper, URL

The fifth of seven AGNOSTIC Papers on the extreme concentration in stock markets. This one will finally examine how to identify the few big winners ex-ante (at least it will try). Future winners have some distinct fundamental characteristics today. That said, the picture remains noisy and it’s very difficult to find them systematically…

  • Future top-performers tend to be younger, produce higher drawdowns, and spend more on R&D
  • Future wealth-creators tend to be older, more levered, and pay higher dividends
  • Identifying big winners remains challenging

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