Weekly RS Recap

December 27, 2016

The table below shows the performance of a universe of mid and large cap U.S. equities, broken down by relative strength decile and quartile and then compared to the universe return.  Those at the top of the ranks are those stocks which have the best intermediate-term relative strength.  Relative strength strategies buy securities that have strong intermediate-term relative strength and hold them as long as they remain strong.

Last week’s performance (12/19/16 – 12/23/16) is as follows:

ranks

This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past or present recommendation.  The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  The performance above is based on pure price returns, not inclusive of dividends, fees, or other expenses.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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Quadfecta Highs

December 20, 2016

How uncommon is it to see the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, The Nasdaq Composite, and the Russell 2000 Indexes all break out to new all-time highs on the same day?  Since 1979, there have only been 13 such occurrences, including the most recent occurrence on 11/21/2016.  Piper Jaffrey’s December issue of The Informed Investor, included a nice summary the types of market returns we have seen after such “Quadfecta” days.

Following the republican’s ‘trifecta’ sweep during the election, the popular averages posted ‘quadfecta’ highs, representing the rare occurrence when the SPX, DJIA, COMPQ and RUT all close at record highs on the same trading day. The recent November ‘quadfecta’ highs was the first time this has occurred since Dec. 1999. From our perspective, the major averages simultaneously breaking out to new highs confirms broad participation in the rally and provides further evidence to our secular bull market thesis.  A historical review of other ‘quadfecta’ highs offers compelling results in regards to expected future returns.  Although there are a limited number of occurrences since 1979, the major indices have generated meaningfully returns over the ensuing 26-week and 52-week periods. Additionally, the percent of positive returns has far outpaced negative returns on a historical basis.

quadfecta

The table above highlights various return metrics after quadfecta highs have been reached. As you can see, the SPX, DJIA and COMPQ traded higher 75% of the on a 52-week basis. The RUT was higher 67% of the time after the same time period. Average returns also look healthy across the board with at the major indices averaging at least 8% returns over the next 52-weeks.

When clients ask our thoughts on the markets in 2017, this might be something you consider discussing with them.  Strong indications of healthy market breadth have historically tended to be a good sign for future equity returns.

Price performance only, not inclusive of dividends or transaction costs.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

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Some Perspective on Tactical Asset Allocation

December 13, 2016

I recently saw a presentation by Nadia Papagiannis, CFA, of Goldman Sachs Asset Management that provided some important insights into the landscape for asset allocation.  Consider the table below, which shows  the performance of a number of asset classes (Commodities, Emerging Market Debt, U.S. Bonds, High Yield, U.S. Real Estate, International Real Estate, Bank Loans, Hedge Funds, Emerging Market Equities, International Equities, International Small Cap, U.S Small Cap) to the performance of U.S. Large Cap Equities.

imca

imca2

What stands out about the years 2013-2015?  Very few asset classes outperformed U.S. Large Cap Equities during those years.  This goes a long ways towards explaining why most people who have employed some form of asset allocation (anything that diversified away from Large Cap US Equities) have probably been left underwhelmed with their performance during those 3 years.

True to the human condition, recency bias has been in full effect in recent years as it applies to tactical allocation with people questioning the category’s merits.  However, I would suggest that clients may benefit from reviewing a table like that shown above to remember that not all years are like 2013-2015 (if they were there wouldn’t be much need to own anything besides U.S. Large Cap Equities).

To me, there are 5 key reasons why investors would do well to consider making tactical asset allocation part of the mix:

  1. Asset classes go through bull and bear markets.  A relative strength-driven tactical asset allocation strategy can seek to overweight those asset classes in favor and underweight those asset classes that are out of favor.
  2. Many investors can’t handle the volatility associated with a buy and hold approach of investing solely in U.S. Large Cap Equities.  Tactical Asset Allocation has the potential to provide some diversification and help smooth out the ride.
  3. After seeing a couple year environment in which tactical asset allocation struggled, now may be a very good time to beef up that exposure or to make new allocation to tactical asset allocation.
  4. From a client management standpoint, my experience is that clients love to talk about the tactical portion of their overall asset allocation.  Clients like to see how their portfolio is adapting to the current environment.  Give them something they want (flexibility).  This is very different than just giving into their emotional investment desires because a relative strength-driven asset allocation strategy objectively respond to market trends.
  5. Tactical Asset Allocation can be the glue that keeps a clients’ hands off the more aggressive portions of their allocation that may be fully invested in Equities.

Dorsey Wright provides a full suite of tactical asset allocation tools and solutions such as our Global Macro SMA/UMA, The Arrow DWA Tactical and Balanced Funds, The Arrow DWA Tactical ETF, DALI, Tactical Tilt Models, and more.  If you would like to discuss different tools and solutions in this area, please call Andy Hyer at 626-535-0630 or andyh@dorseymm.com.

The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.

