Does Market Timing Ever Work? | Summary and Q&A

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May 25, 2019
by
Ben Felix
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Does Market Timing Ever Work?

TL;DR

Market timing, the practice of trying to predict the market's ups and downs, is not a reliable or viable strategy for making investment decisions.

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Key Insights

  • 💄 There is historical data suggesting a relationship between current market valuations and future returns, but this data has limitations and is not reliable for making investment decisions.
  • 🛀 AQR's study on market timing strategies showed mixed results, with the strategy underperforming in certain time periods.
  • đŸ—¯ī¸ Market timing requires accurately predicting both the right time to get out of and back into the market, which is challenging even with reliable forecasting metrics.
  • ↩ī¸ Trading costs and taxes incurred from frequent buying and selling can negatively impact returns.
  • đŸŽĩ Market timing is not a widely successful or consistent strategy, as noted by industry experts like John Bogle.
  • 🍹 While dollar cost averaging can alleviate concerns about market timing, it is still statistically suboptimal compared to investing a lump sum.
  • 💄 Feelings of uncertainty are not a reliable basis for making market timing decisions.

Transcript

  • Even the most rational index investors might catch themselves wondering if they should sell some of their equities, or delay investing new cash because of expected market volatility, or reports of record high stock prices. And if the market does happen to drop, our brains will allow us to believe that we were right, which might increase the futur... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is market timing?

Market timing is the practice of trying to predict the future movements of the stock market based on indicators such as valuations, in order to make investment decisions.

Q: Is there a relationship between current market valuations and future returns?

Historical data suggests that when stocks are expensive relative to the past, future returns tend to be lower. However, this data has a hindsight bias and may not accurately predict future market movements.

Q: Can market timing be a viable strategy for investors?

Market timing is generally not a reliable or viable strategy for making investment decisions. Studies have shown that market timing strategies, even when adjusted for hindsight bias, have underperformed in certain time periods.

Q: What is dollar cost averaging and can it help with market timing concerns?

Dollar cost averaging involves investing a fixed amount of money at regular intervals, regardless of market conditions. While it can alleviate concerns about investing at the worst possible time, it is still a form of market timing and statistically suboptimal compared to investing a lump sum.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Market timing is the act of trying to predict the future movement of the stock market based on various indicators, such as valuations.

  • Historical data suggests that when stocks are expensive relative to the past, future returns tend to be lower. However, this data has a hindsight bias and cannot be relied upon for accurate predictions.

  • A study by AQR tested a market timing strategy based on valuations from 1900 to 2015. While the strategy added value to returns for the full sample, it underperformed from 1958 to 2015.

  • Dollar cost averaging, while a form of market timing, statistically provides suboptimal results compared to investing a lump sum.

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