Deconstructing the Low-Vol Anomaly
We study several aspects of the so-called low-vol and low-beta anomalies, some already documented (such as the universality of the effect over different geographical zones), others hitherto not clearly discussed in the literature.
Our most significant message is that the low-vol anomaly is the result of two independent effects.
One is the striking negative correlation between past realized volatility and dividend yield.
Second is the fact that ex-dividend returns themselves are weakly dependent on the volatility level, leading to better risk-adjusted returns for low-vol stocks. This effect is further amplified by compounding.
We find that the low-vol strategy is not associated to short term reversals, nor does it qualify as a Risk-Premium strategy, since its overall skewness is slightly positive.
For practical purposes, the strong dividend bias and the resulting correlation with other valuation metrics (such as Earnings to Price or Book to Price) does make the low-vol strategies to some extent redundant, at least for equities.