Arnott Says U.S. Stocks are “Dead Money”

The founder and CEO of Research Affiliates argues that investors should load up on emerging market  stocks and sell off overpriced U.S. equities, according to a recent Barron’s article. In a recent interview, Arnott shared his insights on the subject: Should an investor make emerging markets a larger part of their portfolio? It depends on their level of risk tolerance, Arnott says. For instance, if an investor becomes “panicky” if share price gains are not immediate, then maybe not. “If you aren’t panicky,” says Arnott, “then I would be [disinclined] to own U.S. equities now.” On predicting performance of emerging […]

Smart Beta Investing May Not Be So Smart

A new study has raised questions as to whether smart beta mutual funds, which are on course to reach $1 trillion in assets by the end of 2017, are as “smart as they claim to be,” according to a recent article in the Financial Times. The article quotes University of Finland finance professor Antti Suhonen, who led the research, from his report (published in May): “Investing in smart beta does require good investor education, due diligence, monitoring of the investment and, most importantly, a strategic and realistic setting of investment objectives for the strategies.” Suhonen’s study examined 215 strategies developed […]

Index Fund Pioneer Warming to Computer-Generated Trading

Princeton economics professor Burton Malkiel, who started the first passive index fund for Vanguard in 1976, has experienced a “remarkable change of heart,” according to a recent article in the New York Times. Referencing Malkiel’s revolutionary notion that dart-throwing monkeys could pick winning stocks as well as market “experts,” the article says the “index-fund evangelist” now believes, “Maybe the experts can beat the monkey after all. That is, if the experts are software engineers writing sophisticated algorithms for computer-generated trading.” Malkiel, chief investment adviser for automated investment management firm Wealthfront, recently adopted a new approach they call Advanced Indexing. The […]

Rob Arnott Says U.S. Stock Valuations Are a Worry

Rob Arnott, founder and CEO of Research Affiliates, says investors should “avoid U.S. stocks and buy emerging market equities to outperform in the coming years,” according to a recent CNBC interview. Arnott was a pioneer in developing indexing strategies that weight portfolio holdings according to valuation measures rather than market capitalization (a strategy typically used by passive index funds) and therefore overweights undervalued companies and underweights overvalued companies. The article cites data on the Research Affiliates website showing that approximately $179 billion of assets are managed using these strategies as of March 2017. According to Arnott, the U.S. market P/E […]

Rob Arnott Questions Use of the Smart Beta Strategies He Pioneered

Rob Arnott, founder of Research Affiliates LLC, published a paper earlier this month in which he questions the use of some “smart beta” investment strategies he pioneered, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. Arnott, known by many as the “godfather of smart beta,” says the popularity of some passive-investing strategies are making them expensive, and has “built tools that he says will help investors determine which strategies are overpriced.” In the paper, titled “How Can ‘Smart Bet’ Go Horribly Wrong?” Arnott singles out low-volatility funds, saying that inflows have driven up valuations which, in turn, are […]

The Math of Stock Picking Works Against Active Managers

The concentration of gains in a minority of index fund holdings—a statistical concept called positive skew—makes it extremely difficult for active managers to beat benchmarks, according to a recent Bloomberg article. Research conducted in 2015 found that “the distribution of returns in the stock market is bizarrely lopsided,” the article argues. “It’s a pattern of returns that virtually ensures everyone outside of an indexer owns mostly deadbeat stocks.” According to Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates: “The focus is often on the random walk and the coin toss analogy, and the impact of skewness is overlooked.” In a coin toss, there’s a 50% […]

Asness versus Arnott: The Factor Timing Debate Continues

AQR Management founder Cliff Asness continues to argue that factor timing is “deceptively difficult,” contrary to what Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates would have you believe, says a recent article in Institutional Investor. Asness’ issue, the article says, is with Arnott’s contention that risk premia factors such as value, momentum, growth and volatility have become “overvalued as a result of the rising popularity of smart beta and factor investing strategies” and that investors should “time their exposures to buy low and sell high.” Asness, on the other hand, argues that “diversification, not timing, is the best way to achieve returns […]

Rob Arnott Says Clock is Ticking on Smart Beta ETFs

A smart-beta pioneer, Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates warns that these investment vehicles are in a bubble, says an article in last week’s Bloomberg. Smart-beta ETFs organize securities based on quantitative factors like volatility or “cheapness”, and the article explains that Arnott’s position is nothing new (he publicly battled with Cliff Asness on the topic a year ago). In fact, his firm’s website (Research Affiliates specializes in “cheap-stock” ETFs) offers investors a tool to gauge which funds are “about to pop” and has created a line of indexes that adjust holdings based on variables such as valuation. According to the […]

