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Factor investing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Factor investing is an investment approach that involves targeting quantifiable firm characteristics or “factors” that can explain differences in stock returns. Security characteristics that may be included in a factor-based approach include size, low-volatility, value, momentum, asset growth, profitability, leverage, term and carry.[1][2][3]

A factor-based investment strategy involves tilting investment portfolios towards or away from specific factors in an attempt to generate long-term investment returns in excess of benchmarks. The approach is quantitative and based on observable data, such as stock prices and financial information, rather than on opinion or speculation.[4][5] Factor premiums are also documented in corporate bonds[6] and across all major asset classes including currencies, government bonds, equity indices, and commodities.[7]


The earliest theory of factor investing originated with a research paper by Stephen A. Ross in 1976 on arbitrage pricing theory, which argued that security returns are best explained by multiple factors.[8] Prior to this, the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM), theorized by academics in the 1960s, held sway. CAPM held that there was one factor that was the driver of stock returns and that a stock's expected return is a function of its equity market risk or volatility, quantified as beta. The first tests of the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) showed that the risk-return relation was too flat.[9]

Basu was the first academic to document a value premium in 1977.[10] The roots of value investing date to decades earlier with the work of Benjamin Graham and David Dodd as outlined in their 1934 book Security Analysis, and their student Warren Buffett outlined their findings and application in his 1984 article "The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville". In 1981 a paper by Rolf Banz established a size premium in stocks: smaller company stocks outperform larger companies over long time periods, and had done so for at least the previous 40 years.[11]

In 1992 and 1993, Eugene F. Fama and Kenneth French published their seminal three-factor papers that introduce size and value as additional factors next to the market factor.[12] In the early 1990s, Sheridan Titman and Narasimhan Jegadeesh showed that there was a premium for investing in high momentum stocks.[13][14] In 2015 Fama and French added profitability and investment as two additional factors in their five-factor asset pricing model.[15] Profitability is also referred to as the quality factor.[16] Other significant factors that have been identified are leverage, liquidity and volatility.[17][18][19]

Value factor[edit]

The most well-known factor is value investing, which can be defined primarily as the difference between intrinsic or fundamental value and the market value. The opportunity to capitalize on the value factor arises from the fact that when stocks suffer weakness in their fundamentals, leading the market to overreact and undervalue them significantly relative to their current earnings. A systematic quantitative value factor investing strategy strategically purchases these undervalued stocks and maintains the position until the market adjusts its pessimistic outlook.[20] Value can be assessed using various metrics, including the P/E ratio, P/B ratio, P/S ratio, and dividend yield.

Low-volatility factor[edit]

Low-volatility investing is a strategy that involves acquiring stocks or securities with low volatility while avoiding those with high volatility, exploiting the low-volatility anomaly. The low-volatility anomaly was identified in the early 1970s but gained popularity after the 2008 global financial crisis. Different studies demonstrate its effectiveness over extended periods.[17] Despite widespread practical use, academic enthusiasm varies, and notably, the factor is not incorporated into the Fama-French five-factor model. Low-volatility tends to reduce losses in bear markets, while often lagging during bull markets, necessitating a full business cycle for comprehensive evaluation.

Momentum factor[edit]