Indices are unmanaged.  The figures for the index reflect the reinvestment of all income or dividends, as applicable, but do not reflect the deduction of any fees or expenses which would reduce returns.  Investors cannot invest directly in indices.  The indices referenced herein have been selected because they are well known, easily recognized by investors, and reflect those indeces that the Investment Manager believes, in part based on industry practice, provide a suitable benchmark against which to evaluate the investment or broader market described herein.  The exclusion of “failed” or closed hedge funds may mean that each index overstates the performance of hedge funds generally.  Starting point selected given longest common index inception.  HFRI FoF = HFRI Fund of Funds Composite Index; HFRI and related indices are trademarks and service marks of Hedge Fund Research, Inc. (“HFR”) which has no affliation with GSAM.  Information regarding HFR indices was obtained from HFR’s website and other public sources and is provided for comparison purposes only.  HFR does not endorse or approve any of the statements made herein.

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What Winning Looks Like (Probably Not What You Expect)

December 6, 2016

The blog Basis Pointing has an excellent write up on the performance profile of winning funds.  I suspect most investors will be very surprised at its findings.  It’s not that winning funds don’t exist–they most definitely do.  Rather, it is that the path to long-term outperformance is far lumpier than most investors probably expect.

Investors tend to have some pretty ingrained misconceptions of what “winning” funds look like. For instance, winning funds lay waste to the index and category peers; they do so over the short- and long-term; they corner really well, deftly avoiding big drawdowns and rocking during rallies; they don’t rattle around much; they succeed like clockwork. They’re Tom Brady.

For those who have gotten to know markets, randomness, and the resultant unpredictability of short and even intermediate-term performance, we know this is nuts. Winning funds do not succeed anywhere near linearly. Performance is jagged; success and failure arrive abruptly; it often takes years to grind out an advantage; and so forth. This is pure torture for many investors, who bail (and that pattern reveals itself in the form of hideous dollar-weighted returns; if there’s any consistency in markets, it’s that, but I digress).

Study

However, this concept is often too abstract so I thought I’d try to semi-simply illustrate it through an example. Here’s what I did (which will win no points for elegance or precision but last time I checked this blog was free):

  1. Grouped together all diversified U.S. open-end equity mutual funds (i.e., the nine style-box categories; active and index funds; no ETFs)
  2. Limited to unique funds (i.e., oldest shareclass)
  3. Calculated the twenty year annual excess returns of the unique funds I grouped (excess returns = fund’s total return minus return of benchmark index assigned to the category that fund was assigned to)
  4. Sorted the funds into deciles by excess returns (top=group with highest excess returns; bottom=group with lowest excess returns)

There were around 680 unique funds that had twenty-year excess returns, so we’re talking about 68 per decile grouping.

Findings

Here’s the predictable stairstep pattern from the top to bottom decile when sorted by excess return:

bp1

Click here to read all of the different elements of this study, be see below for the one that I found most interesting:

As shown below the more-successful funds did indeed lag less often (measured as number of rolling 36-month periods during the twenty year span where the decile grouping had negative average excess returns) than the less-successful funds.

3-yr-lag

But it’s not like they were strangers to underperformance. In fact, the best-performing funds lagged their indexes in more than one of every three rolling three-year periods.So, investors in these funds spent roughly a third of the past two decades looking up, not down, at the index (when measured over rolling three-year periods).

My emphasis added.  As shown in the first chart, there are plenty of funds that have outperformed over the past 20 years.  However, any investor who expected consistent outperformance would have been sorely disappointed.  Even the best performing funds lagged their benchmark about one third of rolling 3-year periods.  The lessons should be clear.  Investors would be well served to do meaningful due diligence on active strategies before putting money to work.  Once investors feel confident that they have settled on strategies/management teams that they believe are likely to outperform over time, they would be well served to demonstrate a very high level of patience.

There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.

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Relative Strength Spread

November 29, 2016

The chart below is the spread between the relative strength leaders and relative strength laggards (top quartile of stocks in our ranks divided by the bottom quartile of stocks in our ranks; universe of U.S. mid and large cap stocks).  When the chart is rising, relative strength leaders are performing better than relative strength laggards.    As of 11/28/16:

spread

The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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Knowing When to Stand Still

November 28, 2016

There has been an enormous amount of commentary following the November 8th presidential election about exactly what a Trump administration will mean for the financial markets, both domestic and international.  Trump’s victory is being called one of the biggest political upsets in modern U.S. history.  I think it is fair to say that the markets were probably expecting a Clinton victory, which may account, to some degree, for the wild swings in the performance of many relative strength strategies in the days following the election.  For example, see below for the performance of our Systematic RS International model compared to its benchmark, the Nasdaq Global ex US TR Index.  In the immediate aftermath of the election, many of our Latin American holdings took it on the chin, perhaps in fears of the perceived protectionists policies that might be associated with a Trump administration.  However, you’ll notice that within a couple of days the performance of the model snapped back.

intl-perf

*Performance of the Systematic RS International model is non-inclusive of dividends or transaction costs.  The performance of the Nasdaq Global ex US Index is inclusive of dividends, but does not include transaction costs.  Period 11/8/16 – 11/22/16.

We received a number of panicked phone calls during the few days following the election when we were experiencing some sharp underperformance.  “Is the model responding too slowly?”  “Wouldn’t it make sense to get out of all Latin American stocks now?”  Those were some of the types of questions we were receiving.  Our response was that we didn’t know if the underperformance would continue or if we would see those positions snap back, but that we would stick with our relative strength discipline.  Positions that deteriorated sufficiently would be removed from the model and replaced with stronger names.  In other words, we were not overriding the model.

