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Unlocking the Return Potential in Factor Investing

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What is the best way to predict success?

In baseball, the game’s strategy was forever changed when Oakland Athletics traded in the standard scout’s intuition for a data-driven approach. It was a switch that eventually led the team to an impressive 20-game winning streak, depicted in the movie Moneyball—it also kickstarted a broader revolution in sports analytics.

Similarly, successful data patterns are also being discovered by experts in the investing world. One such framework is factor investing, where securities are chosen based on attributes that are commonly associated with higher risk-adjusted returns.

Factor Investing 101

Today’s infographic comes to us from Stoxx, and it explains how factor investing works, as well as how to apply the strategy in a portfolio.

Factor Investing infographic

A Selective Approach

There are two main types of factors. Macroeconomic factors, such as inflation, drive market-wide returns. Style factors, such as a company’s size, drive returns within asset classes.

Analysts have numerous theories as to why these factors have historically outperformed over long timeframes:

  • Rewarded risk
    Investors can potentially earn a higher return for taking on more risk.
    • Behavioral bias
      Investors can be prone to acting emotionally rather than rationally.
      • Investor constraints
        Investors may face constraints such as the inability to use leverage.

      Astute investors can capitalize on these biases by targeting the individual factors driving returns.

      The Common Style Factors

      Based on academic research and historical performance, there are five style factors that are widely accepted.

      1. Size: Smaller companies have historically experienced higher returns than larger companies
      2. Low Risk: Stocks with low volatility tend to earn higher risk-adjusted returns than stocks that have higher volatility.
      3. Momentum: Stocks that have generated strong returns in the past tend to continue outperforming.
      4. Quality: Quality is identified by minimal debt, consistent earnings, steady asset growth, and good corporate governance.
      5. Value: Stocks that have a low price compared to their fundamental value may generate higher returns.

      It is becoming more straightforward for investors to implement these factors in a portfolio.

      How Can You Apply Factor Investing?

      All investors are exposed to factors whether they are aware of it or not. For example, an investor who puts capital in an ESG fund—targeting companies with good corporate governance—will have some level of quality exposure.

      However, there are various approaches investors can take to implement factors intentionally.

      Single Factors

      Factors perform differently over the course of a market cycle. For example, low volatility stocks have historically performed well during market downturns such as the 2008 financial crisis or the 2015 sell-off.

      Investors can consider macroeconomic information and their own market views, and adjust their exposure to individual factors accordingly.

      Multi-factor

      Factors tend to exhibit low or negative correlation with each other. For a long-term strategy, investors can combine multiple factors, which increases portfolio diversification and may provide more consistent returns.

      Long-short

      For each factor, there are investments that lie on either end of the spectrum. Experienced, risk-tolerant investors can employ a long-short strategy to play both sides:

      • Hold long positions in attractive securities, such as those with upward momentum
      • Hold short positions in unattractive securities, such as those with downward momentum

      This diversifies potential return sources, and reduces aggregate market exposure.

      Capturing Factors Through Indexing

      Active managers have been selecting securities based on factors for decades. To capture factors with precision, managers must carefully consider numerous elements of portfolio construction, such as the starting investment universe and the relative weight of securities.

      More recently, investors can access factor investing through another method: indexing. An indexing approach provides a framework for capturing these factors, which helps simplify the investment process. Based on objective rules, index solutions provide a higher level of transparency than some active solutions.

      Not only that, their efficiency makes them more suitable as tools for building targeted outcomes.

      The Future of Factors

      In light of indexing’s various benefits, it’s perhaps not surprising that exchange-traded factor products have seen immense growth in the last decade.

      In addition, there’s still plenty of room for factor ETF expansion in equities and other asset classes. Only about 1% of factor ETFs invest in fixed income, and 70% of surveyed institutional investors believe factor investing can be extended to the asset class.

      As solutions continue to evolve, factor products could become the foundation of many investors’ portfolios.

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Markets

Ranked: Top 10 Single-Day Market Cap Gains

Nvidia broke the record for the largest single-day market cap gains after adding nearly $250B on Feb. 22, 2024.

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The 10 Biggest Single-Day Market Cap Gains

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. tech stocks have led in terms of market cap gains, sometimes boosting their valuations by hundreds of billions of dollars in a single day.

In this graphic, we’ve ranked the largest single-day gains ever recorded, using data from Bloomberg.

Top 10 List

The top 10 list includes just 5 companies, and all are based in the U.S.

RankDateCompanySingle-day
Market Cap Gain
(USD billions)
1Feb 22, 2024NVIDIA$247.0
2Feb 2, 2024Meta$196.8
3Nov 10, 2022Apple$190.9
4Feb 4, 2022Amazon$190.8
5May 25, 2023NVIDIA$184.1
6Jan 28, 2022Apple$178.9
7Jul 31, 2020Apple$169.0
8Oct 28, 2022Apple$150.5
9Mar 13, 2020Microsoft$150.4
10Apr 26, 2023Microsoft$148.3

To put these massive gains into context, consider this: As of May 2023, the average market cap of an S&P 500 company was $30.4 billion.

Meta’s $197B Record Didn’t Last Long

On Feb 2. 2024, Meta set a new record for the largest single-day gain after reporting strong quarterly earnings, as well as announcing $50B in share repurchases and its first ever dividend payment.

This record lasted only 20 days, however, as Nvidia’s massive Q4 2024 earnings beat sent it to all-time highs. The firm is now nearing a $2T valuation, firmly placing it among the world’s most valuable corporations.

More on Nvidia’s Earnings…

Nvidia reported $12.3B in net income during Q4 2024, which is 769% higher than the same quarter last year. Revenues are also up 265% from last year, largely driven by demand for its AI chips like the H100 Tensor Core GPU.

Nvidia’s earnings have seemingly shifted the AI craze into another gear, boosting other chip stocks like AMD and Super Micro Computer (SMCI) to double-digit % gains for the day (Feb 22).

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