ETFReplay Portfolio for April

Among the more popular portfolios on Scott’s Investments has been the ETFReplay.com Portfolio. The strategy has been revised and improved for 2013 in order to make it simpler to follow.

I previously detailed here and here how an investor can use ETFReplay.com to screen for best performing ETFs based on momentum and volatility.   I select only the top 4 ETFs out of a static basket of  ETFs and re-balance the portfolio monthly. Previously, the static basket of ETFs was 25. This number of ETFs creates a high degree of turnover and also creates cross-over among ETFs that have a high correlations. For example, if you are only purchasing 4 ETFs each month and 2 or 3 of the ETFs are highly correlated, there is little benefit in holding more than 1 of the ETFs.

For 2013 the static basket of ETFs was reduced to 15. From this basket of 15, the top 4 will be selected each month. The portfolio will be re-balanced at the beginning of each month. When a holding drops out of the top 5 ETFs it will be sold and replaced with the next highest ranked ETF. I added the top 5 requirement in order to further limit turnover. ETFs will be ranked on a combination of their 6 month returns, 3 month returns, and 3 month volatility (lower volatility receives a higher ranking).

In addition, ETFs must be ranked above the cash ETF SHY in order to be included in the portfolio, similar to the absolute momentum strategy I profiled here. This modification could help reduce drawdowns during periods of high volatility and/or negative market conditions (see 2008-2009).

The top 5 ranked ETFs as of 3/28/13 are below:

VTI – Vanguard MSCI Total U.S. Stock Market
HYG – iShares iBoxx High-Yield Corp Bond
RWX – SPDR DJ International Real Estate
VNQ – Vanguard MSCI U.S. REIT
LQD – iShares iBoxx Invest Grade Bond

For April the position iniShares MSCI EAFE (EFA) was closed for no gain/loss (excluding dividends). It was replaced by HYG, which is now ranked second on the list.

The four current positions are below:

Position Purchase Price Purchase Date Percentage Gain/Loss Excluding Dividends
RWX 40.74 10/31/2012 5.57%
HYG 94.35 3/28/2013 0.00%
VTI 78.24 2/28/2013 3.39%
VNQ 69.09 2/28/2013 2.08%

The portfolio is currently lagging the S&P 500 (via the SPY ETF) on a nominal basis since inception. However, you can see the potential benefit during periods of equity pullbacks (of which we have had very few the past couple of years!) when the portfolio outperformed in 2011:

 

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Ivy & Commission Free Portfolios – April Update

Early in 2012  Scott’s Investments added a daily Ivy Portfolio spreadsheet. This tool uses Google Documents and Yahoo Finance to track the 10 month moving average signals for two of the portfolios listed in Mebane Faber’s book The Ivy Portfolio: How to Invest Like the Top Endowments and Avoid Bear Markets. Faber discusses 5, 10, and 20 security portfolios that have trading signals based on long-term moving averages.

The Ivy Portfolio spreadsheet tracks the 5 and 10 ETF Portfolios listed in Faber’s book. When a security is trading below its 10 month simple moving average, the position is listed as “Cash”. When the security is trading above its 10 month simple moving average the positions is listed as “Invested”.

The spreadsheet’s signals update once daily (typically in the late evening) using dividend/split adjusted closing price from Yahoo Finance. The 10 month simple moving average is based on the most recent 10 months including the current month’s most recent daily closing price.  Even though the signals update daily, it is not an endorsement to check signals daily. It simply gives the spreadsheet more versatility for users to check at his or her leisure.

The page also displays the percentage each ETF within the Ivy 10 and Ivy 5 Portfolio is above or below the current 10 month simple moving average, using both adjusted and unadjusted data.

If an ETF has paid a dividend or split within the past 10 months, then when comparing the adjusted/unadjusted data you will see differences in the percent an ETF is above/below the 10 month SMA. This could also potentially impact whether an ETF is above or below its 10 month SMA. Regardless of whether you prefer the adjusted or unadjusted data, it is important to remain consistent in your approach.

Top 50 Trending Stocks

The current signals based on March 28th closing prices are below.  Real estate and equities continue to lead while bonds and commodities are lagging, with BND and DBC trading below their 10 month moving average.

