The Quant Cycle — The Time Variation in Factor Returns

Although the factors in asset pricing models offer a premium in the long run, they are undergoing bull and bear market cycles in the short term. One would expect that it is due to their connection to the business cycles as the factor premium represents a reward for bearing the macroeconomic risks. A novel study by Blitz (2021) finds that traditional business cycle indicators can’t explain much of the time variation of factor returns as the factors are a behavioral phenomenon driven by investor sentiment. To capture the large factor cyclical variation, the author proposes a quant cycle that is defined by the peaks and troughs in the factor returns corresponding to the bull and bear markets.