The Siren Song of Factor Timing

9 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2016 Last revised: 23 Jun 2016

Date Written: April 12, 2016

Abstract

Everyone seems to want to time factors. Often the first question after an initial discussion of factors is “ok, what’s the current outlook?” And the common answer, “the same as usual,” is often unsatisfying. There is powerful incentive to oversell timing ability. Factor investing is often done at fees in between active management and cap-weighted indexing and these fees have been falling over time. Factor timing has the potential of reintroducing a type of skill-based “active management” (as timing is generally thought of this way) back into the equation. I think that siren song should be resisted, even if that verdict is disappointing to some. At least when using the simple “value” of the factors themselves, I find such timing strategies to be very weak historically, and some tests of their long-term power to be exaggerated and/or inapplicable.

Keywords: Factor Investing, Smart Beta, Style Investing

Suggested Citation

Asness, Cliff S., The Siren Song of Factor Timing (April 12, 2016). Journal of Portfolio Management, Vol. Special Issue, No. 1, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2763956 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2763956

Cliff S. Asness (Contact Author)

AQR Capital Management, LLC ( email )

Two Greenwich Plaza, 3rd Floor
Greenwich, CT 06830
United States
203-742-3601 (Phone)
203-742-3101 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.aqrcapital.com

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