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Recently a new factor was added to the literature: Quality. In credits, we see Quality as a natural extension of pure Low-Risk. All our credit factor models have used Quality since inception, and have expanded its use over the years.
Investors are worried about the high valuations of stocks in general and low-volatility stocks in particular. And so are we! In relative terms, low-volatility stocks have become more expensive during the last two years, but it’s not the first time. It happened first in 2008 and again in 2011.
Smart beta indices are a popular way of implementing a factor investing strategy. However, research suggests that this may not the best way, as the factor exposure provided by popular smart beta strategies varies greatly and they do not unlock the full potential of factor premiums.
We provide empirical evidence that the Size, Low-Risk, Value and Momentum factors have significant risk-adjusted returns in the corporate bond market. By combining these factors in a multi-factor portfolio, drawdowns and tracking error vs. the market are reduced, while the higher return and Sharpe ratio are preserved.
The poor long-term live performance of the first generation of value indices indicates that capturing the value premium is not easy. This does not mean, however, that the value premium is beyond the reach of investors. We argue that a value premium still exists, but that harvesting it requires an approach that is much more sophisticated than simply following a straightforward value index.
Some argue that the mere mechanism of rebalancing increases returns, and that this explains the success of factor investment strategies. Although factor strategies do need rebalancing to maintain their exposures, there are several reasons why it is unlikely that this is their source of added value.
Robeco Enhanced Indexing invests in global developed markets equities, and has a low tracking error against its benchmark, the MSCI World index. In recent years, performance has been strong. In this article we focus on one element that distinguishes Robeco’s strategy from those of others: our short-term stock selection model (SHOT).
Low-volatility stocks are known to lag in rising markets and lose less in falling markets. On average this is true, but is it always the case? Examining the historical evidence we find that unlikely scenarios – both positive and negative - do occur once in a while. Low-volatility investors should therefore not only focus on averages, but consider a broader range of possible outcomes.
Generic strategies designed to harvest a certain factor premium regularly conflict with other factor premiums. We find that the premiums associated with these strategies tend to shrink, sometimes even to zero, in these periods of factor disagreement. But enhanced factor strategies avoid stocks that are unattractive on other established factors and continue to deliver when generic factor strategies struggle.
There is a shift towards allocating to the factor premiums momentum, value and low volatility. However, since common factor indexes are a suboptimal way to harvest factor premiums, this paper shows the improved results of a more sophisticated approach. Factor strategies developed by Robeco lead to higher returns, while lowering the risks, resulting in higher Sharpe ratios.
Robeco’s quantitative duration model drives the performance of quant duration solutions such as Robeco Lux-o-rente and Robeco Flex-o-rente. We monitor the performance of the model and regularly investigate in which circumstances the model performs well and which conditions are more challenging.
In 1999, fifteen years ago, Robeco found that quantitative stock selection techniques known to be effective in developed markets are also able to deliver superior investment results in emerging markets. What are the biggest takeaways from the research done and how does the model work in practice?
Investors increasingly embrace “smart beta” investing, by which we mean passively following an index in which stock weights are not proportional to their market capitalizations, but based on some alternative weighting scheme. Examples include fundamentally-weighted indices and minimum-volatility indices. In this whitepaper we first take a critical look at the pros and cons of smart beta investing in general. After this we successively discuss the most popular types of smart indices that have been introduced in recent years.
The duration model combines multiple factors. The model is used to predict government bond returns and fully determines the active positions in the funds Robeco Lux-o-rente, Robeco Flex-o-rente and Robeco Emerging Lux-o-rente.The performance of the model is continuously monitored and analyzed to strive for further enhancements. This whitepaper discusses the impact of an enhanced approach on the balance and the robustness of the model.
Commodities have become less popular for investors. They are wondering if the traditional arguments for investing in commodities – like diversification- still apply. This paper explores a better way to invest: by setting up a commodity factor portfolio
Emerging markets have become increasingly important to equity investors due to their fast growing economies. But what is the relationship between risk and return in these markets? Answer: it is flat or even negative. Empirical results show that the volatility effect - long-term equity returns at distinctly lower downside risk - is significant, robust and distinct.
Residual Equity Momentum for Corporate Bonds
An enhanced low-volatility strategy, which also provides exposure to valuation and sentiment factors, can improve returns by up to 6% a year.
Corporate bond returns consist of two distinct components: an interest rate component, which is default-free and anti-cyclical, and a credit spread component, which is default-risky and pro-cyclical.
