Examination of long-run performance of momentum portfolios: Implications for the sources and profitability of momentum


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Virginia Tech


This dissertation investigates the long-term performance of momentum portfolios. Its results show striking asymmetries for winners and losers and imply potentially different causes for the winner and loser components of momentum.

After separately examining winners and losers relative to their respective benchmark portfolios with no momentum, we find winner momentum is smaller in magnitude, persists only for six months, and its higher return fully reverses. This is consistent with the notion that winner momentum is an overreaction to positive news and potentially destabilizing. Loser momentum is larger in magnitude, lasts for about one year, and its lower return does not reverse in the long run. This is consistent with the notion that loser momentum is an underreaction to negative news and suggests investors hold on to losers for too long.

The lack of reversal for losers departs from prior studies whose findings are driven by the use of monthly rebalanced portfolio. Rebalancing cumulates an upward bias caused by noise-induced price volatility, which disproportionately affects losers more. This greater upward bias in losers creates an illusion that the winner minus loser return reverses. More appropriate approaches such as the buy-and-hold portfolio documents significantly less reversal.

Existing theories that potentially conform to the overreaction of winners and underreaction of losers include overconfidence (Daniel, Hirshleifer, and Subrahmanyam, 1998), representativeness and conservatism (Barberis, Shleifer, and Vishny, 1998), interaction between agents holding asymmetric information (Hong and Stein, 1999), and investors' asymmetric response to fund performance (Vayanos and Woolley, 2013).



Momentum, Reversal, Portfolio Construction, Benchmark, Winner/Loser Asymmetry