The first table is based on adjusted historical data and the second table is based on unadjusted price data:

As an added bonus I created a “Commission-Free” Ivy Portfolio spreadsheet. This document tracks the 10 month moving averages for four (up from three last month!) different portfolios designed for TD Ameritrade, Fidelity Charles Schwab, and Vanguard commission-free ETF offers.

Not all ETFs in each portfolio are commission free, as each broker limits the selection of commission-free ETFs and viable ETFs may not exist in each asset class. Other restrictions and limitations may apply depending on each broker.

Below are the 10 month moving average signals for the commission-free portfolios:

If you enjoy these tools, please consider making a donation on the home page of Scott’s Investments using the Paypal link in the upper-right corner!

Permanent Portfolio Spreadsheet

I created a Permanent Portfolio Spreadsheet which tracks various investment metrics for four ETFs, the Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI), iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT), SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), and iShares Barclays 1-3 Year Treasry Bond Fund (SHY).  They were selected to reflect a Harry Browne-esque Permanent Portfolio. The spreadsheet is accessible at the top of the home page.

There are numerous indicators on the sheet, including long-term moving averages  (both 10 month and 200 day), momentum, and absolute momentum (i.e. TLT, VTI, and GLD returns versus SHY). I will probably add to it as time progresses, I don’t yet have a final vision for it but if you have any input let me know.

I realize having anything other than an equal weight flies in the face of Browne’s original Permanent Portfolio strategy of an equal weight allocation. However, I have written several articles on the Permanent Portfolio with some simple twists that have, in some cases, improved historical performance.  Some of those articles are listed below.  And if you need another reason: It is fun creating spreadsheets….

Creating a Permanent ETF Portfolio
Building a Permanent ETF Portfolio, Part 2
Tactical Applications of the Permanent Portfolio
Testing a Harry Browne Permanent ETF Portfolio

Catching Up!

I am back from a week long vacation.  I will be catching up this next week and plan to have some new content from Portfolio123, which Mebane Faber recently pointed out gave users access to 50k in backtesting tools and now incorporates dividends.

I will also be adding some Permanent Portfolio(s) to the blog, re-visiting Risk-Parity and its outlook for the future, and adding some new momentum tools.

Below are some articles I am catching up on this week:

Schwab Plans ‘Fundamental’ ETF Lineup – IndexUniverse (This is interesting news, I am a big fan of fundamental indexing – see my review of The Fundamental Index here)

Along the same lines, Mebane Faber discusses Better Indexing

You Are Not a Good Investor – Mebane Faber

Is the Government Lying to Us About Inflation? Yes! (pdf) & Would the Real Peter and Paul Please Stand Up? (pdf) – John Mauldin

Which Risk-Parity-Based Pension will blow up first? Turnkey Analyst & What Happens When Risk-Parity Divorces the Long Bond? Empiritrage

When Risk Parity Goes Wrong – UBS Investment Research

 Putting GMO’s Ideas to Work – Geoff Considine

 

Commission Free Ivy Portfolio (Schwab Version)

I received requests for a Charles Schwab commission free Ivy Portfolio. It has been created and can be viewed along with the TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, and Vanguard versions here.

The portfolio along with current signals is below:

Schwab Position (determined by current 10 month SMA)
SGOL ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares Cash
USCI United States Commodity Index Fund Cash
RWO SPDR Dow Jones Global Real Estate Invested
SCHH Schwab US REIT ETF Invested
SCHP Schwab U.S. TIPS ETF Cash
SCHZ Schwab U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF Cash
SCHE Schwab Emerging Markets Equity ETF Invested
SCHF Schwab International Equity ETF Invested
SCHA Schwab U.S. Small-Cap ETF Invested
SCHB Schwab U.S. Broad Market ETF Invested

If you enjoy these free tools, please consider making a donation on the home page of Scott’s Investments using the Paypal link in the upper-right corner!

Market Readings

Below are a few articles I am reading this week:

The Stock Market Trend and Hot Sector ETFs – Chris Vermeulen

Interesting Herbalife article from Vanity Fair: The Big Short War

Turnkey Analyst Learning Series: Maximum Drawdowns

NYSE Net Margin Debt,  courtesy The Idea Farm

An Infinite Amount of Money (pdf) & Argentina on Sale – John Mauldin

Wrong Question – The Reformed Broker

Two Myths and a Legend – John Hussman

 

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Dual ETF Momentum Update

In February I announced a new “Dual ETF Momentum” spreadsheet. The idea was inspired by a paper written by Gary Antonacci and available on Optimal Momentum.