This does remind me of a NYT article I read a number of years ago on a related topic:

The soccer field has turned out to be a popular laboratory among economists, with penalty kicks a particular favorite.

Awarded after certain kinds of fouls, or sometimes to decide a championship match, a penalty kick pits one player against the goalkeeper. (Mano a pie instead of mano a mano, though, since the goalie is allowed to use his hands.)

Standing just 36 feet away, the kicker sends the ball hurtling at the goal at 60 to 80 m.p.h., giving the goalie just 0.2 to 0.3 second to respond. Given the speed, the goalkeeper has to decide what to do even before observing the direction of the kick. Stopping a penalty kick is considered one of the most difficult challenges in sports. Not surprisingly, 80 percent of all penalty kicks score.

For their study, Mr. Azar, along with Michael Bar-Eli, a sports psychologist; Ilana Ritov, a psychologist; and two graduate students, scanned the top leagues in the world, collecting data on 311 penalty kicks. Then they computed the probability of stopping different kicks (to the left, the right or center) with different actions (jumping left, right, or staying put) to see which one “maximizes his chance of stopping the ball.”

According to their calculations, staying in the center gives the goalkeeper the best shot at halting a penalty kick — 33.3 percent, instead of 14.2 percent on the left and 12.6 percent on the right.

Yet when the group analyzed how the goalkeepers had actually reacted to these penalty kicks, they discovered the goalies remained in the center just 6.3 percent of the time.

The reason, Mr. Azar contends, is rooted in how the players feel after failing to block the ball.

01kick_600

Source: New York Times

When it comes to soccer and investing, when choosing what to do, sometimes the best thing is nothing.  Overriding models may or may not work out in the short-run.  In the long-run, adherence to disciplined and adaptive models makes all the difference.

Over the last 10+ years the we have been managing the Systematic RS International portfolio, it has certainly had periods of underperformance, but over the last 10 years it has outperformed its benchmark by 6.4 percent annually, net of all fees.

intl-long-term-perf

As of 10/31/16

To receive the brochure on our Systematic RS Portfolios (which are available on a large number of SMA and UMA platforms), please e-mail andyh@dorseymm.com or call 626-535-0630.

This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past recommendation.  The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.

The performance shown above is based on monthly performance of the Systematic Relative Strength International Model.  Net performance shown is total return net of management fees, commissions, and expenses for all Dorsey, Wright & Associates managed accounts, managed for each complete quarter for each objective, regardless of levels of fixed income and cash in each account.  The advisory fees are described in Part 2A of the adviser’s Form ADV.  The starting values on 3/31/2006 are assigned an arbitrary value of 100 and statement portfolios are revalued on a trade date basis on the last day of each quarter.  All returns since inception of actual Accounts are compared against the NASDAQ Global ex US Index.  The NASDAQ Global ex US Index Total Return Index is a stock market index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of global markets outside of the United States and is maintained by Nasdaq.  A list of all holdings over the past 12 months is available upon request.  The performance information is based on data supplied by the Manager or from statistical services, reports, or other sources which the Manager believes are reliable.  There are risks inherent in international investments, which may make such investments unsuitable for certain clients. These include, for example, economic, political, currency exchange, rate fluctuations, and limited availability of information on international securities.  Past performance does not guarantee future results. In all securities trading, there is a potential for loss as well as profit. It should not be assumed that recommendations made in the future will be profitable or will equal the performance as shown. Investors should have long-term financial objectives when working with Dorsey, Wright & Associates.

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Weekly RS Recap

November 28, 2016

The table below shows the performance of a universe of mid and large cap U.S. equities, broken down by relative strength decile and quartile and then compared to the universe return.  Those at the top of the ranks are those stocks which have the best intermediate-term relative strength.  Relative strength strategies buy securities that have strong intermediate-term relative strength and hold them as long as they remain strong.

Last week’s performance (11/21/16 – 11/25/16) is as follows:

ranks

This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past or present recommendation.  The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  The performance above is based on pure price returns, not inclusive of dividends, fees, or other expenses.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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How Momentum Based ETFs Work in Portfolio Construction

November 21, 2016

ETF Trends publisher/editor Tom Lydon spoke with Andy Hyer, Client Porfolio Manager, Dorsey, Wright & Associates, a Nasdaq Company, at the Schwab Impact Conference in San Diego that ran Oct. 24-27, 2016.

Hyer discussed how its innovative momentum based ETFs work in portfolio construction.

Neither the information nor any opinion expressed shall constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation or an offer to buy any securities, commodities or exchange traded products.  This document and presentation do not purport to be complete descriptions of the securities or commodities, markets or developments to which reference is made.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for Profits is accompanied by possibility of loss. 

 

Some performance information presented is the result of back-tested performance.  Back-tested performance is hypothetical (it does not reflect trading in actual accounts) and is provided for informational purposes to illustrate the effects of the discussed strategy during a specific period.  

