AgPa #78: Hedge Funds – Man vs. Machine

Man vs. Machine: Comparing Discretionary and Systematic Hedge Fund Performance (2017)
Campbell R. Harvey, Sandy Rattray, Andrew Sinclair, Otto Van Hemert
The Journal of Portfolio Management 43(4), URL/SSRN

This week’s AGNOSTIC Paper examines the ongoing Man vs. Machine question in asset management at the example of hedge funds. The paper is therefore a predecessor to AgPa #21 that examines the same question for AI-powered mutual funds. The authors mention that there are still myths around systematic investing and many investors seem to have some kind of algorithm aversion. This is in-line with my own experiences, so I believe the paper fills an important gap for better education. In addition to that, the authors provide a practical framework to evaluate the performance and risks of hedge funds which I believe goes beyond the question of Man vs. Machine.

  • Macro hedge funds: systematic beat discretionary
  • Equity hedge funds: a draw between systematic and discretionary
  • Systematic and discretionary funds are quite similar
  • Hedge fund investing is more difficult than averages suggest

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AgPa #61: Minivans versus Sports Cars

Sensation Seeking and Hedge Funds (2018)
Stephen Brown, Yan Lu, Sugata Ray, Melvyn Teo
The Journal of Finance 73(6), 2871-2914, URL/SSRN

Tell me about the car you drive and I tell you who you are. In the hope of not offending the car enthusiasts too much, this week’s AGNOSTIC Paper relates the performance and characteristics of hedge fund managers to the type of car they drive. As announced in last week’s article, this is a funny example for the important soft factors that investors should consider when selecting an asset manager.

  • Sports car drivers take more risk and deliver lower performance
  • Funds of sports car drivers come with more operational risk
  • Sports-car-driving investors want sports-car-driving fund managers

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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 #40: Size Effect – Fact and Fiction

Fact, Fiction, and the Size Effect (2018)
Ron Alquist, Ronen Israel, Tobias Moskowitz
The Journal of Portfolio Management Fall 2018, 45 (1) 34-61, URL/AQR

After examining several Facts and Fictions around factor investing in general, momentum, value, and low-risk, this week’s AGNOSTIC Paper tackles the final anomaly. The size effect received a lot of attention in both academia and the investment industry, probably because it is one of the oldest documented anomalies. In this final paper of their Fact and Fictions series, the authors examine some myths around it.

  • Fiction: Size is the strongest documented factor
  • Fact: The size effect weakened since its discovery
  • Fiction: The size effect is robust across different measures
  • Fact: The size effect is strongly related to the January effect
  • Fiction: Size also works in international equity markets
  • Fact: Size does not work within other asset classes
  • Fact: Most of the size effect are micro cap stocks
  • Fact: Size is difficult to implement in real-world portfolios
  • Fiction: The size effect is more than just a liquidity effect
  • Fiction: There are economic theories for the size effect
  • Fiction: Size works because other factors are stronger among small cap stocks
  • Fact: There are reasons to overweight small caps even without the size effect
  • Fact and Fiction: The size effect is stronger when controlling for other factors
  • Fact: Size receives a lot of attention despite weak evidence

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AgPa #39: Low-Risk Investing – Fact and Fiction

Fact and Fiction about Low-Risk Investing (2020)
Ron Alquist, Andrea Frazzini, Antti Ilmanen, Lasse Heje Pedersen
The Journal of Portfolio Management Multi-Asset Special Issue 2020, 46 (6) 72-92, URL/AQR

After examining value and momentum, this week’s AGNOSTIC Paper examines some Fact and Fictions around defensive / low-risk investing. The defensive / low-risk factor captures various well-known effects like the low-volatility and Betting Against Beta effect, but also fundamental strategies like quality (a.k.a. the Quality Minus Junk factor).

  • Fact: Low-risk securities generate risk-adjusted outperformance
  • Fiction: The low-risk premium is weaker than other factors
  • Fact: Low-risk strategies worked out-of-sample
  • Fiction: Low-risk profits come from industry bets
  • Fact: Low-risk investing worked across geographies and asset classes
  • Fiction: Low-risk investing doesn’t work because the CAPM is dead
  • Fact: There is economic theory behind the low-risk premium
  • Fiction: Low-risk investing does not survive trading costs
  • Fact: Low-risk investing can lose money in bear markets
  • Fiction: Low-risk factors became too expensive

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AgPa #38: Value Investing – Fact and Fiction

Fact, Fiction, and Value Investing (2015)
Clifford Asness, Andrea Frazzini, Ronen Israel, Tobias Moskowitz
The Journal of Portfolio Management Fall 2015, 42(1) 34-52, URL/AQR

After busting some myths around momentum, this week’s AGNOSTIC Paper is the sequel for value investing. The authors, the same AQR crew as last week, present several Facts and Fictions around value investing which is actually one of the oldest investment styles out there.

