Has momentum lost its momentum?

Debarati Bhattacharya, Wei Hsien Li, Gokhan Sonaer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


We evaluate the robustness of momentum returns in the US stock market over the period 1965–2012. We find that momentum profits have become insignificant since the late 1990s. Investigations of momentum profits in high and low volatility months address the concerns about unprecedented levels of market volatility in this period rendering momentum strategy unprofitable. Momentum profits remain insignificant in tests designed to control for seasonality, up or down market conditions, firm size and liquidity. Past returns, can no longer explain the cross-sectional variation in stock returns, even following up markets. Investigation of post holding period returns of momentum portfolios and risk adjusted buy and hold returns of stocks in momentum suggests that investors possibly recognize that momentum strategy is profitable and trade in ways that arbitrage away such profits. These findings are partially consistent with Schwert (Handbook of the economics of finance. Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2003) that documents two primary reasons for the disappearance of an anomaly in the behavior of asset prices, first, sample selection bias, and second, uncovering of anomaly by investors who trade in the assets to arbitrage it away. In further analyses we find evidence that suggest two other possible explanations for the declining momentum profits, besides uncovering of the anomaly by investors, that involve decline in the risk premium on a macroeconomic factor, growth rate in industrial production in particular and relative improvement in market efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-218
Number of pages28
JournalReview of Quantitative Finance and Accounting
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Asset pricing
  • Market anomaly
  • Market efficiency
  • Momentum


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