Perspective

Now There's Nothing Certain But Death

Over the last few years, we’ve built a considerable effort in tax-optimized investing. Admittedly, this was a little bit of a “if we build it, they will come” venture, given many taxable investors seem to ignore after-tax returns. Thus, it is gratifying to see my AQR colleagues win the Top Graham and Dodd Award for their research on tax optimization, a topic that I’ve long thought deserved a much more prominent place in asset management.

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Value

A Gut Punch

Sure, the last nearly three years have hurt, but at least the explanation was straightforward. A core part of our process, value, suffered. So when value rebounds, we will too, right? Well, not necessarily. To be clear, if value makes a prolonged major recovery, we certainly believe we will as well, but over short periods that doesn’t have to happen. Unfortunately, this is what we have experienced since the end of October. Regardless, it does not change my view one drop that going forward multi-factor investing is a darn good bet in a world that needs some darn good bets.

Factor/Style Investing

There Is No Size Effect: Daily Edition

We have written several pieces on the famous small-firm or size effect, the two most important being our study of the interaction of size and quality and a fairly comprehensive survey of all things size. This note focuses on daily instead of the longer-horizon data studied in these other papers and, while not changing the overall story, this leads to a powerful illustration of what’s going on in small stocks.

Value

Is (Systematic) Value Investing Dead?

When value has underperformed for so long, it’s natural and proper that people wonder if it’s ever going to work again. To test the popular explanations for why value investing is “broken,” Cliff tweaks the value factor’s construction to remove the stocks that best fit these stories. He finds no “this time is different” explanation holds water, affirming our belief that the medium-term odds are rather dramatically on value’s side.

Value

The Valuesburg Address

One score and eight years ago Fama and French brought forth on this world, a new factor, conceived in either risk or behavioral effects, and dedicated to the proposition that all portfolios are not created equal. Now we are engaged in a great drawdown, testing whether investors in that factor, or any factor so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure…

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

To quote Kipling, it’s crucial to “meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.” Cliff explains that throughout the good and bad times, we’ve stressed that long-term investment success is about sticking with real but modest edges.

Value

Never Has a Venial Sin Been Punished This Quickly and Violently!

Three months ago in “It’s Time for a Venial Value-Timing Sin,” Cliff demonstrated the value factor’s historic cheapness, suggesting it’s time to “sin a little” and modestly overweight value. While portfolio tilts are seldom promptly rewarded, it’s also rare they are instantly punished. In this piece, Cliff shows how 2020 has been the exception to the rule, as value has begun this year with its worst loss in its decade-long drawdown.

Alternative Investing

The Illiquidity Discount?

Conventional wisdom is you get an expected return premium for bearing illiquidity. But what if this is backwards? What if investors will actually pay a higher price and accept a lower expected return for very illiquid assets?

Value

It’s Time for a Venial Value-Timing Sin

Cliff discusses how to measure whether a factor, in this case the value factor, is itself rich or cheap versus history. The answer, regardless of the approach taken in measuring cheapness, is that value is currently quite cheap compared to history.

Fixed Income

Bonds Are Frickin' Expensive

When something as important as the U.S. bond yield hits historical extremes, it’s worth at least a discussion. Cliff examines the long-term relationships between real bond yields, real T-bill yields, the slope of the yield curve, and economic conditions.

Alternative Investing

Quant Cassandra

If all of us, as investors, can persevere, we believe the long-term benefits are great. But even knowing all this in advance doesn’t make it easy. Hopefully, this reminder of what we all knew sixteen long months ago is helpful.