Momentum investing is a system of buying stocks or other securities that have had high returns over the past three to twelve months, and selling those that have had poor returns over the same period. It has been reported that this strategy gives average returns of 1% per month for the following 3–12 months as shown by Narasimhan Jegadeesh and Sheridan Titman. Momentum signals (e.g., 52-week high) have been shown to be used by financial analysts in their buy and sell recommendations.
While no consensus exists about the validity of this claim, economists have trouble reconciling this phenomenon, using the efficient-market hypothesis. Two main hypotheses have been submitted to explain the effect in terms of an efficient market. In the first, it is assumed that momentum investors bear significant risk for assuming this strategy, and, therefore, the high returns are a compensation for the risk. It has also been shown that momentum strategies involve disproportionately trading in stocks with high bid-ask spreads and so it is important to take transactions costs into account when evaluating momentum profitability. The second theory assumes that momentum investors are exploiting behavioral shortcomings in other investors, such as investor herding, investor over and underreaction, and confirmation bias.
Seasonal effects may help to explain some of the reason for success in the momentum investing strategy. If a stock has performed poorly for months leading up to the end of the year, investors may decide to sell their holdings for tax purposes. Increased supply of shares in the market drive its price down, causing others to sell. Once the reason for tax selling is eliminated, the stock's price tends to recover.
Some investors may react to the inefficient pricing of a stock caused by momentum investing by using the tool of arbitrage.
It is believed that George Soros used a variation of momentum investing by bidding up the price of already overvalued equities in the market for conglomerates in the 1960s and for real estate investment trusts in the 1970s. This strategy is termed positive feedback investing.
Richard Driehaus is sometimes considered the father of momentum investing but the strategy can be traced back before Richard Donchian. The strategy takes exception with the old stock market adage of buying low and selling high. According to Driehaus, "far more money is made buying high and selling at even higher prices."
As computer and networking speeds increase each year, there are many sub-variants of momentum investing being deployed in the markets by computer driven models. Some of these operate on a very small time scale, such as high-frequency trading, which often execute dozens or even hundreds of trades per minute.
Although this is a reemergence of an investing style that was prevalent in the 1990s, ETFs for this style began trading in 2015.
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- Jegadeesh, N.; Titman, S. (1993). "Returns to Buying Winners and Selling Losers: Implications for Stock Market Efficiency". The Journal of Finance. 48: 65. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6261.1993.tb04702.x. JSTOR 2328882.
- Low, R.K.Y.; Tan, E. (2016). "The Role of Analysts' Forecasts in the Momentum Effect". International Review of Financial Analysis. doi:10.1016/j.irfa.2016.09.007.
- Li, Xiaofei; Miffre, Joelle; Brooks, Chris; O'Sullivan, Niall (2008). "Momentum profits and time-varying unsystematic risk". Journal of Banking & Finance. 32 (4): 541–558. doi:10.1016/j.jbankfin.2007.03.014. ISSN 0378-4266.
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- Antonacci, Gary (2014). Dual Momentum Investing: An Innovative Approach for Higher Returns with Lower Risk. New York: McGraw-Hill Education. pp. 13–18. ISBN 0071849440.
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- Waggoner, John (September 9, 2016). "Momentum investing gaining speed among financial advisers". Investment News. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
- "Comparing Investor Options in the Momentum ETF Space". ETF Daily News. September 21, 2016. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
- Soros, George, 1987, The Alchemy of Finance, Simon and Schuster, New York.
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- Antonacci, Gary, 2014, Dual Momentum Investing: An Innovative Approach for Higher Returns with Lower Risk, McGraw-Hill Education, New York, ISBN 0071849440