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A Stellar 2021 for Indian Equities

No Safe Harbor for Stockpickers

Smart Factories to the Supply Rescue

S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Indices: Performance Characteristics

Commodities Crushed It in 2021

A Stellar 2021 for Indian Equities

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Benedek Vörös

Director, Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

Indian equities had a stellar 2021—the S&P BSE SENSEX rose over 23%, outpacing most major emerging markets, though slightly lagging the S&P 500®, which gained 29%. Information Technology and Financials were the top contributors, adding 9% and 6%, respectively, to the performance of the Indian bellwether. Smaller Indian companies did even better than blue chips; the S&P BSE SmallCap returned over twice as much as the S&P BSE SENSEX, with a thumping 64% total return, while mid caps also provided a bright spot, rising 41% in 2021.

After exhibiting outsized moves in 2020, equities settled back into a more benign volatility regime; the annualized volatility of daily S&P BSE SENSEX returns dropped by more than half, to below 16% in 2021, and the S&P BSE MidCap and S&P BSE SmallCap volatility also subsided, dropping to 18% and 17%, respectively, from over 28% in 2020.

All S&P BSE sectors and industries were up for the year, with Power leading the way, soaring by 74%.

Despite the well-publicized setback for the Paytm IPO, the S&P BSE IPO surged 56% in 2021, the second-best-performing Indian equity strategy we regularly report on, lagging just 1% behind 2021’s winner, the S&P BSE Enhanced Value Index.

Majority state-owned firms have also had an outstanding year following a dismal 2019 and 2020, as the S&P BSE PSU and the S&P BSE CPSE climbed 48% and 43%, respectively.

Unlike equities, fixed income performance was much more muted. The S&P BSE India 10 Year Sovereign Bond Index edged up 2%, while the S&P India Sovereign Inflation-Linked Bond Index was essentially flat, as demand for inflation protection waned in parallel with a deceleration of inflation pressures in the Indian economy.

Consistent with global trends, indices incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors are increasingly gaining in popularity with Indian investors. Their interest might have been raised further by the recent strong run of the S&P BSE 100 ESG Index, which outperformed its parent index for the third year running, returning 29% in 2021 against 27% for the S&P BSE 100.

One group that is having difficulty outperforming the S&P BSE 100 is that of active managers. According to our S&P Index Versus Active (SPIVA) India Mid-Year 2021 Scorecard, over 86% of active Indian equity large-cap managers were beaten by the S&P BSE 100 over the previous 12-month period, and the numbers don’t look much different on a three-  or five-year horizon either, with underperformance rates of 87% and 83%, respectively. Offering an indication of the breadth of opportunity available to “stock pickers,” annualized dispersion (a measure of the spread of stock returns) in the S&P BSE SENSEX declined to a monthly average of 20% this year, having averaged 21% over the 2010-2019 period. Among other consequences, declining dispersion lowers the magnitude of rewards for active managers seeking to beat their benchmarks by over- or underweighting individual names.

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

No Safe Harbor for Stockpickers

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Anu Ganti

Senior Director, Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

We can use volatility and its components dispersion and correlation to analyze stock selection conditions globally. Most active managers run less diversified, more volatile portfolios than their index counterparts. Active managers should prefer above-average dispersion because stock selection skill is worth more when dispersion is high. The role of correlation is more subtle. While counterintuitive, the benefit of diversification is less when correlations are high. Therefore, they should prefer above-average correlations because it will reduce the opportunity cost of a concentrated portfolio. We observe in the U.S. that while 12-month average dispersion declined slightly, we saw a dramatic decline in correlations in 2021 compared to 2020.

Two years ago, we conceptualized the cost of concentration, defined as the ratio of the average volatility of the component assets to the volatility of a portfolio. A higher cost of concentration implies a larger foregone diversification benefit, translating into a higher hurdle for active managers to overcome.