 

Back-tested performance results have certain limitations.  Such results do not represent the impact of material economic and market factors might have on an investment advisor’s decision making process if the advisor were actually managing client money.  Back-testing performance also differs from actual performance because it is achieved through retroactive application of a model investment methodology designed with the benefit of hindsight.  Dorsey, Wright & Associates believes the data used in the testing to be from credible, reliable sources, however; Dorsey, Wright & Associates, LLC (collectively with its affiliates and parent company, “DWA”) makes no representation or warranties of any kind as to the accuracy of such data. 

 

The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  Relative Strength is a measure of price momentum based on historical price activity.  Relative Strength is not predictive and there is no assurance that forecasts based on relative strength can be relied upon.

 

Unless otherwise stated, the returns of the strategies do not include dividends for stocks or ETFs but do account for distributions in mutual funds.  Returns of the strategies do not include any transaction costs. Investors should have long-term financial objectives. 

 

The information contained herein has been prepared without regard to any particular investor’s investment objectives, financial situation, and needs.  Accordingly, investors should not act on any recommendation (express or implied) or information in this material without obtaining specific advice from their financial advisors and should not rely on information herein as the primary basis for their investment decisions.  Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized statistical services, issuer reports or communications, or other sources believed to be reliable (“information providers”).  However, such information has not been verified by DWA or the information provider and DWA and the information providers make no representations or warranties or take any responsibility as to the accuracy or completeness of any recommendation or information contained herein.  DWA and the information provider accept no liability to the recipient whatsoever whether in contract, in tort, for negligence, or otherwise for any direct, indirect, consequential, or special loss of any kind arising out of the use of this document or its contents or of the recipient relying on any such recommendation or information (except insofar as any statutory liability cannot be excluded).  Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute only current opinions, which are subject to change without notice. 

 

Each investor should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks and expenses of any Exchange-Traded Fund (“ETF”) prior to investing. The risk of loss in trading commodities and futures can be substantial. The high degree of leverage that is often obtainable in commodity trading can work against you as well as for you. You should therefore carefully consider whether such trading in ETFs is suitable for you in light of your financial condition.  Before investing in an ETF investors should obtain and carefully read the relevant prospectus and documents the issuer has filed with the SEC. ETF’s may result in the layering of fees as ETF’s impose their own advisory and other fees. To obtain more complete information about the product the documents are publicly available for free via EDGAR on the SEC website (http://www.sec.gov).

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Relative Strength Spread

November 21, 2016

The chart below is the spread between the relative strength leaders and relative strength laggards (top quartile of stocks in our ranks divided by the bottom quartile of stocks in our ranks; universe of U.S. mid and large cap stocks).  When the chart is rising, relative strength leaders are performing better than relative strength laggards.    As of 11/18/16:

spread

The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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Weekly RS Recap

November 21, 2016

The table below shows the performance of a universe of mid and large cap U.S. equities, broken down by relative strength decile and quartile and then compared to the universe return.  Those at the top of the ranks are those stocks which have the best intermediate-term relative strength.  Relative strength strategies buy securities that have strong intermediate-term relative strength and hold them as long as they remain strong.

Last week’s performance (11/14/16 – 11/18/16) is as follows:

ranks

This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past or present recommendation.  The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  The performance above is based on pure price returns, not inclusive of dividends, fees, or other expenses.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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Sentiment Readings At Historic Lows

November 21, 2016

Piper Jaffray’s November 2016 issue of The Informed Investor included some great insight on investor sentiment.  In short, we’ve reached bearish sentiment levels that, from a contrarian standpoint, suggests a positive outlook for equities:

The AAII Investor Sentiment survey measures the percentage of individual investors who are bullish, bearish and neutral on the stock market for the next six months.  Of particular interest is the bullish percent number that is a solid contrarian indicator and often shows investors’ complacency/fear at important turning points in the market.

From a historical perspective, the lower decile (bottom 10% readings) of the Bullish % numbers resides at 26%.  For the week ending November 2, 2016, the sentiment survey recorded a bullish % reading of 23.6%, which falls in the bottom decile of all observed values since July 1987 (as shown in the table right below).  From a contrarian perspective, the data suggests a positive bias and that the path of least resistance is likely higher.

aaii

From a performance perspective, we went back in history (1987-present) and calculated average and median market returns after such low readings were observed.  We note that the SPX index has been higher over the following 13- and 26-week periods, 74% and 81% of the time respectively.

Additionally, the SPX has recorded positive average returns of 7.7%, six months after weak readings of the Bullish % numbers were observed.

aaii2

Perhaps you are scratching your head as to how this can happen when markets are so close to all-time highs.  A couple guesses as to why this can happen.  First, the election causes politicians to focus on the things that are going wrong (and how they are going to fix them!).  The constant focus on the negative has the effect of, not surprisingly, causing people to overlook what may be going right.  Second, the market has been flatish on a year-over-basis.  When investors don’t get their expected 7-9 percent a year their mood drops (even if we’re not far from all-time highs).

Contrarian indicators such as this work best at the extremes and recent readings in the bottom decile suggest that the coming weeks and months may very well surprise to the upside.

Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.