  • Fiction: Value investing requires concentrated portfolios
  • Fiction: Value has low turnover and is thus passive
  • Fact: Fundamental indexing is similar to systematic value investing
  • Fact: Profitability signals improve value investing
  • Fiction: Value is redundant in modern factor models
  • Fact: Value also works in other asset classes
  • Fact: Value is best measured by a composite of signals
  • Fact: Value is quite weak among large caps
  • Fiction: The value premium should disappear because there are no plausible explanations

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AgPa #37: Momentum Investing – Fact and Fiction

Fact, Fiction, and Momentum Investing (2014)
Clifford Asness, Andrea Frazzini, Ronen Israel, Tobias Moskowitz
The Journal of Portfolio Management Special 40th Anniversary Issue 2014, 40(5) 75-92, URL/AQR

After examining the general Facts and Fictions about factor investing, this week’s AGNOSTIC Paper examines momentum in more detail. Specifically, the authors combat 10 misleading myths about momentum…

  • Myth 1: Momentum returns are economically not meaningful
  • Myth 2: Long-only investors cannot capture momentum
  • Myth 3: Momentum is much stronger among small-caps
  • Myth 4: Momentum does not survive trading costs
  • Myth 5: Momentum produces a huge tax bill
  • Myth 6: Momentum is better as a screen than as a factor
  • Myth 7: Momentum returns should disappear in the future
  • Myth 8: Momentum is too volatile to rely on
  • Myth 9: Different momentum measures lead to different results
  • Myth 10: There is no theory behind momentum

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AgPa #36: Factor Investing – Fact and Fiction

Fact, Fiction, and Factor Investing (2023)
Michele Aghassi, Cliff Asness, Charles Fattouche, Tobias J. Moskowitz
The Journal of Portfolio Management Quantitative Special Issue 2023, URL

Whenever AQR writes about systematic investing, it’s (in my opinion) time to listen. This one is a very good overview about factor investing. Given that this is the intellectual basis of many things I do here on the website, it perfectly fits to the series.

  • Fiction: Factor investing is just data-mining
  • Fact: Factors are risky
  • Fiction: Factor diversification doesn’t work
  • Fact: Factors work in different market regimes
  • Fiction: Factors don’t work anymore
  • Fact: Factors were and are not crowded
  • Fiction: Everyone should (and can) invest in factors
  • Fact: Factor discipline beats factor timing
  • Fact: Sticking with factors is often difficult

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AgPa #4: Measuring the World’s Assets (2/2)

Historical Returns of the Market Portfolio (2019)
Ronald Doeswijk, Trevin Lam, Laurens Swinkels
The Review of Asset Pricing Studies 10(3), 521-567, URL

This is the second post on the global market portfolio and again examines two papers. It is designed to be a sequel, so I recommend to read the first part before.

The global market portfolio is a tough empirical challenge. Different methodology leads to different results and the papers disagree on several points. But there are some common insights that enhance our understanding of the market portfolio.

  • Most assets are not publicly traded
  • Stock markets are relatively small
  • Recent historical returns were 4.4% to 6.3% per year
  • The market portfolio is a good starting point

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AgPa #3: Measuring the World’s Assets (1/2)

The Global Market Portfolio (2021)
Gregory Gadzinski, Markus Schuller, Andrea Vacchino
The Journal of Portfolio Management 47(8), 151-163, URL

This week’s AGNOSTIC Paper attempts to translate an important theoretical concept into practice – the global market portfolio.

The global market portfolio captures all available assets and each is weighted by its market value. The authors develop two proxies for this portfolio and present some interesting insights:

  • Global assets were worth about $667T in 2019
  • The investable market portfolio returned 4.7% p.a. from 2005-2020/Q1
  • The non-investable market portfolio returned 5.9% p.a. from 2005-2020/Q1

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