19 Dec 2017
The prevalence of global stock market inefficiencies gives rise to ample opportunities for stock picking
- Active management can yield alpha from inefficiencies in global equity markets particularly in the Asia Pacific region and in emerging markets
- These opportunities to generate excess risk-adjusted returns are in spite of trading costs
- There is a positive relation between transaction costs including the presence of short selling restrictions and alpha
By Chan Fook Leong, CFA, for Asia-Pacific Research Exchange (ARX)
Singapore, November 14. Professor Söhnke M. Bartram from University of Warwick highlighted the prevalence of global stock market inefficiencies over a lunch-time talk to a full house of CFA charter holders in the FTSE Room on the 9th floor of Capital Tower, Singapore.
When there are deviations from fair value, stock picking can yield alpha. The mispricing in equities is prevalent globally, particularly in the Asia Pacific region and in emerging markets as uncovered by Professor’s Bartram research project using point-in-time accounting data from more than 25,000 stocks from 36 countries over a period of more than two decades.
He and joint researcher, Mark Grinblatt, showed that the risk-adjusted returns are significantly larger in emerging than developed markets, suggesting that emerging markets are less efficient at incorporating material public information.
Potential profits are also larger in the Asia Pacific region. Equity markets in Asia Pacific, the region with the largest alpha, experiences 26-50 basis point additional alpha compared to the Americas even after factoring in differences in the state of economic development.
In their research, fair value is determined using replicating portfolios instead of the more conventional discounted cash flow model or the structural asset pricing model where assumptions such as terminal growth and discount rates need to be determined. The replicating portfolio method is a simplistic non-discretionary approach as it relies on less assumptions to arrive at the fair value of a stock. Using international accounting data which is readily available to investors, firms with the same accounting metrics should have identical fair values.
The replicating portfolios assign monthly fair values to more than 25,000 firms from 36 countries from 1993 to 2016. Thereafter, ordinary least square regression methods are employed to determine the most under- and over-priced stocks. Professor Bartram found that mispricing is greater in emerging markets and in the Asia Pacific region.
The proxy of trading costs in this research are costs typically incurred by institutional investors. The study also shows that constructing a long-short portfolio still yields positive alpha in spite of trading costs from fees, commissions, and market impact. Moreover, simple adaptations of strategies that reduce turnover such as buy-and-hold strategy can improve alpha in emerging markets.
Transaction costs which include trading and compliance costs also predict potential profitability – there is a positive relation between such costs and alpha even after controlling for variables such as the quality of a country’s information environment, its level of economic and financial development, and its regulatory framework. This implies that a hypothetical country with zero transaction costs will be devoid of alpha.
The other determinant of the level of alpha is the presence of short selling restrictions and other characteristics that might curb arbitrage activities. Limiting arbitrage activities impede the process of stocks reverting to fair value which in turn gives rise to mis-priced stocks.
Stock market inefficiencies leads to presence of higher alpha in emerging markets and the Asia Pacific region compared to other parts of the world. The former two market or region represent the amongst highest transaction costs including the presence of the prohibition of short selling relative to others, and thereby leading to higher alphas waiting to be realized from picking these severely mis-priced stocks. Best of luck.
The full research report can be downloaded from the Asia-Pacific Research Exchange (ARX) website (https://www.arx.cfa)