Research Article

Small-minus-big predicts betting-against-beta: Implications for international equity allocation and market timing


Abstract

We demonstrate a strong relationship between short-term small-firm premium and future low-beta anomaly performance. Rises (declines) in small-firm prices temporarily improve (deteriorate) funding conditions, benefiting (impairing) the short-run returns on the low-beta strategy. To investigate this phenomenon, we examine returns on betting-against-beta (BAB) and small-minus-big (SMB) factor portfolios in 24 developed markets for the years 1989–2018. A zero-investment strategy of going long (short) in BAB factors in the quintile of countries with the highest (lowest) three-month SMB return produces a mean return of 1.46% per month. The effect is robust when controlling for major risk factors in equity markets, alternative portfolio construction methods, and subperiod analysis. The predictability of BAB performance by SMB returns is also present in the time series of individual country returns, forming the grounds for effective timing in the low-beta strategies.

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