How much higher do returns have to be to justify the additional volatility active managers take on? By multiplying the cost of concentration by a rate of return consistent with the market’s historical performance (e.g., 10% for the S&P 500), we arrive at the required incremental return shown in Exhibit 2 for the S&P 500. Driven by the lower correlations seen in Exhibit 1, this measure almost doubled last year, indicating that active managers gave up a larger diversification benefit in 2021 than in 2020.

Finally, to understand how difficult it is to earn this incremental return, we divide the required incremental return by dispersion to translate the measure into dispersion units. We can interpret a higher number of dispersion units to mean more challenging conditions for active management.

The bars in Exhibit 3 indicate the average value of the required incremental return in dispersion units for several indices across regions. As dispersion and correlations were generally lower, we observe a relatively more difficult environment for active management across most markets.

The challenging environment for stock selection is not unique to the U.S. 2021 stands in stark contrast to 2020, when both dispersion and correlations rose globally. Despite those relatively favorable conditions for stock selection, most active managers still underperformed, proving that true stock selection skill is rare. When SPIVA® results for 2021 become available, it would not be surprising if we saw dreary global active management performance once again.

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

Smart Factories to the Supply Rescue

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Justin Holt

Senior Director, Research & Design, S&P Kensho Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

With the global economy ramping up from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, labor shortages and supply chain bottlenecks are hampering manufacturers.

Fortunately, there is relief on the way. Digitalization is sweeping through manufacturing plants and transforming today’s sleepy mills into the smart factories of tomorrow. The catalysts include several of the technological forces driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution: exponential computing power, Big Data, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). The factory of tomorrow will be increasingly autonomous, self-optimizing, and sustainable.

The S&P Kensho Smart Factories Index seeks to track the companies that are enabling this manufacturing revolution. The index includes companies from across the full innovation ecosystem with an emphasis on the following four key technologies.

  • Digital Manufacturing Solutions (52.6% of index weight1): Covers the software enabling connected, integrated digitalization of manufacturing activities, including the equipment used for environment sensing and monitoring, advanced process control, and predictive maintenance. Led by cloud adoption, digital transformation with remote capabilities has gone from nice-to-have to need-to-have.
    • Per an Intel research report,2 manufacturers experience up to 800 hours of unscheduled downtime annually (30% of it unplanned), while their skilled workers are aging, leaving 2 million jobs at risk of not being filled.
    • Cost savings and waste reduction are additional catalysts to adoption. A McKinsey study3 found that AI-enhanced predictive maintenance of industrial equipment can generate a 10% reduction in annual maintenance costs, up to a 20% downtime reduction, and a 25% reduction in inspection costs.
  • The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) (22.9% of index weight): Represents the interconnection of big, ubiquitous data, sensors, instruments, and other devices networked together with computers’ industrial applications. It is key to facilitating manufacturers’ ability to connect, automate, track, and analyze industrial activities.

The IIoT provides real-time asset performance monitoring solutions, enabling operators and supervisors to visualize trends graphically from anywhere in the world on any connected device.

  • Industrial Machine Vision (17.2% of index weight): Includes technology that combines sensors, cameras, computers, and ML/AI with visual data to identify product defects and model and predict equipment processes and product results.
  • Digital Twins Technology (7.3% of index weight): Provides a virtual replica of any physical product, piece of equipment, or asset. For example, a digital twin could be a virtual version of a manufactured product, the entire production line, an entire factory, or network of plants.

Big results are expected from digital twins. Gartner4 predicts that organizations will save USD 1 trillion per year in maintenance costs by using digital twins.

In Exhibit 1, we can see the five-year forward growth outlook5 for each key technology and 2021 performance of companies in each segment.

The digitalization of factories promises to upend established manufacturing practices. The S&P Kensho Smart Factories Index offers niche market exposure that is well differentiated from the more traditional emphasis of legacy industrial-focused indices.


1 As of Dec. 31, 2021. Index weight totals are based on companies’ product segment mappings.

2 Intel Research.

3 McKinsey Research.

4 Gartner Digital Twin Forecasts.

5 Digital Manufacturing Solutions Growth.

IIoT Market Forecast.–exclusive-report-by-marketsandmarkets-301325443.html

Industrial Machine Vision CAGR.

