Insights With Topics: Factor Investing


The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down productivity and daily lives, stagnated the global supply chain, and affected financial market returns across almost all asset classes. In the first quarter of 2020, all markets around the world reported negative returns with varying degrees. While it seems that all is going the same direction, especially in the equities’ world, the fundamental risk factors were not. Among the fundamental factors we employ for China A shares, some has performed better than others amidst the market drawdown.


Apr 28, 2020


The geopolitical risks that dominated global markets for much of 2019 faded in the last quarter as the US and China reaching a phase one trade deal (which happened on Jan 15th and we discussed in China: Beyond Trade Deal Phase 1). As a result, global equity markets posted gains and China A shares also performed strongly in Q4 2019 against this backdrop.FACTOR PERFORMANCEProductivity Growth was the best performing factor in Q4, followed by Quality. The two factors were the best performing factors in 2018 and they kept the trend in 2019. Value showed a slight sign of reversion in Q4 but remained the worst performing factor throughout the year.As a result, the two Premia multi-factor China A shares ETF saw different performances in 2019. Premia CSI Caixin China Bedrock Economy ETF, which is a defensive play with active Value and LowRisk exposures by design, trailed the broad CSI 300 market performance. On the other hand, Premia CSI Caixin China New Economy ETF, a quality growth play designed to capture high quality, high productive growth new economy companies, was among the top performing broad market China equity ETFs listed outside of China in the full year of 2019 with 43% total return in CNY terms (41% total return in USD).What is Quality & Productivity Growth? - To recap, the factor definitions employed in the Premia multi-factor China A shares indexes, designed by Dr. Jason Hsu’s team at Rayliant Global Advisors are as follows –· Balance Sheet Health (aka Quality in our usual definition): Debt Coverage Ratio, Cash Ratio, Net Profit Margin, negative Accruals, negative Net Operating Assets· Productivity Growth: Gross profitability, Operating Profitability, negative Change in Total Assets, negative Change in Total Book Assets, R&D expense over AssetsBoth of the two factors entail component metrics that are broadly considered as “Quality”, despite the fact that this late popular factor does not really have a commonly agreed definition compared to the widely accepted original Fama-French Size and Value. Dr. Jason Hsu recently published a paper titled “What is Quality”. The paper published in the Financial Analysts Journal won the 2019 Graham and Dodd Top Award, and for those interested can find it on SSRN.2019 was firstly a year of recovery from 2018, but also a year of P/E multiple expansion across industries. New economy sectors, in particular, had a strong year as the government continue to drive policies around its reconfiguration toward a service-oriented, consumption-led, technology first economy despite the headwinds from the US-China trade dispute, or even to a greater extent with the conflict as an alarming catalyst.Our Premia CSI Caixin China New Economy ETF (3173/9173 HK) saw active return not only in the style factors but also from such new economy industry allocation and selection compared to peer ETFs tracking the broad CSI 300 index, as shown in Figure 3.2020: VALUE MIGHT REVERT, BUT QUALITY (NEW ECONOMY) GROWTH WILL CONTINUE TO SHINEHeading into 2020, we believe the price multiple expansion would continue but at a slower speed and be more selective on sectors, especially as China further develops into a two-speed economy. From an industry perspective, new economy sectors such as technology services, advanced manufacturing, new energy and healthcare will continue to be the megatrend growth opportunities and key drivers of China’s overall economic and productivity growth in the long term. On the other hand, as earnings play a bigger role in the P/E * EPS formula for market value, sector leaders with solid profitability and earnings capabilities stand better chances to outperform. From a style factor perspective, the broad set of Quality factors are best positioned to continue generating positive risk premia. The quality growth play would remain ideal for investors looking for megatrend growth opportunities in A-shares, while allocators more concerned about potential downside risk or wish to take a contrarian approach may consider the value strategy. Further readingsChina: Beyond Trade Deal Phase 1Insights from the revenue forecast in China marketChina A Factor Review: 2019 Q3


Feb 2, 2020


The US-China trade dispute rumbled and concerns over global growth continued to mount in Q3. Factor-wise, Quality continued to outperform while Value is trailing, badly. Overall, the China A-shares ended roughly flat in Q3, and it was a meaningful quarter to the market with MSCI, FTSE, and S&P Dow Jones all made announcements of (further) inclusion of China A-shares into their benchmarks. Heading into Q4, we believe “Megatrends” continue to be the key investment themes and “Diversification” core to portfolio risk management. We don’t see a Value trap environment, but the comeback relies on many catalysts amid the current market uncertainties. Consolidation will happen as China rebalances to a “new normal”, and we believe Quality Growth is the best approach to capture domestic champions.


Oct 21, 2019


When over 30% of the investment-grade bonds are selling at a negative yield, the longest bull market in the US seems to be wobbling, global growth is decelerating and the two biggest economies are in a dispute over trade and technology, there is a need for most investors to anchor themselves in a stronghold to face the volatile markets. Benjamin Graham’s Intelligent Investor, often referenced as the best book on investing ever written, may be able to offer a bit of insight for us. At the end of the day, an intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists. The author has experience to back it up: Graham's personal losses in the 1929 crash and the Great Depression led him to perfect his investment techniques.


Oct 18, 2019


After a bull run of close to 40% that took most by surprise in the first quarter, trade uncertainties started to really weight on Chinese stocks during the second quarter of 2019. Unlike the beta-driven first quarter, all factors of our interest had positive performance in Q2 while the broad equity market ended roughly flat. But style factors alone are far from sufficient to explain (or reduce) the impact from the geopolitical shocks to the system as there had been much more intricate implications to one’s sector exposures; therefore, we also share a quick review of industry exposures in this piece.


Jul 29, 2019


As the issuer of world’s first two fundamental multifactor China A-shares ETFs, we look closely into the factors. The China A shares market went on a roller coaster ride since late 2018, and how about the factors – are they on the same ride or rotating around a Ferris wheel? In this piece, we re-cap the research on China A fundamental factors and share the recent observations on factor performances.


Jun 3, 2019