Long-Term Investing in Triple Leveraged Exchange Traded Funds

15 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2021

Date Written: October 30, 2020

Abstract

The phrase long-term investing in triple leveraged ETFs is somewhat of an anathema for investment academicians. As a result of daily rebalancing and so-called beta slippage or “the constant leverage trap” it is highly likely over the long term to significantly deviate from the targeted leverage and, in so doing, generate wipeout losses. In fact, the data show that many 3X leveraged ETFs have performed poorly over the long term in the period of their existence. However, there are some significant exceptions. The 3X leveraged Nasdaq ETF, TQQQ, for example has delivered a total return exceeding 10,000% (CAGR of 54.4%) over the 10+ years of its existence, more than 13 times the total return of its underlying ETF (QQQ). Similar, but less impressive numbers have been achieved with triple leveraged ETFs that target the S&P 500 and the Dow Industrials.

These results, however, are accompanied by excessive volatility and very large maximum end-of-month (EOM) draw downs, in excess of 49% for TQQQ, and with maximum daily drawdown of almost 70%. Many retail investors would be unwilling to sustain such (paper) losses. Here we propose a strategy to mitigate these large draw downs while still retaining much of the upside performance of triple leveraging. We show that by simply establishing a portfolio consisting of an equal dollar amount of TQQQ and TMF (the triple leveraged ETF linked to the 20+ year treasury bond), and performing bimonthly rebalancing, a total return, after transaction costs, in excess of 5,800% (CAGR of 44.9%) would have been achieved over the 10+ years of TQQQ existence, with the maximum EOM draw down less than 25%.

Keywords: Triple leveraging, strategy, draw down

JEL Classification: C51, C52, C53, C58, C61, G11

Suggested Citation

Glenn, Lewis A., Long-Term Investing in Triple Leveraged Exchange Traded Funds (October 30, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3722318 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3722318

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