"Volatility is sharply lower on low turnover stocks than on high turnover stocks, providing for a greater risk-adjusted return," Goldman strategist Elad Pashtan and others said in a recent report for clients. "While seemingly counterintuitive, stocks with very high rates of turnover are more prone to fall during periods of rising volatility and declining liquidity, precisely because these stocks trade more frequently."
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The distinction is important as the Fed finds itself at a crossroads.
While the Open Market Committee holds a dovish bias, it also has sent a clear signal that it wants to begin normalizing policy as soon as economic conditions warrant. The most recent reading on gross domestic product showing a gain of 5 percent for the third quarter likely will only intensify the calls for gradual rate hikes.
Looking over the past 20 years, Goldman said low-turnover stocks outperformed high-turnover by 8 percentage points during higher-rate periods, outperforming in 89 percent of semi-annual holding periods.
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Some of the biggest gainers in 2014 among Goldman's basket of low-turnover stocks include Seaboard, Erie Indemnity, Cantel Medical, Berkshire Hathaway and HNI.