How to Unlock the Return Potential in Factor Investing
Connect with us

Markets

Unlocking the Return Potential in Factor Investing

Published

on

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.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments

Markets

Charted: Tesla’s Unrivaled Profit Margins

This infographic compares Tesla’s impressive profit margins to various Western and Chinese competitors.

Published

on

Chart: Tesla’s Unrivaled Profit Margins

In January this year, Tesla made the surprising announcement that it would be cutting prices on its vehicles by as much as 20%.

While price cuts are not new in the automotive world, they are for Tesla. The company, which historically has been unable to keep up with demand, has seen its order backlog shrink from 476,000 units in July 2022, to 74,000 in December 2022.

This has been attributed to Tesla’s robust production growth, which saw 2022 production increase 41% over 2021 (from 930,422 to 1,313,851 units).

With the days of “endless” demand seemingly over, Tesla is going on the offensive by reducing its prices—a move that puts pressure on competitors, but has also angered existing owners.

Cranking up the Heat

Tesla’s price cuts are an attempt to protect its market share, but they’re not exactly the desperation move some media outlets have claimed them to be.

Recent data compiled by Reuters shows that Tesla’s margins are significantly higher than those of its rivals, both in terms of gross and net profit. Our graphic only illustrates the net figures, but gross profits are also included in the table below.

CompanyGross profit per carNet profit per car
🇺🇸 Tesla$15,653$9,574
🇺🇸 GM$3,818$2,150
🇨🇳 BYD$5,456$1,550
🇯🇵 Toyota$3,925$1,197
🇩🇪 VW$6,034$973
🇰🇷 Hyundai$5,362$927
🇺🇸 Ford$3,115-$762
🇨🇳 Xpeng$4,565-$11,735
🇨🇳 Nio$8,036-$19,141

Data from Q3 2022

Price cutting has its drawbacks, but one could argue that the benefits for Tesla are worth it based on this data—especially in a critical market like China.

Tesla has taken the nuclear option to bully the weaker, thin margin players off the table.
– Bill Russo, Automobility

In the case of Chinese EV startups Xpeng and Nio, net profits are non-existent, meaning it’s unlikely they’ll be able to match Tesla’s reductions in price. Both firms have reported year-on-year sales declines in January.

As for Tesla, Chinese media outlets have claimed that the firm received 30,000 orders within three days of its price cut announcement. Note that this hasn’t been officially confirmed by anyone within the company.

Tit for Tat

Ford made headlines recently for announcing its own price cuts on the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV. The model is a direct competitor to Tesla’s best-selling Model Y.

Chevrolet and Hyundai have also adjusted some of their EV prices in recent months, as listed in the following table.

ModelOld PriceNew PriceDiscount
Tesla Model Y Long Range$65,990$53,49018.9%
Chevrolet Bolt EUV 2023$33,500$27,20018.8%
Tesla Model Y Performance$69,990$56,99018.6%
Chevrolet Bolt 2023$31,600$26,50016.1%
Tesla Model 3 Performance$62,990$53,99014.3%
Hyundai Kona Electric 2022$37,390$34,0009.1%
Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Extended Range$69,900$64,0008.4%
Tesla Model 3 Long Range$46,990$43,9906.4%
Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD$57,675$53,9956.4%
Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD Standard Range$46,900$46,0001.9%

Source: Observer (Feb 2023)

Volkswagen is a noteworthy player missing from this table. The company has been gaining ground on Tesla, especially in the European market.

We have a clear pricing strategy and are focusing on reliability. We trust in the strength of our products and brands.
– Oliver Blume, CEO, VW Group

This decision could hamper Volkswagen’s goal of becoming a dominant player in EVs, especially if more automakers join Tesla in cutting prices. For now, Tesla still holds a strong grip on the US market.

tesla US market share

Thanks, Elon

Recent Tesla buyers became outraged when the company announced it would be slashing prices on its cars. In China, buyers even staged protests at Tesla stores and delivery centers.

Recent buyers not only missed out on a better price, but their cars have effectively depreciated by the amount of the cut. This is a bitter turn of events, given Musk’s 2019 claims that a Tesla would be an appreciating asset.

I think the most profound thing is that if you buy a Tesla today, I believe you are buying an appreciating asset – not a depreciating asset.
– Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla

These comments were made in reference to Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) capabilities, which Elon claimed would enable owners to turn their cars into robotaxis.

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Popular