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Introducing the S&P QVM Top 90% Multi-factor Indices

Examining a Custom Approach to Factors

Commodities Rise with Inflation in July

Has the Illiquidity Trade Run its Course?

Strength of Savings

Introducing the S&P QVM Top 90% Multi-factor Indices

Contributor Image
Rupert Watts

Senior Director, Strategy Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

Earlier this year, S&P DJI launched three S&P Quality, Value, and Momentum Top 90% Multi-factor Indices (the “S&P QVM Top 90%” Indices) across our large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap universes. Each of these indices is tracked by an ETF.

Compared to S&P DJI’s other flagship multi-factor indices, this new series represents a differentiated approach to multi-factor index construction because it selects a high percentage of the universe and weights proportionally to float market cap. Based on internal back-tested research, this approach historically demonstrated moderate outperformance while retaining many of the core benchmark characteristics.

Methodology Overview

The S&P QVM Top 90% Indices are designed to track companies in the top 90% of their respective underlying index universe, ranked by their multi-factor score, which is based on the average of three separate factors: quality, value, and momentum.

Back-tested data shows that removing the lowest-ranked decile led to performance improvement. Exhibit 1 shows the cap-weighted return of each decile in the S&P 500®. Here, stocks have been ranked by their multi-factor score, placed into deciles (D1 = the lowest ranked, D10 = the highest ranked), and rebalanced quarterly.

For the S&P 500, the lowest-ranked decile exhibited the lowest performance over the period tested. Similarly, for the mid- and small-cap universes, the bottom decile has been the lowest, or close to lowest, performing decile.

Moreover, removing only the lowest decile also resulted in improved returns over the benchmark at relatively low tracking error. Exhibit 2 plots the ratio between excess returns over the S&P 500 and its resulting tracking error for a series of indices, each differentiated by the number of deciles removed. For example, T90% removes only the lowest-ranked decile (ranked by multi-factor score), T80% removes the two lowest-ranked deciles (i.e., the 20% lowest-ranked stocks), and so on.

Generally, as further deciles were removed from the back-tested strategy, the increase in tracking error did not result in proportional gains in excess returns. This is represented in Exhibit 2 by the slope of the line.

Headline Performance Statistics

The index construction methodology is such that the potential for substantial outperformance over the benchmark is limited, but so is the risk of significantly underperforming. Exhibit 3 shows the back-tested risk/return statistics for each of the S&P QVM Top 90% Indices. Since the start of the back-test period, the large-, mid-, and small-cap S&P QVM Top 90% Indices outperformed their benchmarks by 74, 107, and 107 bps per year, respectively, each with low tracking error.

Benchmark Characteristics

Removing only the lowest-ranked decile and weighting stocks proportionally to float market capitalization results in the S&P QVM Top 90% Indices having retained many of the qualities of the underlying benchmark. The back-tested analysis in Exhibit 4 shows that the active share, tracking error, and turnover historically remained low across the cap range.

Conclusion

The design of multi-factor strategies affects the expected performance characteristics and impacts positioning within a portfolio. For the S&P QVM Top 90% Indices, the construction methodology demonstrates moderate outperformance while retaining “benchmark-like” characteristics.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Examining a Custom Approach to Factors

How does viewing companies through the prism of price-to-sales influence risk/return? Explore a systematic approach to indexing factors with a focus on valuations with Justin Lowry, President and Chief Investment Officer at Global Beta Advisors and S&P DJI’s Michael Mell.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Commodities Rise with Inflation in July

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Jim Wiederhold

Associate Director, Commodities and Real Assets

S&P Dow Jones Indices

The S&P GSCI rose for a fourth consecutive month, by 1.6% in July, as the main positive catalysts of 2021 remained in play. Many individual commodities constrained by supply chain bottlenecks and disruptions continued to be in deficit around the world. Half of the U.S. experienced drought conditions last month, compared to 25% this time last year. Reopening and reflationary demand continued to pick up. Inflation readings were again released higher than expected. Everyone has a story about something being more expensive than it was a year ago. The Fed maintained its dovish supportive posture that inflation is transitory. A concern on market participants’ minds was how disruptive the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 might get and if it could cool off the outstanding YTD performance of commodities. Exhibit 1 shows the performance of the S&P GSCI by sector, with Energy and Industrial Metals outperforming YTD and July performance muted overall.

