The Quality Anomaly: The Weirdest Market Inefficiency in the World

Executive Summary

As GMO launches its first ETF, GMO U.S. Quality (NYSE: QLTY),1 it seemed like a good time to share my thoughts on the market inefficiency that the strategy seeks to exploit ­– the quality anomaly. The basic goals of any active investor are to achieve higher returns and/or lower risk than a passive portfolio. These goals are, or at least should be, in conflict with each other. If financial markets were efficient, it would be impossible to sustainably achieve higher returns without taking on additional risk. And any portfolio that embodied lower risk would pay for it with lower long-term returns. At the highest level, markets basically work this way. Government bonds and cash are lower risk than high yield bonds and equities and have delivered lower returns across almost all markets and most time periods. But within risk assets, things get weird. Within both stocks and high yield bonds, you have historically been able to achieve both higher returns and lower risk by owning the highest quality securities in those universes. This quality anomaly has been around for a long time and exists within multiple subsets of the equity universe. And for what it is worth, their opposite numbers have also been mispriced – low-quality stocks and CCC (and below) bonds have underperformed their broad universes despite their obviously greater downside in bad economic times. In an investing world where most trade-offs are difficult, this one is pretty easy. If you were going to have one permanent bias in your equity and high yield bond portfolios, it should be in favor of high quality.

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1For more information on our launch of QLTY, read our press release.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are the views of Ben Inker through the period ending December 2023, and are subject to change at any time based on market and other conditions. This is not an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security and should not be construed as such. References to specific securities and issuers are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, recommendations to purchase or sell such securities
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