Performance Attribution Of The S&P 500® Quality Index

Dec. 11, 2018 5:02 AM ET
S&P Dow Jones Indices profile picture
S&P Dow Jones Indices
2.06K Followers

By Bill Hao

The past two months saw bouts of market volatility, which in turn is causing market participants to refocus on defensive equity strategies. Quality, together with other defensive factors such as low volatility, has a higher degree of downside protection compared with other risk factors like value or momentum. For example, during months in which the returns of the S&P 500 are negative, the quality factor has higher returns than the benchmark about 75% of the time (see Exhibit 1).

As such, we examine the long-term performance of the S&P 500 Quality Index to understand the underlying sources of the excess returns. To do so, we look at the security selection criteria of the S&P Quality Indices.

The S&P Quality Index Series uses a company's overall quality scores for security selection. The overall quality score is composed of three fundamental ratios: balance sheet accruals ratio (BSA), return on equity (ROE), and financial leverage ratio (leverage).[1]

To understand the performance sources of the S&P 500 Quality Index, we dissect the index performance into three components: the S&P 500 Quality BSA Attribution, S&P 500 Quality Leverage Attribution, and S&P 500 Quality ROE Attribution. Assuming a starting value of 100 on June 30, 1995, Exhibit 2 shows the cumulative values of the S&P 500 Quality Index and its three attribution components from June 30, 1995, to Nov. 30, 2018.

In Exhibit 2, we can observe that the BSA factor has had the highest cumulative returns among the three factors, followed by ROE and leverage. In fact, in recent periods, the performance of the BSA has surpassed that of the S&P 500 Quality Index. However, cumulative return is just one dimension in the performance evaluation of a factor. Risk, as measured by standard deviation, is another dimension worth looking into in order to better understand a strategy or a factor's return/risk profile (see Exhibit 3).

According to Exhibit 3, the integrated portfolio, as represented by the S&P 500 Quality Index, had the highest return/risk ratio when compared with the underlying component indices. This finding is not surprising given the potential diversification benefits of its subcomponents when combined in a portfolio context. The return correlations of the S&P 500 Quality Index and its components are fairly high, but not perfectly correlated (see Exhibit 4).

Market volatility has a way of making investors rethink defensive equity strategies. The S&P 500 Quality Index, with a high hit rate of 75% during down months, is a factor that has historically had a higher degree of downside protection compared with riskier factor strategies. Among its three subcomponents, the attribution analysis shows that the BSA factor has had the highest cumulative returns, followed by ROE and leverage. The potential diversification benefits of its subcomponents attributed to the integrated S&P 500 Quality Index having the highest return/risk ratio when compared with the underlying component indices.

[1] The detailed factor definition and index construction are laid out in the S&P Quality Indices Methodology.

Disclosure: Copyright © 2018 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. This material is reproduced with the prior written consent of S&P DJI. For more information on S&P DJI please visit www.spdji.com. For full terms of use and disclosures please visit www.spdji.com/terms-of-use.

This article was written by

S&P Dow Jones Indices profile picture
2.06K Followers
At S&P Dow Jones Indices, our role can be described in one word: essential. We’re the largest global resource for index-based concepts, data and research, and home to iconic financial market indicators, such as the S&P 500® and the Dow Jones Industrial Average®. More assets are invested in products based upon our indices than any other index provider in the world; with over 1,000,000 indices, S&P Dow Jones Indices defines the way people measure and trade the markets. We provide essential intelligence that helps investors identify and capitalize on global opportunities. S&P Dow Jones Indices is a division of S&P Global, which provides essential intelligence for individuals, companies and governments to make decisions with confidence. For more information, visit www.spdji.com.Copyright © 2016 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. This material is reproduced with the prior written consent of S&P DJI. For more information on S&P DJI please visitwww.spdji.com. For full terms of use and disclosures please visit www.spdji.com/terms-of-use.
Follow

Recommended For You

Comments

To ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, please enable Javascript and cookies in your browser.
Is this happening to you frequently? Please report it on our feedback forum.
If you have an ad-blocker enabled you may be blocked from proceeding. Please disable your ad-blocker and refresh.