Within Energy, the S&P GSCI Unleaded Gasoline rose 4.54%, beating out heating oil as the top performer in the petroleum complex. Summer driving demand in the northern hemisphere continued to be one of the key drivers for gasoline. The S&P GSCI Natural Gas broke higher by over 7.71% in July. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that Natural Gas makes up 40% of annual U.S. electrical generation. It is a key commodity to watch in the global energy transition, as it is viewed as a less carbon intensive commodity than other, higher emitting ones. Another interesting note from the report showed renewables now make up 21%, beating out nuclear and coal-based generation for the first time ever. The green transition continues to be one of the key thematic stories inspiring commodity price action.

The S&P GSCI Nickel led the way for the metals, rising 7.34% on the month. Mostly used to create stainless steel, Nickel is also used extensively in electric vehicles. Most electric vehicle metals edged higher in July, as new competitors to Tesla drove enthusiasm in the space. Preorders for new electric vehicles exploded, with many people willing to wait to own a new electric vehicle as opposed to paying current inflated used car prices. This helped to push the S&P GSCI Copper up 3.59% for the month. Four times as much copper is needed in the average electric vehicle as is needed in the average internal combustion engine vehicle. Copper was also influenced from the supply side with the potential for a strike coming as labor talks broke down at BHP’s Escondida copper mine in Chile, the world’s largest copper mine.

Across Agriculture & Livestock, the Softs stood out. The S&P GSCI Coffee sprinted past the rest, rising 12.04% due to extreme frost conditions, erasing 10% of Brazil’s crop production for the year. Brazil is the number one coffee producer in the world, with a 40% share of global output, double that of the next highest producer. The S&P GSCI Corn fell the most, down 8.72% as the highly liquid CME July contract expired, with traders taking profit or moving exposure to the December contract. The S&P GSCI Lean Hogs rose another 1.20% in July, bringing the YTD performance to an impressive 29.24%. No matter if the pandemic gets worse or tapers off, everyone still wants to bring home the bacon.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Has the Illiquidity Trade Run its Course?

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Lynn Bachstetter explores whether illiquidity still has a place in insurance investments with S&P Global Ratings’ Carmi Margalit, F&G’s Leena Punjabi, and BlackRock’s Peter Gailliot.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Strength of Savings

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Anu Ganti

Senior Director, Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

In the 20 years ending in 2020, 94% of all large-cap U.S. managers lagged the S&P 500®. Mid- and small-cap results were almost equally disappointing. A notable consequence of these shortfalls in active performance has been the rise in passive investing, one of the most significant trends in modern financial history.

Our recent Annual Survey of Indexed Assets shows a surge in assets tracking the S&P 500 to $5.4 trillion as of December 2020. Exhibit 1 illustrates that this growth outpaced the growth due to market gains, indicating a substantial increase in flows.

To provide perspective on the size of the passive market, we can analyze indexed assets historically as a percentage of float-adjusted market capitalization. Exhibit 2 shows that this percentage has grown dramatically, from 10% in 1996 to 17% in 2020. While indexing has grown substantially, the potential for future growth is promising. 

Among the many benefits of indexing is its low cost relative to active management. As indexing has grown, investors have benefited substantially by saving on fees and avoiding underperformance. We can estimate the fee savings each year by taking the difference in expense ratios between active and index equity mutual funds, and multiplying this difference by the total value of indexed assets for the S&P 500, S&P 400TM, and S&P 600TM. When we aggregate the results, we observe that the cumulative savings in management fees over the past 25 years is $357 billion (see Exhibit 3).

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.