investment viewpoints

5 questions on our new DataEdge alternatives strategy

5 questions on our new DataEdge alternatives strategy
Laurent Joué - Head of Systematic Alternatives and Lead Portfolio Manager

Laurent Joué

Head of Systematic Alternatives and Lead Portfolio Manager
Marc Pellaud, PhD - Lead Portfolio Manager

Marc Pellaud, PhD

Lead Portfolio Manager

In this Q&A, Laurent Joué and Marc Pellaud, Co-Leads of the LOIM DataEdge alternatives strategy, explore how actionable insights from big data can help better predict company earnings. How do alternative data sets improve our understanding of consumer behaviour and its impact on company results in order to uncover alpha opportunities?

 

 

Need to know:

  • Our DataEdge alternatives strategy uses big data to identify trends in consumer behaviour in real time. Such data can be used to improve the forecasts of company earnings
  • Within the DataEdge investment universe, our research has found that earnings surprises and equity returns are tightly connected – both on the upside and downside – and can generate alpha opportunities
  • LOIM’s investment approach combines innovative alternative data research with systematic investment expertise. We then apply this ‘information edge’ to stock selection

 

1. How does LOIM’s DataEdge strategy use alternative data to improve the forecasting of key company indicators?

The strategy relies on the use, acquisition and analysis of alternative data points across multiple geographies, sectors and sources. These include:

  • credit card transactions
  • digital receipts
  • web traffic
  • activity on apps
  • geolocation services

Thanks to new advances in data science, it is now possible to structure and filter this data to identify consumer behaviour trends in real time. Systematic and quantitative analysis methods are then applied to predict how patterns could impact the key performance indicators (KPI) of listed companies, such as sales, revenues, users, new customers and engagement patterns.

To generate alpha potential, the strategy aims to identify earnings surprises, as well as track inflection points in the trends of KPIs over several quarters.

 

2. What is the strategy’s investment universe?

This alternatives strategy is global and sector neutral. The investment universe is currently US centric, and focuses on consumer, technology, industrial and healthcare companies. In term of market capitalisation, it is predominantly exposed to small and mid-caps.

This universe is shaped by the availability and quality of the alternative data we seek, and is expected to evolve and grow over time. The current1 eligible universe covers 640 companies listed on US markets, and the strategy monitors 200-250 companies day by day. Figures 1 and 2 provide breakdowns of the universe by sector and market cap.

FIG 1. Sectors comprising the DataEdge universe

Source: LOIM. For illustrative purposes only. As at March 2024. Allocation subject to change.

 

FIG 2. Market capitalisation breakdown of the DataEdge universe

Source: LOIM. For illustrative purposes only. As at March 2024.

 

3. What role do earnings surprises play? Are they highly linked to equity returns for the DataEdge universe?

Our research2 shows that within the DataEdge universe, earnings surprises and equity returns are tightly connected, both on the upside and downside. Using this universe, we assessed the relationship between earnings surprises and equity returns by looking at three factors.

  • Relevance. We used metrics such as correlation and the probability distribution of gains3, as well as regression analysis4. Performing a regression of earnings surprises versus equity returns on earnings released over the last 20 years and five years, our model found a convincing and valid relationship on the DataEdge universe. This indicates that earnings surprises can drive a significant part of price movements5.

    Our study also showed potentially attractive metrics for the past five years in term of relevance. The correlation was stable, even slightly higher, as well as the average probability of gains, which remained close to historical levels.
     
  • Market reward. This refers to equity returns on average for positive and negative earnings surprises. Over the 20-year period, we found that the market has rewarded positive earnings surprises by +1.9% on average and detracted -3.6% on average for a negative earnings surprise. Further, 86% of the universe had an average positive return for observations of positive earnings surprises and 80% of the universe had an average negative return for observations of negative earnings surprises. The last five years mirrored these results: the market has rewarded positive earnings surprise by +1.7% on average, and -4.1% on average for negative earnings surprise.
     

FIG 3. Market reward relative to positive and negative earnings surprises

Source: LOIM. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance is not an indicator of future results. 20 years covers January 2004 to January 2024 and 5 years covers 2019-2024.

 

  • The surprise bias. This analysis measured the imbalanced proportions of stocks that beat or miss the consensus forecast. The error of consensus versus the reported value was measured by the mean absolute percentage error (MAPE). Over the 20-year period, the average percentage of positive earnings surprises was 72% vs 28% for negatives surprises. Meanwhile, 88% of the universe has exhibited positive earnings surprises more than 50% of the time. The average MAPE across the universe was 4.14%.

    We noted no significant changes in the surprise bias over the last five years compared to the 20-year period. The findings suggest that consensus expectations tend to consistently underestimate corporate earnings in the US. On the other hand, we found a significant increase in the consensus error over recent rolling periods, which appears to be explained by the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

FIG 4. Surprise bias

Source: LOIM. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance is not an indicator of future results. 20 years covers 2004-2024 and 5 years covers 2019-2024.

 

4. Do alpha opportunities arise from the strong link between earnings surprises and stock performance? 

The relationship between earnings surprises and stock performance has been examined for more than 50 years in the academic literature6, and our research confirms the relationship is valid for the DataEdge universe. As the flow of information accelerates and becomes more widely available, and the use of alternative data grows significantly, questions arise about the alpha potential that can be extracted from earnings surprises.

We formulated a theoretical strategyto gauge the alpha potential of surprise earnings on the DataEdge universe. In short, the strategy takes a long position on positive earning surprises and the reverse for the negative ones, based on historical price moves. We refer to this strategy as ‘perfect foresight’ as it is not implementable using information that was public at the time of portfolio construction. However, even though the theoretical strategy cannot be traded, it nonetheless gives us an understanding of alpha potential, its behaviour over time, as well as the magnitude of price responses to new accounting information.

The results of our analysis showed that significant alpha potential is available for strategies able to predict earnings revisions. The information ratioafter trading costs ranged from 3.5 and more than 4 depending on the period, and was stable over shorter or longer periods.

Based on these results and on our average forecast’s hit ratio on earnings revisions9, which is close to 70%, we would expect the strategy to have an information ratio of 1.6, according to parameters set by Grinold and Kahn research10

This reaffirms that earnings surprises can drive significant price movements and present abundant alpha opportunities, in our view.

 

5. What is LOIM’s expertise in systematic alternatives and what framework do you adopt?

For the DataEdge strategy, we combine advanced alternative data research with systematic investment expertise. As Lead Portfolio Managers, we have a combined 36 years of experience in systematic alternatives strategies. We work with LOIM’s quantitative investment team, which is composed of 21 investment professionals and manages more than USD 10 billion11. We also partner with a pioneering data aggregator with close links to our 1798 Alternatives franchise.

Our differentiated investment framework is not a simple mix of fundamental and quantitative approaches. Instead, we aim to isolate pure idiosyncratic alpha by applying our information edge to stock picking. Ultimately, this creates a contrarian and diversified portfolio that invests in stocks where our models predict large potential divergence from consensus market expectations.

To learn more about our DataEdge strategy, please click here.

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