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A Game Plan For Incorporating “The Totality of Information”

November 8, 2016

Jason Zweig recently made a key observation during an interview with Russ Roberts (via The Irrelevant Investor):

I think if there’s one overriding theme to the book, one of the things I’ve tried to get across in The Devil’s Financial Dictionary is the importance of just being humble before the financial markets. I mean people are humble before nature- think about when you stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon, or you walk to the edge of the ocean, or you look up at the stars, people feel this sense of awe and wonder and smallness because we are small when we compare ourselves with the natural world. Well individuals, and for that matter, policy makers, are small when we compare ourselves with the financial markets, but most of us forget that.  And we think, oh we’ll we have better data or we know something the other guy doesn’t, and in fact we should have that same sense of just being a spec of sand on a long beach and just remember that whatever we know is very small compared to the totality of the information that’s out there.

This begs the question, what is your edge as a financial advisor?  If your edge is “knowing something the other guy doesn’t” how realistic is that edge?  So much of what goes on in the investment management business is centered around people believing that they have insight into why a given security is mispriced.  Taking Zweig’s advice to stay humble as it relates to the totality of the information that is out there goes to the essence of  technical analysis.  For technicians, and specifically those adhering to a trend following/relative strength-based approach to investing, our edge has nothing to do with identifying mispriced securities.  The prices are what they are—the simple intersection of supply and demand.  Our edge is having a disciplined method of identifying and participating in the strongest trends in the market.  Thanks to the power of technology, our trend following models see and incorporate all information in the market that is relevant to our buy and sell signals.

If you need some ammo to help make the case for such a trend following approach.  I would suggest reading (or re-reading) some of John Lewis’ white papers on the topic.  Some of my key takeaways from these white papers:

  • Price is sufficient as an input for trend following models.  There is no need to complicate things with other inputs.
  • Trend following works on stocks, ETFs, and asset classes
  • Relative Strength doesn’t work all the time, but it does work a high percentage of the time
  • Discipline is the key.  Rather than focus on constantly tweaking a relative strength model, it is best to do thorough research up front than then focus on execution after that.  Constantly tweaking a trend following model is no different than not having any discipline.
  • There are best practices when it comes to relative strength models.  Those white papers detail best practices.  Some of those best practices including knowing what box size to use on a PnF relative strength chart and where to set your relative strength rank buy and sell threshold for a given objective.

As a subscriber to DWA research, you have the necessary tools at your fingertips to employ such relative strength strategies.  There is no need to recreate the wheel here.  We’ve done the heavy lifting for you.  Team Builder, Matrix Plus, the Models Page, the Technical Attributes, and Fund Score, DALI.  It’s all there.

It is possible to be humble and confident at the same time.   Humility is demonstrated by not looking beyond price.  The confidence comes from embracing a trend following model designed to interpret those prices in a systematic way.

The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.

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Weekly RS Recap

November 7, 2016

The table below shows the performance of a universe of mid and large cap U.S. equities, broken down by relative strength decile and quartile and then compared to the universe return.  Those at the top of the ranks are those stocks which have the best intermediate-term relative strength.  Relative strength strategies buy securities that have strong intermediate-term relative strength and hold them as long as they remain strong.

Last week’s performance (10/31/16 – 11/4/16) is as follows:

ranks

This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past or present recommendation.  The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  The performance above is based on pure price returns, not inclusive of dividends, fees, or other expenses.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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Weekly RS Recap

October 31, 2016

The table below shows the performance of a universe of mid and large cap U.S. equities, broken down by relative strength decile and quartile and then compared to the universe return.  Those at the top of the ranks are those stocks which have the best intermediate-term relative strength.  Relative strength strategies buy securities that have strong intermediate-term relative strength and hold them as long as they remain strong.

Last week’s performance (10/24/16 – 10/28/16) is as follows:

ranks

This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past or present recommendation.  The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  The performance above is based on pure price returns, not inclusive of dividends, fees, or other expenses.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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David Letterman on Prospect Theory

October 25, 2016

I stumbled across this gem from the NYT recent interview with David Letterman:

More earnestly, he added: “Maybe life is the hard way, I don’t know. When the show was great, it was never as enjoyable as the misery of the show being bad. Is that human nature?”

Yep, it is definitely human nature.  And it has implications for our investment behavior as well.  From then entry on Prospect Theory in Investopedia:

According to prospect theory, losses have more emotional impact than an equivalent amount of gains. For example, in a traditional way of thinking, the amount of utility gained from receiving $50 should be equal to a situation in which you gained $100 and then lost $50. In both situations, the end result is a net gain of $50.

However, despite the fact that you still end up with a $50 gain in either case, most people view a single gain of $50 more favorably than gaining $100 and then losing $50…

…Prospect theory also explains the occurrence of the disposition effect, which is the tendency for investors to hold on to losing stocks for too long and sell winning stocks too soon. The most logical course of action would be to hold on to winning stocks in order to further gains and to sell losing stocks in order to prevent escalating losses.

When it comes to selling winning stocks prematurely, consider Kahneman and Tversky’s study in which people were willing to settle for a lower guaranteed gain of $500 compared to choosing a riskier option that either yields a gain of $1,000 or $0. This explains why investors realize the gains of winning stocks too soon: in each situation, both the subjects in the study and investors seek to cash in on the amount of gains that have already been guaranteed. This represents typical risk-averse behavior.

