The January Effect – Idea for Nov 2019

Based off the posts from Part 1, the time has come to implement the bullish call for Nov and Dec.

TLDR: Buy 1-month 310 Calls  - you can't beat the index but you can get better Sharpe

One way to do this is to buy calls, especially since now VIX is quite low. The question is which strike to buy? Buying deeper ITM would cost us a lot, but knowing that Nov isn't a particularly high-skew month also means that many OTM calls would likely end up worthless.

Profiling the equity curve of a hypothetical backtest would help. Here the option prices for each strike is taken and simulated through all the years of % change to obtain the option portfolio equity curve. It takes into account the premium paid.

Naturally, the lower the strike, the more it resembles an outright investment in SPY. Further OTM calls have an equity curve that is highly dependent on very good years, but minorly decline in most years.

A very crude way to evaluate this balance of a smoother equity vs lower total profits is the good old Sharpe ratio. The current price of SPY is 306, and the optimal Sharpe is at 309, just at 1% above current price.

Of course, lots of historical assumptions are inbuilt, but at least it's an answer and a starting point.

Reconstructed equity curves for each strike vs SPY equity (in price points)

Brexit No Deal – Custom Payoff Strategy

Here we look at constructing a customized payoff for this event.

Betting site odds are 7/1 for No Deal: Bet $1000 on No Deal

Buy ATM GBPUSD Call for $2000 at strike 1.2650 (spot is at 1.2640) - breakeven is at 1.2850 which is 1.7% up (if including loss from bet, 1.2950, which is 2.5% up)

Deal No Deal
GBP up -1000 from Bet

+ ??? from Call

Net > -1000

+7000 from Bet

+ ??? from Call

Net > +7000

GBP down -1000 from Bet

-2000 from Call

Net -3000

+7000 from Bet

-2000 from Call

Net +5000

Limited risk payoff with maximum downside of -$3000

Assign probabilities into the 4 scenarios to get expected value, example:

Deal No Deal
GBP up 70% 5%
GBP down 5% 20%

Unfortunately, I think that when the Deal scenario plays out, the GBP will not rise enough to cover the cost of the bet and the premium paid.

Also, I don't have access to online betting sites, so this will only remain a theoretical trade.

The January Effect – Part 2

Continuing from Part 1

Comparing between strategies

S2 strategy invests in months {1,3,4,7,10,11,12} and yields better Sharpe and higher total return than the benchmark. It also has less negative skew.

S1 invests in only 4 months of the year {3,4,11,12} and so the total profit is much lower. The Sharpe does not improve, but the skew is significantly improved – it is now positive.

S1b squeezes out a little more total return by shorting month 9, giving us less of a max DD, but does not improve on the Sharpe nor the skew, so it might not be worth the effort.

Because this is an active method, the number of trades needed is proportional to the number of months. S2: 7, S1: 4, and S1b: 5.

Active method equity curves

Using the active method, we can see that the curve is significantly smoother than the benchmark, especially for S1 strategies.

Passive method

The passive method is what we normally do in real life – a hypothetical growth of $1. We do not rebalance the amount, but simply let it grow. The percentage returns are compounded, not simply added as per previous method.

Conservative strategies (like S1) are penalized because they tend to miss out on some of the compounding gains accrued in bull runs. This makes a sizeable difference in the long run.

The passive strategy comparisons show that S2 allows us to beat the benchmark, with slightly lower SD and drawdown measures.

S1 strategies are far superior in terms of Sharpe, but don’t eke out as much of a profit. To solve that, use leverage.

Using leverage of 1.5x, we can get the S1 strategies to beat the the total return of S2 and the benchmark, with somewhat similar SD and drawdown.


However, implementation is not so simple – we will need to find a way to get the 1.5x monthly return of the index, and keep compounding it. It’s not as easy to implement as S2.



Following a simple strategy like S2 can give us better total and risk-adjusted returns than the benchmark.

Continue reading "The January Effect – Part 2"

The hunt for the ESG factor

Personally I don't fully believe there exists an ESG risk premia. I think it's very difficult to find a big enough and uniform group of companies that can achieve a dual mandate of profitability and high ESG focus.

To be able to pick a few of these companies would also prove difficult and may not be worth the effort.

However I do believe that in the near future, there will be a tide of investors (millennials or the next generation perhaps) who will fanatically invest only in such companies.

Because of that, there is upside to this theme.

So what I hope to do is ride the short term trend when it is in fashion in an almost bubble-like way, then exit (if my assessment of no long term premia still holds).

The January Effect

Many have heard of January effect in stock markets - stocks generally go up in January. Here we take a look at this phenomenon and see if it still persists.

Below are the results for the S&P 500 for 1951 to 2018 using monthly simple percentage returns

It shows that while the mean return is indeed positive, there are many other months with higher mean returns. Might as well call it the January-and-March-and-April-and-July-and-November-and-December-effect.

What's more important is that the Sharpe of the other (Mar, Apr, Jul, Nov, Dec) months are higher.

The only advantage that January has is that it is the only month with a positive skew, albeit very slight.

Below are the return distributions for each month.

We are also interested in the smoothness of the equity curve, and whether the strategy is robust through time.

Below we can note the following observations:

  • The January effect lost its effect from 2000 onwards
  • Mar, Apr, Nov, Dec are remarkably good month
  • Sep is consistently bad
  • Oct (while having the reputation for worst declines) is still on a general up trend

In the next part, we will look at implementing a market timing strategy that invests only in certain months, and see how it fares against the benchmark.