Journal Article

Investing in Interesting Times

Given 2022’s cheapening of asset valuations, some have questioned if we are still in a world of low expected returns. We review what’s changed after 2022, showing that the lower expected return picture has not been substantially altered for many asset classes. We provide some suggestions to potentially ameliorate the pain caused by this environment.

Asset Allocation

Investing in Interesting Times

Given 2022’s cheapening of asset valuations, some have questioned if we are still in a world of low expected returns. We review what’s changed after 2022, showing that the lower expected return picture has not been substantially altered for many asset classes. We provide some suggestions to potentially ameliorate the pain caused by this environment.

Value

Value: Why Now? Capturing the Comeback in Its Early Innings

Value has delivered attractive long-term returns but has also weathered difficult short-term periods. While these times are painful for investors, the subsequent recoveries are lucrative for those that stick with the factor. We summarize the evidence for why we believe long/short value continues to be an exceptional go-forward opportunity and how investors can adapt their portfolios accordingly.

Asset Allocation

2023 Capital Market Assumptions for Major Asset Classes

We update our estimates of medium-term (5- to 10-year) expected returns for major asset classes. We also include two special topics: one highlighting the case for emerging market equities, and the other assessing the impact of large interest rate rises on various risk premia.

Portfolio Risk and Performance

Should Your Portfolio Protection Work Fast or Slow?

2022’s drawdown provides a clear picture for the types of strategies that can actually deliver in a “slow burn” market downturn. While some options-based strategies have generated positive returns, in many cases they have disappointed. In contrast, trend following strategies have generally posted very strong returns. Looking ahead, many of the macro conditions that have been advantageous to trend following are still in place—and have historically tended to persist.

Factor/Style Investing

Fact, Fiction, and Factor Investing

Factor investing has been around for several decades, backed by an enormous body of literature, and yet it is still surrounded by much confusion and debate. We examine many of the claims about factor investing, referencing the academic literature and performing simple, yet powerful, analysis to address them.

Trend Following

Trend-Following: Why Now? A Macro Perspective

Trend following is having a banner 2022 amidst a year of turmoil for traditional portfolios, but investors exploring an allocation to trend-following may be wondering if they are “late to the trade,” while also anchoring their expectations to the lean 2010s. We show that both the macroeconomic picture and empirical evidence suggest that strong performance for trend-following may persist, making it a potentially valuable source of diversifying returns during a challenging time for the rest of investors’ portfolios.

ESG Investing

Is Capital Structure Irrelevant with ESG Investors?

We examine whether capital structure is irrelevant for enterprise value and investment when investors care about ESG issues, which we denote “ESG-Modigliani-Miller” (ESG-MM). Theoretically, we show that ESG-MM holds if ESG is additive and markets are perfect. Empirically, we provide evidence of failure of ESG-MM, implying that firms and governments can exploit non-additive ESG or segmented markets.

Machine Learning

Machine Learning and the Implementable Efficient Frontier

We propose that investment strategies should be evaluated based on their net-of-trading-cost return for each level of risk, which we term the "implementable efficient frontier." While numerous studies use machine learning return forecasts to generate portfolios, their agnosticism toward trading costs leads to excessive reliance on fleeting small-scale characteristics, resulting in poor net returns. We develop a framework that produces a superior frontier by integrating trading-cost-aware portfolio optimization with machine learning

Portfolio Construction

New Rules of Diversification

During the first half of 2022, equity markets tumbled around 20% from their peak, with losses on typical stock/ bond portfolios almost as large. More worryingly, this type of downturn may be unfamiliar to many younger investors: with inflation still high, there is little prospect of central banks riding to the market’s rescue. We assess the prospects for stock and bond markets after the H1 selloff, consider the impact of macroeconomic risks on a range of investments, and explore the use of diversifying investments to fortify portfolios.

ESG Investing

ESG Ratings: A Compass without Direction

We examine the recent concerns about the reliability of the assessments of ESG ratings providers. We review the demand for ESG information, the stated objectives of ESG ratings providers, how ratings are determined, the evidence of what they achieve, and structural aspects of the industry that potentially influence ratings. We find that while ESG ratings providers may convey important insights into the nonfinancial impact of companies, significant shortcomings exist in their objectives, methodologies, and incentives which detract from the informativeness of their assessments.