Below are my factor return charts, updated for 3Q18. As always, this data lags by one month, so it is technically through August 31. Note also that the more recent bout of market volatility lies outside this date range. It will fall inside the next update.
This one features more of the same. Returns to Market and Momentum continue to grind higher, leaving the more value-oriented factors in the dust.
At bottom I’ve added a snap of Research Affiliates’ latest factor valuations. They’re about what you’d expect given the return data, with Illiqudity (think VC and private equity) and Momentum at the high end of their historical ranges. Value remains at the low end.
It’s worth asking: what’s the point of this exercise?
To better understand and contextualize the following (thanks Rusty Guinn):
[T]here is no good or bad environment for active management. There are good or bad environments for the relatively static biases that are almost universal among the pools of capital that benchmark themselves to various indices.
For a diversified portfolio, the variation in returns is explained almost entirely by the aggregate factor exposures. You’d be surprised how many professionals are ignorant of this.
Now, some of that ignorance is deliberate. There’s a reason investment managers don’t often show clients factor-based attribution analyses. The data typically supports the idea that a significant portion of their returns come from the relatively static biases (“tilts”) mentioned above.
As an allocator of capital, it behooves you to be intentional about how your portfolios tilt, and how those tilts manifest themselves in your realized performance. This self awareness lies at the heart of a disciplined and intentional portfolio management process.