Momentum investing involves buying stocks or securities with high returns over the past three to twelve months and selling those with poor returns over the same period. Despite its established phenomenon, there's no consensus on its explanation, posing challenges to the efficient market hypothesis and random walk hypothesis. Due to the higher turnover and no clear risk-based explanation the factor is not incorporated into the Fama-French five-factor model. Seasonal effects, like the January effect, may contribute to the success of momentum investing.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fisher, Gregg; Shah, Ronnie; Titman, Sheridan (2015-03-23). "Combining Value and Momentum". Journal of Investment Management. 14. SSRN 2472936.
  2. ^ Harvey, Campbell R.; Liu, Yan; Zhu, Heqing (2016-01-01). "… and the Cross-Section of Expected Returns". Review of Financial Studies. 29 (1): 5–68. doi:10.1093/rfs/hhv059. ISSN 0893-9454.
  3. ^ Swedroe, Larry (2016-10-07). Your Complete Guide to Factor-based Investment. BAM ALLIANCE Press. ISBN 978-0692783658.
  4. ^ Fama, Eugene F.; French, Kenneth R. (1992). "The Cross-Section of Expected Stock Returns". The Journal of Finance. 47 (2): 427–465. CiteSeerX doi:10.2307/2329112. JSTOR 2329112.
  5. ^ Maymin, Philip; Fisher, Gregg (2011-04-11). "Past Performance is Indicative of Future Beliefs". Risk and Decision Analysis. 13 (3): 145–150. doi:10.3233/RDA-2011-0038. S2CID 15665310. SSRN 1746864.
  6. ^ Houweling, Patrick; van Zundert, Jeroen (2017). "Factor Investing in the Corporate Bond Market". Financial Analysts Journal. 73 (2): 100–115. doi:10.2469/faj.v73.n2.1. ISSN 0015-198X.
  7. ^ Baltussen, Guido; Swinkels, Laurens; van Vliet, Pim (2021). "Global Factor Premiums". Journal of Financial Economics. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3325720. S2CID 159122441. SSRN 3325720.
  8. ^ Ross, Stephen A. (1976). "The Arbitrage Theory of Capital Asset Pricing" (PDF). Journal of Economic Theory. 13 (3): 341–360. doi:10.1016/0022-0531(76)90046-6.
  9. ^ Black, F.; Jensen, M. C.; Scholes, M. (1972). "The capital asset pricing model: Some empirical tests". Studies in the Theory of Capital Markets. 81 (3): 79–121.
  10. ^ Basu, S. (1977). "Investment Performance of Common Stocks in Relation to Their Price-Earnings Ratios: A Test of the Efficient Market Hypothesis". The Journal of Finance. 32 (3): 663–682. doi:10.2307/2326304. ISSN 0022-1082. JSTOR 2326304.
  11. ^ BANZ, Rolf W. (1981). "The relationship between return and market value of common stocks". Journal of Financial Economics. 9: 3–18. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/0304-405X(81)90018-0.
  12. ^ Fama, E. F.; French, K. R. (1993). "Common risk factors in the returns on stocks and bonds". Journal of Financial Economics. 33: 3–56. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/0304-405X(93)90023-5.
  13. ^ Jegadeesh, Narasimhan (July 1990). "Evidence of Predictable Behavior of Security Returns" (PDF). The Journal of Finance. 45 (3): 881–898. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6261.1990.tb05110.x.
  14. ^ Jegadeesh, Narasimhan; Titman, Sheridan (1993). "Returns to Buying Winners and Selling Losers: Implications for Stock Market Efficiency". The Journal of Finance. 48 (1): 65–91. CiteSeerX doi:10.1111/j.1540-6261.1993.tb04702.x. JSTOR 2328882. S2CID 13713547.
  15. ^ Fama, Eugene F.; French, Kenneth R. (2015-04-01). "A five-factor asset pricing model". Journal of Financial Economics. 116 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1016/j.jfineco.2014.10.010. ISSN 0304-405X.
  16. ^ Novy-Marx, Robert (2013-04-01). "The other side of value: The gross profitability premium". Journal of Financial Economics. 108 (1): 1–28. doi:10.1016/j.jfineco.2013.01.003. ISSN 0304-405X.
  17. ^ a b Blitz, David; van Vliet, Pim (2007). "The Volatility Effect: Lower Risk Without Lower Return". Journal of Portfolio Management. doi:10.3905/jpm.2007.698039. S2CID 154015248. SSRN 980865.
  18. ^ Bollen, Nicolas; Fisher, Gregg (2012-07-03). "Send in the Clones? Hedge Fund Replication Using Futures Contracts". The Journal of Alternative Investments. 16 (2): 80–95. doi:10.3905/jai.2013.16.2.080. S2CID 219222562. SSRN 2102593.
  19. ^ Pástor, Ľ; Stambaugh, R.F. (2003). "Liquidity risk and expected stock returns". Journal of Political Economy. 111 (3): 642–685. doi:10.1086/374184.
  20. ^ "Factors from Scratch | O'Shaughnessy Asset Management". osam.com. Retrieved 2018-09-06.