Due in large part to the proliferation of factor-based exchange traded funds, many of which now dwell in the multi-factor arena, conversations regarding investing factors are also gaining intensity.
The most talked about and studied factors are value and quality. Though different, the two are often joined at the hip because when ETF issuers and index providers marry the pair in a new fund, the result often an ETF steeped in companies that fit the bill as high quality because of efficient management and prodigious free cash flow generation. Many of those firms also have the look of value plays because of an emphasis on dividends and buybacks, traits often associated with value. [Different Ways to Quality With ETFs]
Another factor that has become the cornerstone for some ETFs is momentum. Though not as revered as quality and value, momentum can prove efficacious in the ETF wrapper. The iShares MSCI USA Momentum Factor ETF (NYSEArca: MTUM) is one such example.
MTUM dispels the notion that just because an ETF advertises the momentum factor in its name, that it must also be chock full of biotechnology, Internet and stocks most often viewed as volatile momentum names. That said, investors will find true momentum fare such as Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB) and Gilead Sciences (NasdaqGS: GILD) among MTUM’s top-10 holdings.
However, MTUM is among the many momentum ETFs that prove momentum can mean much more than just a high beta from a sexy sector. Momentum can also mean an emphasis on relative strength and strong price characteristics. [Index Changes Lift These ETFs]
In MTUM’s case, this is how the momentum factor is applied: “At each rebalance, a risk-adjusted price momentum is calculated (defined as the excess return over the risk-free rate divided by the annualized standard deviation of weekly returns over thepast 3-years) for each security in the parent index over the trailing 6- and 12-month time period. The 6- and 12-month risk-adjusted price momentum scores are then standardized at +/-3 standard deviations and the standardized z-scores are translated into an average momentum score. Approximately 100-150 securities with the highest momentum scores are selected for inclusion in the Underlying Index,” says iShares. [Momentum Marriage in an ETF]
A deeper look at MTUM’s 125-stock roster reveals the momentum factor can have many faces. While the ETF sports an almost 6% weight to Facebook and a modest allocation to Priceline (NasdaqGS: PCLN), it is also chock full of value stocks and sectors.