The spreadsheet is available on Scott’s Investment’s here. The objective of the spreadsheet is to track four pairs of ETFs and provide an “Invested” signal for the ETF in each pair with the highest relative momentum. Relative momentum is gauged by the 12 month total returns of each ETF. The 12 month total returns of each ETF is also compared to a short-term Treasury bill ETF (a “cash” filter). In order to have an “Invested” signal the ETF with the highest relative strength must also have 12-month total returns greater than the 12-month total returns of the cash ETF. This is the absolute momentum filter which is detailed in depth by Antonacci, and has historically helped increase risk-adjusted returns.

I have added an “average” return signal for each ETF on the spreadsheet. The concept is the same as the 12-month relative momentum. However, the “average” return signal uses the average of the past 3, 6, and 12 (“3/6/12”) month total returns for each ETF. The “invested” signal is based on the ETF with the highest relative momentum for the past 3, 6 and 12 months. The ETF with the highest average relative strength must also have an average 3/6/12 total returns greater than the 3/6/12 total returns of the cash ETF.

Below are the five portfolios along with current signals. As you can see, the signals are the same with the exception of the Economic Stress portfolio. TLT has slightly higher 12-month returns than SHY. However, TLT and GLD both have lower 3/6/12 returns than SHY:

Equity Representative ETF 1 Year % Total Returns Average of Quarterly/Half/Full Year % Returns Signal based on 1 year returns Signal based on average returns
US Equities VTI 17.93 14.07 Invested Invested
International Equities VEU 11.89 11.57
Cash SHY 0.36 0.14
Credit Risk Representative ETF 1 Year % Total Returns Average of Quarterly/Half/Full Year % Returns Signal based on 1 year returns Signal based on average returns
High Yield Bond HYG 11.22 6.27 Invested Invested
Interm Credit Bond CIU 4.49 1.78
Cash SHY 0.36 0.14
Real-Estate Risk Representative ETF 1 Year % Total Returns Average of Quarterly/Half/Full Year % Returns Signal based on 1 year returns Signal based on average returns
Equity REIT VNQ 18.25 11.29
Mortgage REIT REM 25.16 15.46 Invested Invested
Cash SHY 0.36 0.14
Economic Stress Representative ETF 1 Year % Total Returns Average of Quarterly/Half/Full Year % Returns Signal based on 1 year returns Signal based on average returns
Gold GLD -6.5 -6.8
Long-term Treasuries TLT 0.64 -5.23 Invested
Cash SHY 0.36 0.14 Invested
Return data courtesy of Finviz

As an added bonus, the spreadsheet also has four additional sheets using a dual momentum strategy with broker specific commission-free ETFs. It is important to note that each broker may have additional trade restrictions and the terms of their commission-free ETFs could change in the future. Also, the dual momentum strategy has historically had relatively low turnover.

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All-Season ETF Portfolio: Minimum Correlation Allocation

In January I launched an “All-Season ETF Portfolio”. The portfolio began with a static allocation based on a simplistic and unleveraged interpretation of Ray Dalio and Bridgwater Associates “All-Weather” investment strategy. The proposed static allocation is below:

Name Symbol Static Allocation
Vanguard Total Stock Market VTI 18.75%
 PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund DBC 7.25%
SPDR Gold Trust GLD 7.25%
 iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond Fund HYG 6.50%
iShares Emerging Markets USD Bond ETF EMB 14.50%
iShares Barclays TIPS Bond Fund TIP 20.75%
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF TLT 12.50%
iShares Barclays Aggregate Bond Fund AGG 12.50%

The proposed allocation is not intended as a one-size-fits-all allocation model, but it does serve as a framework for further study and is based on having allocation to the four different market environments espoused by Bridgewater (full paper here):

I backtested the static allocation using ETFReplay.com – it outperformed the Vanguard 60-40 (VBINX) mutual fund since 2008 on both a total and risk-adjusted basis. The All-Season portfolio has a sharpe ratio of .67 and max drawdown of -21.5% versus a sharpe of.25 and max drawdown of -34.4% for VBINX. Positions were rebalanced annually:

