Beating Kenneth French Small – High

June 30, 2011

(This article was first published on Timely Portfolio, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

With 148 pageviews over the last 24 hours, my post Kenneth French Gift to the Finance World has been popular relative to most of my other posts.  I think the popularity is due to Kenneth French’s notoriety and the amazing outperformance of Small Size and High Momentum stocks since 1927.  18% annualized returns are hard to beat, but I thought I should give it a try.  My first line of attack will be reducing the drawdown with some two popular and one not so popular price-based systems.

Great success was unfortunately not achieved, but I was able to reduce the drawdown to 50% from 79%.  If anybody has better ideas, please let me know.  I would love to see them and share them.

From TimelyPortfolio
From TimelyPortfolio

Try a very subtle change by using the average return price series of all Small Size to determine the rank-based signal.  Performance is improved slightly.

From TimelyPortfolio

R code (click to download):

#the real challenge now is how to beat the best
#small momentum with a system
#get very helpful Ken French data
#for this project we will look at Momentum Portfolios
#   require(PerformanceAnalytics)
require(ggplot2)   my.url=""
download.file(my.url, my.tempfile, method="auto",
quiet = FALSE, mode = "wb",cacheOK = TRUE)
#read space delimited text file extracted from zip
french_momentum <- read.table(file=my.usefile,
header = TRUE, sep = "", = TRUE,
skip = 12, nrows=1013)
colnames(french_momentum) <- c(paste("Small",
paste("Large",colnames(french_momentum)[1:3],sep="."))   #get dates ready for xts index
datestoformat <- rownames(french_momentum)
datestoformat <- paste(substr(datestoformat,1,4),
substr(datestoformat,5,7),"01",sep="-")   #get xts for analysis
french_momentum_xts <- as.xts(french_momentum[,1:6],   french_momentum_xts <- french_momentum_xts/100   charts.PerformanceSummary(french_momentum_xts[,1:3],ylog=TRUE,
main="Performance by Kenneth French Size and Momentum
Monthly Since 1927"
side=1,adj=0,cex=0.75)     #get price series of small cap high momentum for system building
french_momentum_price <- cumprod(1+french_momentum_xts[,3])   #speedy solution for ranking from Charles Berry
#rolling rank of price over last 12 months (12 means max price for last 12)
#pad first 11 with NA
nper <- 10
x.rank <- c(rep(NA,nper-1),rowSums(coredata(french_momentum_price)[ -(1:(nper-1)) ] >= embed(french_momentum_price,nper)))
x.rank <- as.xts(x.rank,
signalRank <- ifelse(x.rank[,1] > 3 |
french_momentum_price >= runMax(french_momentum_price,2),1,0)
retRank <- lag(signalRank,k=1)*french_momentum_xts[,3]   #try rolling 10 month moving average popularized by Mebane Faber
signalAvg <- ifelse(french_momentum_price > runMean(french_momentum_price,n=10),1,0)
retAvg <- lag(signalAvg,k=1)*french_momentum_xts[,3]   #try RSI
signalRSI <- ifelse(RSI(french_momentum_price,n=4) > 45,1,0)
retRSI <- lag(signalRSI,k=1)*french_momentum_xts[,3]   retCompare <- merge(retRank,retAvg,retRSI,french_momentum_xts[,3])
colnames(retCompare) <- c("Small.High.Rank",
#jpeg(filename="performance of small-high with systems.jpg",quality=100,width=6.25, height = 8, units="in",res=96)
colorset = c("cadetblue","darkolivegreen3","purple","gray70"),
main="Kenneth French Small Size and High Momentum Stocks
Compared To Various Price Systems"
)   #jpeg(filename="capture of small-high with systems.jpg",quality=100,width=6.25, height = 8, units="in",res=96)
main="Kenneth French Small Size and High Momentum Stocks
Compared To Various Price Systems"
)   #get average of small size for additional system testing
french_momentum_avg <- cumprod(1+apply(coredata(french_momentum_xts[,c(1:3)]),MARGIN=1,FUN=mean))
french_momentum_avg <- as.xts(french_momentum_avg,
nper <- 10
x.rank <- c(rep(NA,nper-1),rowSums(coredata(french_momentum_avg)[ -(1:(nper-1)) ] >= embed(french_momentum_avg,nper)))
x.rank <- as.xts(x.rank,
signalRankAvg <- ifelse(x.rank[,1] > 3 |
french_momentum_price >= runMax(french_momentum_price,2),1,0)
retRankAvg <- lag(signalRankAvg,k=1)*french_momentum_xts[,3]   retCompare <- merge(retRank,retRankAvg,french_momentum_xts[,3])
colnames(retCompare) <- c("Small.High.Rank",
#jpeg(filename="performance of small-high with 2 rank systems.jpg",quality=100,width=6.25, height = 8, units="in",res=96)
colorset = c("cadetblue","darkolivegreen3","gray70"),
main="Kenneth French Small Size and High Momentum Stocks
Compared To Rank-based Price Systems"

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: Timely Portfolio. offers daily e-mail updates about R news and tutorials on topics such as: Data science, Big Data, R jobs, visualization (ggplot2, Boxplots, maps, animation), programming (RStudio, Sweave, LaTeX, SQL, Eclipse, git, hadoop, Web Scraping) statistics (regression, PCA, time series, trading) and more...

If you got this far, why not subscribe for updates from the site? Choose your flavor: e-mail, twitter, RSS, or facebook...

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.

Search R-bloggers


Never miss an update!
Subscribe to R-bloggers to receive
e-mails with the latest R posts.
(You will not see this message again.)

Click here to close (This popup will not appear again)