This Week: Can Model-Based Trading Beat The Market?

The advantages of model-based trading seem clear.


By Dr. Jeff Miller


For example, models are much more disciplined in their decisions than are humans. For example, we’ve written about this previously by describing the importance of disciplined entry and exit points for your trades, as well as using disciplined position sizing. Further, model-based trading eliminates emotion. For example, according to Dr. Brett Steenbarger, evidence shows that emotions can really screw up your trades (especially if you are a newbe), but they can also be used to help increase your focusif you know what you’re doing. And on that note, we’ve written previously about the importance of making sure your trading process fits your style.

And considering the wide accessibility of model resources (such as data and modeling applications as simple as Microsoft Excel), many of the things human traders seek can be accomplished easily with models. Further still, there should be plenty of incentive to build such models considering the profits that are available.

Please note: This week’s Stock Exchange is being edited by our frequent guest: Blue Harbinger. Blue Harbinger is a source for independent investment ideas focused on value and income opportunities. Please also note: this week our models have no new specific stock picks to share. Instead, we review our model scorecard.

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Our Model Scorecard:

Not surprisingly, our models based on momentum (i.e. Felix and Athena) have been working the best lately, while our models based on mean reversion and dip buying (Holmes and RoadRunner) have performed less well. We say “not surprisingly” because momentum stocks (MTUM) have been performing very well recently (relative to the S&P 500(NYSEARCA:SPY)) as shown in the following chart.

For more perspective on the recent strength of momentum, James Picerno provides a lot of details in this recent article: Momentum Continues To Lead US Equity Factor Strategies.

However, despite the strong performance by momentum, our other models have held their own. For example, over the last four months, our results (including commissions and fees) are approximately even for Holmes and RoadRunner and up approximately 20% for Felix and Athena. And if you had an equal weighted portfolio of these four models you’d have roughly doubled the S&P 500’s return during the time period. Obviously, short-term success of an approach varies a great deal. And in a few months, the results could be just the opposite (i.e. momentum could underperform). However, one strength of Holmes and RoadRunner is that they outperform over the long run with a low correlation to the market. This is important for volatility reduction purposes (i.e. risk management).

And for a little more color on momentum, here are the previous “Stock Exchange” series write-ups on a couple of Felix’s previous recommendations that have been doing quite well (Felix is our momentum model with an average holding period of 66 weeks):

Hertz (HTZ): Felix’s pick from the week of June 29th

Urban Outfitters (URBN): Felix’s pick from the week of July 20th

And if you are curious, here is a current list of some of the most attractive Russell 1000 stocks according to Felix:

Please note, the above list is very different than the list we’ve been showing readers in previous “Stock Exchange” articles. Also, as a reminder, readers are welcome to send us specific stock ideas that they’d like us to run through our various models, and we’ll happily share the results as we are able.


At the moment, our models are doing well. And ultimately, extending our longer-term track record of success is most important. We cannot share all of our model picks in this forum, however we believe sharing our approach is interesting and worth discussion. We’re also able to share more information with a few of you that are interested in investing in our models. And also worth mentioning, we’re doing a webinar next Thursday covering our current market views. We hope you enjoy and evaluate our approach and ideas.