Arnott: Emerging Markets Hold Promise

Although EM stocks have taken a beating in recent years, things may be looking up, writes Validea CEO John Reese in this week’s TheStreet. Reese offers insight from Research Affiliate’s Rob Arnott, who thinks that, notwithstanding swelled valuations (based on Shiller PE ratios), “emerging-market stocks offer an attractive combination of depressed currencies, low valuations and strong momentum.” Using his guru-based stock screening models, Reese identifies the following five picks that could be poised for growth: Companhia Paranaense De Energia (ELP) generates, transmits, distributes and sells electricity in the Brazilian state of Parana, and scores highly based on its favorable revenue […]

Rob Arnott is Pro-Emerging Market Investment

Countries don’t have to be great to see significant market growth, according to Research Affiliates’ CEO Rob Arnott as explained in a recent Investment News article. In fact, the article says, since Arnott first recommended emerging markets in January, the “average diversified markets fund has gained 7.8%, and 17.8% since the February low.” He believes the asset class offers “an unusual three-way combination of low valuations, depressed currencies and strong momentum.” Here’s how: Low valuations: Arnott uses the Shiller PE ratio (which uses 10-year historical inflation-adjusted earnings) as a basis for his argument and says that, by that measure, emerging […]

Waiting to Exhale: What Lies Ahead After the Brexit Vote?

“The healthy economy is one that makes its own decisions,” says Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates concerning possible fallout from Britain’s vote to stay or leave the European Union. In a recent CNBC interview, Arnott shared his views on the concern around Thursday’s result and how it will impact the markets. According to Arnott, the “fear mongering” around the vote is “a little over the top.” He says, “Roll the clock forward ten years. Is Europe still going to be trading with the U.K.? Of course they will. Will it be materially different from today? Of course not.” That said, […]

Asness and Arnott Talk Market Timing, Smart Beta and Behavioral Biases

Maybe not always. At least that was the upshot of a debate between Cliff Asness of AQR and Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates, panelists at the recent Morningstar conference in Chicago. Although they debated various topics, they seemed to agree that value stocks deserve attention when they’re cheap. According to Asness, founder and managing principal at AQR, “Timing the market is hard and we call it a sin, but we recommend that investors sin a little.” The panelists discussed the pros and cons of smart beta strategies, generally agreeing on most points. “The point of our whole exercise is check […]

Are Formula-based Investment Strategies Necessarily “Smart”?

The word “smart” is thrown around a lot these days to describe phones, tables, and a host of other gadgets intended to make our life easier.  But, as we know, the mere existence of capabilities doesn’t necessarily mean those capabilities work well. Rob Arnott, founder of Research Affiliates, discussed this as it relates to the “smart beta” investment strategy. “Smart beta” describes a portfolio-building strategy that focuses on a company’s fundamentals (such as revenue, book value and cash flow) exclusive of its market capitalization. Arnott asserts that because the methodology is applied doesn’t ensure it will be successful. Like all […]

Time to Bottom Feed Across the Pond

The U.S. stock market is expensive and bond yields aren’t far from record lows. European and emerging market stocks, on the other hand, have approached stomach-turning status, says Jason Zweig of the Wall Street Journal. The European market has dropped by 12% while emerging markets have plummeted by 21.8%. Stabilized oil prices and a possible interest rate hike by the Fed has lifted investors’ outlook on these markets by a marginal 2% to 3%, but the fact remains that overseas stocks are cheap. In fact, according to data from MSCI, as of April 30th the average price-to-book value of European […]

Four Conditions Reminiscent of 1999

Rob Arnott, founder and chairman of Research Affiliates, says that the recent market environment is reminiscent of 1999, just before the tech bubble burst. Writing in Barron’s, Arnott argues that the following four “conditions parallel the extremes of the late 1990s:” “Falling inflation expectations,” which Arnott argues “snap back in reasonably short order.” He observes that “after inflation expectations hit a basement low of 0.9% in December 1998, within six months they had jumped to 2.0%” and “over the past three years, 10-year inflation expectations have plummeted by over 50% . . . to 1.2% in early February 2016” but […]