In this Research Note we show that low-risk credits had superior risk-adjusted excess returns over the past 20 years.1 By selecting low-risk bonds from low-risk issuers, investors would have earned credit-like returns at substantially lower risk.
We provide a proof that volatility weighting over time increases the Sharpe or Information Ratio. The higher the degree of volatility smoothing achieved by volatility weighting, the higher the risk-adjusted performance
In this study we evaluate the performance of actively managed equity mutual funds against a set of passively managed index funds.
The volatility effect is present in US stock returns in every decade from 1931-2009. During these decades, low-volatility stocks produced a positive absolute return, with lower risk than the market-capitalization-weighted index.
Ibbotson’s “Stocks, Bonds, Bills and Inflation” data set is widely used because it provides monthly US financial data series going back to as early as 1926. In this data set, the “default premium” is calculated as the difference between the total returns on long-term corporate bonds and long-term government bonds.
New research from Robeco identifies and corrects for biases in analyst earnings revisions, says Senior Quantitative Equities Researcher, Joop Huij.
A short-term reversal strategy based on residual momentum reduces exposure to systematic factors and results in lower risk and better returns than a conventional momentum strategy.
What is the best way to measure the performance of a strategy focused on risk-adjusted return? David Blitz and Pim van Vliet answer this question in their article, Benchmarking Low-Volatility Strategies, published in the Journal of Index Investing.
We analyzed the sensitivity of the duration model's performance to inflation and different financial market regimes. Our conclusions are threefold: (1) the model delivers a strong performance when inflation is high; (2) the model offers protection against rising inflation for bond investors and (3) the model is successful in both bull and bear markets.
An optimal portfolio allocation will have large exposures to value, momentum and low-volatility strategies, according to a study of US equity returns over 40 years.
Several studies report that abnormal returns associated with short-term reversal investment strategies diminish once transaction costs are taken into account.
This comprehensive investigation of the relation between the value anomaly and distress risk finds that value stocks are not cheaper than growth stocks due to the risk of financial distress.
This comprehensive investigation of the relation between the value anomaly and distress risk finds that value stocks are not cheaper than growth stocks due to the risk of financial distress. While the study looked at US stock returns, the research applies to emerging markets as well.
Emerging markets ETFs typically underperform benchmarks by 1% a year and about half of the funds exhibit high tracking errors. With these characteristics, should they be classified as passive strategies?
A decentralized professional investment process can lead to inefficient portfolios. Low-risk equities are undervalued because active managers have a dual incentive to buy high-risk stocks.
Robeco advocates Responsible Investing. We believe that this improves the long-term risk-return profile for our clients. One of the pillars of Robeco’s Responsible Investing policy involves the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into the investment process.
Generating benchmark-like returns is a difficult job in the High Yield corporate bond market. High index turnover and illiquidity, i.e. high bid-ask spreads, are the main reasons why passively tracking a High Yield index comes at significant costs.
We build on the work of Wright and Zhou (2009) who show that the average jump mean in bond prices can predict excess bond returns, capturing the countercyclical behaviour of risk premia.
Pension funds can protect funding ratios by making low-risk stocks a part of their equity allocation, says Pim van Vliet, Senior Portfolio Manager, Robeco Low Volatility Equities.
Not only do the value and momentum effects exist in frontier markets, these effects are uncorrelated with each other and with similar strategies in developed and emerging markets.
Efficient markets theory has been challenged by the finding that relatively simple investment strategies are found to generate statistically significantly higher returns than the market portfolio.
Efficient markets theory has been challenged by the finding that relatively simple investment strategies are found to generate statistically significantly higher returns than the market portfolio. Well-known examples are the value, size and momentum strategies, for which return premiums have been documented in US and international stock markets. Market efficiency is also challenged, however, if some simple investment strategy generates a return similar to that of the market, but at a systematically lower level of risk.
Some of the most influential scientific papers on the predictability of bond markets connect theory with the tested predictive power of the variables of Robeco’s duration model. A small sample of academic evidence on the predictability of fixed income markets is discussed in this paper and its link to the model is illustrated.
An analysis of the success of value, momentum and earnings revisions strategies in emerging markets finds that behavioral biases are at work—just as in developed markets. This paper was later published in Emerging Markets Review.
The last decades have witnessed some major developments in the field of asset pricing. These have contributed to a better understanding of stock, bond and other asset prices and have influenced other disciplines such as corporate finance and macro economics.
A number of different quantitative investment strategies are applied to emerging markets. Value, momentum and earnings revisions strategies are found to be the most successful. This paper was later published in the Journal of Empirical Finance.