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Cointegration-based trading: evidence on index tracking & market-neutral strategies

Ioannis Papantonis (Department of Business Administration, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece.)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Article publication date: 9 May 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present an alternative approach to equity trading that is based on cointegration. If there are long-run equilibria among financial assets, a cointegration-based trading strategy can exploit profitable opportunities by capturing mean-reverting short-run deviations.

Design/methodology/approach

First, the author introduces an equity indexing technique to form cointegration tracking portfolios that are able to replicate an index effectively. The author later enhances this tracking methodology in order to construct more complex portfolio-trading strategies that can be approximately market neutral. The author monitors the performance of a wide range of trading strategies under different specifications, and conducts an in-depth sensitivity analysis of the factors that affect the optimal portfolio construction. Several statistical-arbitrage tests are also carried out in order to examine whether the profitability of the cointegration-based trading strategies could indicate a market inefficiency.

Findings

The author shows that under certain parameter specifications, an efficient tracking portfolio is able to produce similar patterns in terms of returns and volatility with the market. The author also finds that a successful long-short strategy of two cointegration portfolios can yield an annualized return of more than 8 percent, outperforming the benchmark and also demonstrating insignificant correlation with the market. Even though some cointegration-based pairs-trading strategies can consistently generate significant cumulative profits, yet they do not seem to converge to risk-less arbitrages, and thus the hypothesis of market efficiency cannot be rejected.

Originality/value

The primary contribution of the research lies within the detailed analysis of the factors that affect the tracking-portfolio performance, thus revealing the optimal conditions that can lead to enhanced returns. Results indicate that cointegration can provide the means to successfully reproducing the risk-return profile of a benchmark and to implementing market-neutral strategies with consistent profitability. By testing for statistical arbitrage, the author also provides new evidence regarding the connection between the profit accumulation of cointegration-based pairs-trading strategies and market efficiency.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author is especially grateful to Manuela Braione and Nikos Thomaidis for their very constructive comments. The author also kindly thanks Ernest Biktimirov (the editor) and the two anonymous referees for their useful suggestions on improving the paper. This research has been funded by the Onassis Foundation. Any mistakes remain the author’s own responsibility.

Citation

Papantonis, I. (2016), "Cointegration-based trading: evidence on index tracking & market-neutral strategies", Managerial Finance, Vol. 42 No. 5, pp. 449-471. https://doi.org/10.1108/MF-12-2014-0318

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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