Last week I introduced a basic risk-parity allocation tool for the All-Season ETF portfolio. The risk parity allocation uses the trailing 20-day volatility of the adjusted closing prices of each ETF to calculate a risk-based allocation. The risk parity allocation as of Friday’s close is below:

Name Symbol Risk Parity Weighting (unleveraged)
Vanguard Total Stock Market VTI 5.17%
 PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund DBC 7.22%
SPDR Gold Trust GLD 4.32%
 iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond Fund HYG 22.44%
iShares Emerging Markets USD Bond ETF EMB 12.57%
iShares Barclays TIPS Bond Fund TIP 15.62%
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF TLT 5.41%
iShares Barclays Aggregate Bond Fund AGG 27.25%

The All-Season ETF portfolio risk-parity allocation has performed relatively well since 2008, also outperforming VBINX by a wide margin. Risk-parity posted a sharpe ratio of .82 and max drawdown of -16.8%. Positions were rebalanced quarterly:

When researching the All-Weather portfolio I came across David Varadi’s work at CSS Analytics. Varadi, along with Michael Kapler, Corey Rittenhouse, and Henry Bee,  published a paper in September 2012, “The Minimum Correlation Algorithm: A Practical Diversification Tool”.  In the paper they introduce two heuristic algorithms for effective portfolio diversification and passive investment management, which they conclude “is an excellent alternative to Risk Parity, Minimum Variance and Maximum Diversification.”

Their algorithm, in my own words, is an alternative asset allocation model which makes intuitive sense. It uses both the historical volatility and correlation of securities in a portfolio to determine asset allocation. Securities with low correlations and volatility relative to the other securities in the portfolio receive higher weightings. The result is a portfolio allocation which changes over time to reflect the evolving volatility and correlations of the securities in the portfolio.

I was happily surprised to discover David freely provides a downloadable “Mincorr spreadsheet” on his site. The spreadsheet uses the algorithms presented in the paper and allows users to calculate their own minimum correlation allocations.

50 Top Stocks

After downloading the spreadsheet from CSS Analytics, I tweaked it to incorporate eight securities (this took a little more time than anticipated). I then created a template to download daily price data to calculate trailing correlations and volatility for the eight securities in the All-Season portfolio (this took a lot more time than anticipated). Finally, I used the Mincorr spreadsheet framework to calculate a daily “minimum correlation” allocation for the eight securities in the All-Season ETF portfolio and I provide the results on the All-Season ETF spreadsheet.

Backtesting this strategy is more difficult than a simple risk-parity or static asset allocation model. The most comprehensive tests are available in the The Minimum Correlation Algorithm paper, which has tests dating to 1980 for a variety of portfolios. The authors of the paper were kind enough to help me run some tests for the All-Season ETF portfolio. The tests are available in the pdf here: minn corr backtests, with tests being run from December 2007 – February 2013. The “min.corr.excel” results used a formula close to the calculation on my All-Season spreadsheet.

The current Minimum Correlation allocations are below:

Name Symbol Minimum Correlation Weightings
Vanguard Total Stock Market VTI 6.71%
 PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund DBC 8.86%
SPDR Gold Trust GLD 3.37%
 iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond Fund HYG 29.37%
iShares Emerging Markets USD Bond ETF EMB 9.76%
iShares Barclays TIPS Bond Fund TIP 14.01%
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF TLT 4.71%
iShares Barclays Aggregate Bond Fund AGG 23.21%

Note: my minimum correlation formula differs slightly from the method in the The Minimum Correlation Algorithm in that I use a 20-day historical volatility & correlation versus the 60-day range used in the paper. Using a shorter time period allows the spreadsheet to load quicker, but I may change the 20-day look-back period in the future.

Any errors or omissions in my Min Corr calculation are my own. I have done my best to review and scrub the data, but I make no warranties. As my programming knowledge evolves I hope to post additional minimum correlation backtests.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. To learn more about the Minimum Correlation algorithm please take a few minutes to visit CSS Analytics.

If you enjoy these free tools, please consider making a donation on the home page of Scott’s Investments using the Paypal link in the upper-right corner!

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