Factor Investing: Back To The Fundamentals

By Christopher Carrano

Value, size, quality, momentum, low correlation and low volatility-these are some of the primary factors that investors have been considering on their quest for low-cost alpha. Yet many struggle to effectively measure these factor exposures among their assets. One solution is through regression analysis, or observing the sensitivity of an asset’s returns to certain factor premiums or other independent variables. For example, WisdomTree has used regression analysis to show why we believe dividends or earnings are efficient ways to tap into factors such as low volatility, quality and value. But in a world where many smart beta strategies lack historical data, regression analysis may lose its efficacy.

The question then becomes this: Is there an effective way to measure factor exposures other than regression analysis? Our answer: Bring it back to the fundamentals.

Below we show three factors-quality, value and size-based on exactly that: fundamentals. We’ll leave technical factors like low volatility, low correlation and momentum, which focus on changes in price, to a different piece.

In regard to quality and value, for each column, the first row represents the index with the most desirable fundamental number in that category. Similarly, the last row of each column represents the index with least desirable number. For example, the WisdomTree U.S. Quality Dividend Growth Index exhibits the best measure of return on assets (ROA), while the S&P 500 Equal Weight exhibits the worst, relatively speaking.

WisdomTree U.S. Quality Dividend Growth Index

  • Quality: WisdomTree’s U.S. Quality Dividend Growth Index clearly captures the quality factor through higher return on assets and return on equity (ROE) than all three of the other Indexes shown, as well as 0% weight to companies with negative earnings.
  • Value: In the value category, WisdomTree’s quality Index has mixed results, sometimes showing more sensitivity to the factor than the S&P market Indexes and sometimes not.
  • Size: As for size, WisdomTree’s quality Index is 94% large cap, suggesting little to no size exposure. WisdomTree, however, did create a small-cap version of this quality Index.1

To us, these more desirable quality fundamentals are no surprise as this Index’s methodology focuses on ROA, ROE and growth characteristics in the large-cap category. It does not aim to beat the market’s value characteristics, though it does in some cases, such as its price-to-earnings (P/E)…

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