We have said this for a while - in 2018 and 2019 - but it is true. If you look at North American 2020 returns of the 19 investment strategies we track, you can only come to one conclusion - the markets are messed up!
With messed up I mean if you look at the performance of nearly all strategies applied North America you will see what has worked in the past (over decades in up and down markets) just did not work in 2020.
And I am not just talking about value investing not working, quality and momentum also did not work.
What REALLY worked great is if you invested in overvalued bad quality companies!
What investment strategies worked in 2020?
So, what worked best in North America in 2020?
Here is a short summary:
- Buying companies with the highest Value Composite Two value (overvalued companies) would have given you the best return of +68.8%
- Bad Value Composite One companies (with the worst – most overvalued Value Composite One ranking) also performed well up +67.3%
- Bad ERP5 (defined below) rated companies (expensive companies) also performed well and was up +55.4%
I am sure you will agree these are great returns but you would have had to buy VERY overvalued companies to get them.
We looked at the performance of the following 19 investment strategies in the USA and Canada from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020:
- Large vs small companies (Quintile 1 = Biggest companies)
- Book to Market value (inverse of price to book)
- Earnings yield (EBIT/EV)
- Qi Value – the strategy I use in my own portfolio
- Price Index 6m (Current price / Price 6 months ago) also known as 6 months Momentum
- Price Index 12m (Current price / Price 12 months ago) also known as 12 months momentum
- VC One also known as Value Composite One rank
- VC Two known as Value Composite Two rank (Value Composite One with an additional ratio: Shareholder Yield)
- ERP5 ranking (Ranking based on Price to Book, Earnings Yield, Return on invested capital (ROIC), 5-year average ROIC)
- Shareholders Yield (Dividend yield + Percentage of Shares Repurchased)
- Dividend Yield
- Dividend growth 5 years (The geometric average dividend per share growth rate over the past 5 years)
- MF Rank (Magic Formula Ranking developed by Joel Greenblatt)
- Piotroski F-Score
- Qi Liquidity ranking (Adjusted Profits / Yearly trading value)
- Gross Margin Novy-Marx (gross profits / total assets) – the best quality ratio we have tested
- Free Cash Flow (FCF) Score (Calculated by combining Free cash flow growth with free cash flow stability)
- Adjusted slope average (125-day, 250 day) – momentum
- Adjusted slope (90 days) – momentum
Only companies worth more than €50 million trading more than €25,000 per day
We excluded companies with a market value less than €50 million and a median 30-day trading value less than €25,000.
This left a universe of around 3,400 companies in the US and Canadian markets. This means each quintile of the All Developed Markets back test consisted of about 680 companies.
This large number of companies is good because it makes it unlikely that any one company impact the return of any quintile.
All companies in five groups – Quintile 1 the best
To test each of the strategies, using point in time data (so no look ahead bias), on 1 January 2020 we divided all the companies in the universe into five 20% groups or quintiles.
Quintile 1 shows the companies that scored best in for all the strategies we tested - Quintile 5 the worst.
For example, Quintile 1 shows the return of the 20% of companies with the highest book to market ratio (lowest price to book – cheap companies) at the start of the year.
And Quintile 5 shows the return of companies with the lowest book to market ratio (highest price to book ratio – expensive companies).
For Price Index 6m quintile 1 show companies with the best momentum (biggest share price increase over 6 months) and quintile 5 companies with the biggest price fall in the previous 6 months.
For the Piotroski F Score quintile 1 shows the return of companies with the best Piotroski F-Score (9 or 8) and quintile 5 those with the worse F-Score.
For the Size strategy quintile 1 shows the return of the 20% of companies with the biggest market value and quintile 5 the 20% smallest companies.
The best investment strategy in North America in 2020
Below is the performance of all 19 strategies in North America:
For reference the S&P 500 Index gained +16.3%
Click image to enlarge
Best performing strategies in North America
How all the best rated companies (Quintile 1) perform?
- Average return Quintile 1 of all strategies: +20.8%
- Maximum return of Quintile 1 strategies: +47.5%
- Minimum return of Quintile 1 strategies: -4.1%
The two best performing Quintile 1 strategies were:
- Investing in companies with the biggest one-year price increase (Price Index 12m) was the best strategy returning +47.5%
- Using the Adjusted Slope 125 day / 250-day momentum indicator you would have earned the second highest return of +39.6%
What did not work?
The two worse performing Quintile 1 strategies were:
- Investing in high dividend yield companies did not do well and would have lost you -4.1%
- The next worse strategy was buying low liquidity companies based on Qi Liquidity. It would have returned only 3.2%
Returns all over the place – This is normal
As you can see no one strategy worked everywhere – sometimes exactly the opposite worked – this just proves that over the short-term anything is possible.
A warning – investment strategy may stop working
Remember just because a strategy did well in 2020 does not mean it will continue to do so. As you can see the same strategy performed well in one region and terribly in another.
Jumping on the best performing strategy is most likely a bad idea - possibly a very bad idea.
In fact, your best strategy may be the worst performing strategy as it may turn around. Just like you I have no clue as to what strategy will work in the future and if someone says he does, he is lying.
If you want to read about the best strategies we have tested click here: Best investment strategies Quant Investing
Wishing you profitable investing for 2021
PS To get this report on a weekly basis as well as the tools to implement all 19 strategies (for less than an inexpensive lunch for two) in your portfolio sign up here.
PPS It is so easy to put things off, why not sign up right now?