David Letterman perfectly articulated a condition that affects most of us: we feel the impact of loss and pain to a greater degree than we feel the impact of an equivalent amount of gain or joy.  Left unchecked this disposition effect creates all kinds of problems in our investing behavior.  We hold on to the losers because if we don’t actually sell a loser then we won’t have have to admit that the trade didn’t work and we think we are avoiding some measure of pain.  And the winners, well we sell them as fast as possible to avoid seeing those gains evaporate (even if it means missing out on the continuation of that trend).

The only problem with giving in to the disposition effect is that it leads to very poor investment results.  See Jim O’Shaughnessey’s What Works on Wall Street.

So what can be done?  As with most things in life that work, the solution is not complicated.  It only requires great discipline.  It is for this very purpose that adherence to models (which enforce discipline and helps combat the disposition effect) is front and center in the Dorsey Wright experience.  It may never become “easy” to take the trades that a well-designed model provides, but I can attest to the fact that it is easier and I believe more profitable than trying to navigate the markets without models.

The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.

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Weekly RS Recap

October 24, 2016

The table below shows the performance of a universe of mid and large cap U.S. equities, broken down by relative strength decile and quartile and then compared to the universe return.  Those at the top of the ranks are those stocks which have the best intermediate-term relative strength.  Relative strength strategies buy securities that have strong intermediate-term relative strength and hold them as long as they remain strong.

Last week’s performance (10/17/16 – 10/21/16) is as follows:

ranks

This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past or present recommendation.  The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  The performance above is based on pure price returns, not inclusive of dividends, fees, or other expenses.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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Relative Strength Spread

October 18, 2016

The chart below is the spread between the relative strength leaders and relative strength laggards (top quartile of stocks in our ranks divided by the bottom quartile of stocks in our ranks; universe of U.S. mid and large cap stocks).  When the chart is rising, relative strength leaders are performing better than relative strength laggards.    As of 10/17/16:

rs-spread

The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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Weekly RS Recap

October 17, 2016

The table below shows the performance of a universe of mid and large cap U.S. equities, broken down by relative strength decile and quartile and then compared to the universe return.  Those at the top of the ranks are those stocks which have the best intermediate-term relative strength.  Relative strength strategies buy securities that have strong intermediate-term relative strength and hold them as long as they remain strong.

Last week’s performance (10/7/16 – 10/14/16) is as follows:

ranks

This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past or present recommendation.  The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  The performance above is based on pure price returns, not inclusive of dividends, fees, or other expenses.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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Q4 2016 PowerShares DWA Momentum ETFs

October 10, 2016

The PowerShares DWA Momentum Indexes are reconstituted on a quarterly basis.  These indexes are designed to evaluate their respective investment universes and build an index of stocks with superior relative strength characteristics.   This quarter’s allocations are shown below.

PDP: PowerShares DWA Momentum ETF

pdp

DWAS: PowerShares DWA Small Cap Momentum ETF

dwas

DWAQ: PowerShares DWA NASDAQ Momentum ETF

dwaq

PIZ: PowerShares DWA Developed Markets Momentum ETF

piz

PIE: PowerShares DWA Emerging Markets Momentum ETF

pie

Source: Dorsey Wright, MSCI, Standard & Poor’s, and NASDAQ, Allocations subject to change

We also apply this momentum-indexing methodology on a sector level:

sector-momentum

See www.powershares.com for more information.  

The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.

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Weekly RS Recap

October 10, 2016

The table below shows the performance of a universe of mid and large cap U.S. equities, broken down by relative strength decile and quartile and then compared to the universe return.  Those at the top of the ranks are those stocks which have the best intermediate-term relative strength.  Relative strength strategies buy securities that have strong intermediate-term relative strength and hold them as long as they remain strong.

Last week’s performance (10/3/16 – 10/7/16) is as follows:

ranks-10-10-16

This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past or present recommendation.  The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  The performance above is based on pure price returns, not inclusive of dividends, fees, or other expenses.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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Adapt or Die

October 4, 2016

The Economist recently pointed out just how much change there has been in the characteristics of the companies that make the list of the top ten market cap companies today versus 2006:

James Manyika, of the McKinsey Global Institute, points out that today’s superstar companies are big in different ways from their predecessors. In the old days companies with large revenues and global footprints almost always had lots of assets and employees. Some superstar companies, such as Walmart and Exxon, still do. But digital companies with huge market valuations and market shares typically have few assets. In 1990 the top three carmakers in Detroit between them had nominal revenues of $250 billion, a market capitalisation of $36 billion and 1.2m employees. In 2014 the top three companies in Silicon Valley had revenues of $247 billion and a market capitalisation of over $1 trillion but just 137,000 employees.

economist

Three of the companies that made the list in 2006 continue to make the list today (Exxon Mobil, General Electric, and Microsoft).  Here’s what I find most interesting about those companies that made the list at the end of 2006—their performance since that time has largely been dismal (with the exception of MSFT).

perf_economist

Microsoft was the only one of the ten to have performance that exceeded that of the S&P 500.  Six of the ten have actually had negative total returns since the end of 2006.  Anyone who thinks it is safe to go with the biggest, most well-known companies for their portfolio would have been unpleasantly surprised by the results.