Digital Twins CAGR.

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

S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Indices: Performance Characteristics

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Lalit Ponnala

Director, Global Research & Design

S&P Dow Jones Indices

In a previous blog, we introduced the S&P 500® Twitter Sentiment Index and the S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Select Equal Weight (EW) Index, highlighting their objective and construction.

At the core of these indices is a model-based sentiment score that captures the direction and magnitude of the sentiment associated with a given company. S&P DJI derives these sentiment scores daily by analyzing the relevant corpus of Tweets containing $cashtags for each company.

Persistent Spread between Quintiles

Using equal-weighted quintiles created from S&P 500 constituents sorted by aggregate sentiment scores each month, we observe a gradual decline in performance from the top quintile to the bottom quintile (see Exhibit 1). We also see that the Q1-Q5 spread was fairly persistent and stable over time (see Exhibit 2). The spread was also generally robust to the choice of parameters used for calculating the sentiment score, demonstrating that Tweet-based sentiment partially satisfies the criteria for being considered a viable systematic factor.

Capturing the Sentiment Premium

The indices capture the sentiment premium in different ways. The broader S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Index takes a more diversified approach by using a higher stock count (200), while the S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Select EW Index only selects 50 “high conviction” names. Using two-year rolling windows, we see that both have historically outperformed the S&P 500 over time to varying degrees (see Exhibit 3).

The differences in index construction influence other quantitative metrics as well (see Exhibit 4). The diversified S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Index has about half the tracking error compared with the S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Select EW Index, resulting in about twice the information ratio. It has historically beaten the benchmark over 50% of the time in up- and down-market periods, leading to a better overall batting average. Both indices have had relatively high turnover due to the dynamic nature of social sentiment and generally higher volatility of high-sentiment stocks. Due to lower stock count and higher turnover, the S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Select EW Index exhibited a significantly higher active share.

Sector Attribution

Exhibit 5 shows the results of a multi-period Brinson-Fachler attribution that helps explain the outperformance of the S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Indices. The allocation effect determines whether over/underweighting a sector relative to the benchmark contributes positively/negatively to excess return. The selection effect measures the contribution of individual securities based on their relative weights. The interaction effect measures the combined impact of allocation and selection.

For the S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Index, IT was the largest contributor to excess return, with a total effect of 4.99%. The average weight was 3.65% more than the benchmark, and this overweight contributed 1.91% in terms of allocation effect, while superior stock selection contributed 2.64%. Financials underperformed the benchmark over the period examined, and the index benefited from a smaller allocation to it. Though the selection of stocks had a negative effect in this sector, the interaction resulted in a positive contribution, adding 1.72% in total.

The S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Select EW Index was underweight in seven sectors relative to the benchmark, and with the exception of IT, all contributed positively to excess return. Health Care had a higher weight compared with the benchmark, and the companies in this sector had the most volatile sentiment over the past few years due to frequent COVID-19-related announcements. Though the attribution was sometimes favorable, the compound effect over time resulted in a negative performance impact. Nevertheless, positive contributions from Financials, Industrials, and Real Estate led to a healthy excess return.

Looking at total sector attribution, the outperformance of each index interestingly came from different effects. The allocation effect contributed to the bulk of the S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Index’s outperformance, while the selection effect was the main driver for the S&P 500 Twitter Sentiment Select EW Index. The interaction effect contributed positively in both cases.


1 Back-tested information reflects the application of the index methodology and selection of index constituents in hindsight. No hypothetical record can completely account for the impact of financial risk in actual trading. For example, there are numerous factors related to the equities, fixed income, or commodities markets in general which cannot be, and have not been accounted for in the preparation of the index information set forth, all of which can affect actual performance. The back-test calculations are based on the same methodology that was in effect on the index launch date. However, when creating back-tested history for periods of market anomalies or other periods that do not reflect the general current market environment, index methodology rules may be relaxed to capture a large enough universe of securities to simulate the target market the index is designed to measure or strategy the index is designed to capture. The back-test for the S&P Twitter Sentiment Indices is calculated for the period January 2018 to October 2021. S&P Dow Jones Indices designed the sentiment scoring model using data from approximately the same time range. The sentiment scoring model is a natural language processing tool based on linguistic classification of the degree to which a Tweet is likely to be positive or negative. Complete index methodology details are available at Past performance of the Index is not an indication of future results. Prospective application of the methodology used to construct the Index may not result in performance commensurate with the back-test returns shown.