There is wisdom in the old adage The only constant in life is change.  It’s true!  The markets exemplify this reality every day.  It is for this very reason that the relative strength tools you have at your fingertips with the Dorsey Wright Platform are so essential.  They provide a disciplined way to stay with the relatively strong stocks and seek to avoid the relatively weak stocks.

The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past recommendation.

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September SMA Performance Update

October 1, 2016

Detailed performance of our Systematic Relative Strength Portfolios is shown below.  International, Core, Aggressive, and Balanced added to their margins of outperformance for the year.  We continue to like what we see from a technical perspective with the broad U.S. equity market in a positive trend and above the range of the last couple of years.  We have also seen a strong pick-up in international equity performance—particularly in emerging markets.

sma-perf

To receive the brochure for these portfolios, please e-mail andyh@dorseymm.com or call 626-535-0630.  Click here to see the list of platforms where these separately managed accounts are currently available.

Total account performance shown is total return net of management fees for all Dorsey, Wright & Associates managed accounts, managed for each complete quarter for each objective, regardless of levels of fixed income and cash in each account.  Information is from sources believed to be reliable, but no guarantee is made to its accuracy.  This should not be considered a solicitation to buy or sell any security.  Past performance should not be considered indicative of future results.  The S&P 500 is a stock market index based on the market capitalizations of 500 leading companies publicly traded in the U.S. stock market, as defined by Standard & Poor’s.  The Barclays Aggregate Bond Index is a broad base index, maintained by Barclays Capital, and is used to represent investment grade bonds being traded in the United States.  The 60/40 benchmark is 60% S&P 500 Total Return Index and 40% Barclays Aggregate Bond Index.  The NASDAQ Global ex US Total Return Index is a stock market index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of markets outside of the United States and is maintained by Nasdaq.  The Dow Jones Moderate Portfolio Index is a global asset allocation benchmark.  60% of the benchmark is represented equally with nine Dow Jones equity indexes.  40% of the benchmark is represented with five Barclays Capital fixed income indexes. Each investor should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks and expenses of any Exchange-Traded Fund (“ETF”) prior to investing. Before investing in an ETF investors should obtain and carefully read the relevant prospectus and documents the issuer has filed with the SEC.  ETFs may result in the layering of fees as ETFs impose their own advisory and other fees.  To obtain more complete information about the product the documents are publicly available for free via EDGAR on the SEC website (http://www.sec.gov) There are risks inherent in international investments, which may make such investments unsuitable for certain clients. These include, for example, economic, political, currency exchange, rate fluctuations, and limited availability of information on international securities.

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Systematic Relative Strength Portfolios (SMA/UMA Platforms)

September 28, 2016

Picture1

Our Systematic Relative Strength portfolios are available as separately managed accounts at a large and growing number of firms.

  • Wells Fargo Advisors (Global Macro available on the Masters/DMA Platforms)
  • Morgan Stanley (IMS Platform)
  • TD Ameritrade Institutional
  • UBS Financial Services (Aggressive and Core are available on the MAC Platform)
  • RBC Wealth Management (MAP Platform)
  • Raymond James (Outside Manager Platform)
  • Stifel (Opportunity Platform)
  • Kovack Securities (Growth and Global Macro approved on the UMA Platform)
  • Charles Schwab Institutional (Marketplace Platform)
  • Envestnet UMA
  • Fidelity Institutional
  • Adhesion Wealth

Different Portfolios for Different Objectives: Descriptions of our seven managed accounts strategies are shown below.  All managed accounts use relative strength as the primary investment selection factor.

Aggressive:  This Mid and Large Cap U.S. equity strategy seeks to achieve long-term capital appreciation.  It invests in securities that demonstrate powerful relative strength characteristics and requires that the securities maintain strong relative strength in order to remain in the portfolio.

Core:  This Mid and Large Cap U.S. equity strategy seeks to achieve long-term capital appreciation.  This portfolio invests in securities that demonstrate powerful relative strength characteristics and requires that the securities maintain strong relative strength in order to remain in the portfolio.  This strategy tends to have lower turnover and higher tax efficiency than our Aggressive strategy.

Growth:  This Mid and Large Cap U.S. equity strategy seeks to achieve long-term capital appreciation with some degree of risk mitigation.  This portfolio invests in securities that demonstrate powerful relative strength characteristics and requires that the securities maintain strong relative strength in order to remain in the portfolio.  This portfolio also has an equity exposure overlay that, when activated, allows the account to hold up to 50% cash if necessary.

International: This All-Cap International equity strategy seeks to achieve long-term capital appreciation through a portfolio of international companies in both developed and emerging markets.  This portfolio invests in those securities with powerful relative strength characteristics and requires that the securities maintain strong relative strength in order to remain in the portfolio.  Exposure to international markets is achieved through American Depository Receipts (ADRs).

Global Macro: This global tactical asset allocation strategy seeks to achieve meaningful risk diversification and investment returns.  The strategy invests across multiple asset classes: Domestic Equities (long & inverse), International Equities (long & inverse), Fixed Income, Real Estate, Currencies, and Commodities.  Exposure to each of these areas is achieved through exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Balanced: This strategy includes equities from our Core strategy (see above) and high-quality U.S. fixed income in approximately a 60% equity / 40% fixed income mix.  This strategy seeks to provide long-term capital appreciation and income with moderate volatility.

Tactical Fixed Income: This strategy seeks to provide current income and strong risk-adjusted fixed income returns.   The strategy invests across multiple sectors of the fixed income market:  U.S. government bonds, investment grade corporate bonds, high yield bonds, Treasury inflation protected securities (TIPS), convertible bonds, and international bonds.  Exposure to each of these areas is achieved through exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Picture2

To receive fact sheets for any of the strategies above, please e-mail Andy Hyer at andyh@dorseymm.com or call 626-535-0630.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.  An investor should carefully review our brochure and consult with their financial advisor before making any investments.

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Dialing Down the Noise

September 27, 2016

The Harvard Business Review’s October 2016 Issue includes a deep look at decision making by authors Kahneman, Rosenfield, Ghandhi, and Blaser.  Their conclusion: “noise”, left unchecked, renders decision making highly inconsistent.

At a global financial services firm we worked with, a longtime customer accidentally submitted the same application file to two offices. Though the employees who reviewed the file were supposed to follow the same guidelines—and thus arrive at similar outcomes—the separate offices returned very different quotes. Taken aback, the customer gave the business to a competitor. From the point of view of the firm, employees in the same role should have been interchangeable, but in this case they were not. Unfortunately, this is a common problem.

Professionals in many organizations are assigned arbitrarily to cases: appraisers in credit-rating agencies, physicians in emergency rooms, underwriters of loans and insurance, and others. Organizations expect consistency from these professionals: Identical cases should be treated similarly, if not identically. The problem is that humans are unreliable decision makers; their judgments are strongly influenced by irrelevant factors, such as their current mood, the time since their last meal, and the weather. We call the chance variability of judgments noise. It is an invisible tax on the bottom line of many companies.

Some jobs are noise-free. Clerks at a bank or a post office perform complex tasks, but they must follow strict rules that limit subjective judgment and guarantee, by design, that identical cases will be treated identically. In contrast, medical professionals, loan officers, project managers, judges, and executives all make judgment calls, which are guided by informal experience and general principles rather than by rigid rules. And if they don’t reach precisely the same answer that every other person in their role would, that’s acceptable; this is what we mean when we say that a decision is “a matter of judgment.” A firm whose employees exercise judgment does not expect decisions to be entirely free of noise. But often noise is far above the level that executives would consider tolerable—and they are completely unaware of it.

The prevalence of noise has been demonstrated in several studies. Academic researchers have repeatedly confirmed that professionals often contradict their own prior judgments when given the same data on different occasions. For instance, when software developers were asked on two separate days to estimate the completion time for a given task, the hours they projected differed by 71%, on average. When pathologists made two assessments of the severity of biopsy results, the correlation between their ratings was only .61 (out of a perfect 1.0), indicating that they made inconsistent diagnoses quite frequently. Judgments made by different people are even more likely to diverge. Research has confirmed that in many tasks, experts’ decisions are highly variable: valuing stocks, appraising real estate, sentencing criminals, evaluating job performance, auditing financial statements, and more. The unavoidable conclusion is that professionals often make decisions that deviate significantly from those of their peers, from their own prior decisions, and from rules that they themselves claim to follow.

My emphasis added.  Among the author’s proposed solutions to the “noise” problem was the was following:

The most radical solution to the noise problem is to replace human judgment with formal rules—known as algorithms—that use the data about a case to produce a prediction or a decision. People have competed against algorithms in several hundred contests of accuracy over the past 60 years, in tasks ranging from predicting the life expectancy of cancer patients to predicting the success of graduate students. Algorithms were more accurate than human professionals in about half the studies, and approximately tied with the humans in the others. The ties should also count as victories for the algorithms, which are more cost-effective.

This will sound very similar to advice that Dorsey Wright has been giving for many years: Embrace models!  Try as we might to be consistent, without the framework of a systematic investment model, our own subjective decision making will be all over the place.  Then, how can we tell if our investment success or failure is the result of skill or just good or bad luck?  Of course, you can’t simply blindly adhere to just any systematic investment model.  The decision rules upon which the model has been built must stack the odds in your favor.  Extensive testing, as is detailed here, has give us the necessary input to build systematic relative strength strategies that “dial down the noise” and allow us to focus on execution of a well-designed investment process.

Focus on the process and the results will take care of themselves.

The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.

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Weekly RS Recap

September 26, 2016

The table below shows the performance of a universe of mid and large cap U.S. equities, broken down by relative strength decile and then compared to the universe return.  Those at the top of the ranks are those stocks which have the best intermediate-term relative strength.  Relative strength strategies buy securities that have strong intermediate-term relative strength and hold them as long as they remain strong.

Last week’s performance (9/19/16 – 9/23/16) is as follows:

ranks

This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past or present recommendation.  The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee.  There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.  The performance above is based on pure price returns, not inclusive of dividends, fees, or other expenses.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

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