S&P® and S&P 500® are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC. Twitter® is a registered trademark of Twitter, Inc. These marks have been licensed for use by S&P Dow Jones Indices for use with the S&P Twitter Sentiment Index Series. The Indices are meant for informational purposes only and are not recommendations to buy or sell any securities. Any investment entails a risk of loss. Please consult your financial advisor before investing.

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

Commodities Crushed It in 2021

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Jim Wiederhold

Director, Commodities and Real Assets

S&P Dow Jones Indices

The market standard commodities benchmark, the S&P GSCI, crushed it in 2021, rising 40.35% and outpacing other similar commodity indices and asset classes, as high and rising inflation provided a great backdrop for this inflation-sensitive asset class. Commodities finished strong in December, rising 7.59% over the month as energy bounced back and Omicron COVID-19 variant concerns were brushed aside, with global demand still humming. Supply chain bottlenecks are slowly easing, but freight costs around the world continue to be elevated, contributing to higher commodity prices.

With the highest weight in the S&P GSCI, the S&P GSCI Energy was responsible for most of the strong performance seen in December and throughout 2021. Every petroleum-based commodity rose by double-digit percentages in December and by at least 58% throughout the year. A combination of strong global demand and reduced oil production due to climate concerns helped petrol to post its strongest yearly performance since 1999. On the other hand, the S&P GSCI Natural Gas continued its decline, posting another 17.57% drop in December as warmer weather reduced demand for one of the main ways to heat buildings in the northern hemisphere.

The S&P GSCI Industrial Metals finished the year strong by rising 5.02% in December. The S&P GSCI Aluminum rose the most in 2021, by 38.43%. In a similar narrative to energy-related commodities, aluminum mining and production (which is typically carbon intensive) was curtailed while demand remained strong, especially for electric vehicles. This green transition friction caused prices to outperform the other industrial metals throughout the year. The S&P GSCI Zinc was the second-best performer, rising 28.03% in 2021 and showcasing an exceptionally strong December rise. Supply disruptions for aluminum and zinc are forecast to continue, with exchange warehouse inventories already low and more metal due to leave particularly from the London Metal Exchange.

The S&P GSCI Agriculture rose 24.70% in 2021. The most liquid corn, soy, and wheat commodities saw positive gains for the year, as weather-related supply disruptions were seen throughout the year, and demand came back strong compared to 2020. Incentivized by higher prices, more crop was planted but the demand side continued to prove to be a positive catalyst. The S&P GSCI Cocoa was the only constituent to show negative 2021 performance, at -6.27%. Its other soft commodity cousin, coffee, instead blew past all other agriculture commodities. The S&P GSCI Coffee beat crude oil with a positive 63.71% 2021 performance. It was the best yearly performance for coffee since 2010, the year several major studies were released in North America hyping the cancer-fighting and exercise-performance-enhancing benefits of a cup of coffee.

The S&P GSCI Livestock rose 7.9% in 2021, with lean hogs pulling the weight. Live cattle and feeder cattle prices were flat, but the S&P GSCI Lean Hogs rose 25.06% this year. Demand for pork was strong throughout the year and in another example of inflation everywhere, fast food prices rose considerably as bacon prices moved higher. The cost of a bacon, egg & cheese sandwich may continue to rise, with current high inflation seen broadly.

The S&P GSCI Precious Metals dropped 5.13% on the year as rates moved higher, market volatility came down, and demand for safe havens diminished. Gold’s historically strong inflation hedging ability and safe-haven status were challenged the most this year with crypto becoming prominent, and prices reflected this struggle.

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