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The Man Who Solved the Market – Notes

When it comes to the world’s most secretive hedge fund any content is worthwhile to read. I finished the book is 3 days and had to re-read a couple more chapters to ensure I fully absorbed the couple nuggets in there. I would recommend this book to everyone!

The mystery behind how Simons discovered the “truth” is shrouded in mystery. Even googling about what they traded doesn’t yield many answers. This new book by Gregory Zuckerman was an eye opener. It revealed how Renaissance came to be including Simons early struggles.

One of the surprising things I’ve learned was that Simons was actually the money guy. Though he did trade and built up the business in the early years, he wasn’t the main guy leading the research breakthroughs. Instead Simons seem to be running side gigs like investing in start ups back in the day. People like Ax, Berlekamp, Carmona, Laufer, Mercer, and Brown were the main brains behind all the models.

Now to the trading models. Even though the author isn’t trained in finance, I really think he did a decent job explaining some of the broad concepts utilized by Renaissance in the early days. Before 1988 (right before Carmona joined), Renaissance was a typical CTA / point and click trading firm. They utilized breakout models/linear regression (page 83). What changed around that time was both Carmona and Laufer started to data mine for trading patterns as oppose to hand crafting them. This especially stood out for me personally as about a year ago I started to conduct research via data mining. As Renaissance thrived through the 90s, more than 50% of their models were data mined. (page 203) Their reasoning resonated with me a lot. “Recurring patterns without apparent logic to explain them had an added bonus: They were less likely to be discovered and adopted by rivals…”

Additional interesting tidbit:

  • “Laufer’s work also showed that, if markets moved higher late in a day, it often paid to buy futures contracts just before the close of trading and dump them at the markets opening the next day.” Isn’t this the overnight premium hes talking about for equity futures? Sure sounds like it…. (page 144)
  • On the subject of managing models, Laufer insisted on a single model as oppose to multiple models. (page 142) Presented with many different signals, they built a trade selection algorithm that further determines which trades to take. Strategies that did well will automatically without human intervention get allocated more money.(page 144)
  • Started out trading end of day and slowly breaking down in to 2 sessions per day. Simons then suggested going down to 5 minute bars. (page 143)
  • “Did the 188th five-minute bar in cocoa future market regularly fall on days investors got nervous, while bar 199 rebounded?” page(143) Looked at intraday seasonality and conditional signals. Edge layered over edge to increase probability of being right.
  • Mercer and Brown took over Keplers Stat arb operation. Soon stock trading pnl was greater than futures trading.

While I am sure today’s Renaissance is far from what the booked described, the broad concepts like data mining, alternative data collection, and stat arb all play a role in their continued success in some form or fashion. Please let me know if I’ve missed anything interesting. Of course, I may have interpreted it entirely wrong. Please leave a comment below!

 

Bibliography:

Zuckerman, Gregory. The Man Who Solved the Market. Portfolio/Penguin, 2019.

Automated Trading System – Internal Order Matching

Most automated trading systems (ATS) are built such that there are little to no interactions between component models. This is limiting. Here I am referring to a trading system as the overarching architecture that houses multiple individual models.

Without interactions, each model is operating within an environment that it is preconceived in. For example, mean reversion can happen in different time/event frequencies. A model that is parameterized to take advantage on certain frequency will not have knowledge of others.

One component within an ATS that is rather complicated to architect is the order management system. The OMS is the component that handles all order requests generated by the prediction models. It must always be aware of outstanding orders (limit/market, etc), partial fills, and proper handling of rejects,etc. Now the complexity is increased when a portfolio of prediction models all generate an order for a given tick. (Which should be processed first?)

The general rule of thumb in dealing with this is to aggregate all orders by asset to reduce transaction costs. If there are a mix of long/shorts, the net will be the final order quantity. When it is filled, simply dis-aggregate them back in to component fills to the respective models (internal matching). The annoying part, in my opinion, is when you introduce multiple order types. For example, Limit and Market orders. How would one architect the OMS to handle both? Hmm.. This goes back to the debate of the degree of coupling between the strategy and the OMS itself….

CRSM Code

The code below represents the CRSM algorithm. It is adopted to the SIT framework. I have refactored the code so that its is easier for the user to use and understand.

I would like to once again thank you David Varadi for his tireless effort in guiding me along this past year. My gratitude also goes out to Adam Butler and BPG Associates for their support  all along the way.

Download Code: here

Thanks,

Mike

Shiny Market Dashboard

I’ve been asked multiple times regarding code for the dashboard so thought I’d release it. I coded the whole thing in one night last year so it’s not the best and most efficient, buts it’s a good framework to get your own stuff up and running. It’s long, north of 700 lines of code.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/rxc8l4xnct5bcci/AABvTD2iJjC6wicLed3q9Qr3a

On another note, I’ve recently graduated from University and am excited to be moving to Chicago in a month for work. I am looking forward to the exciting opportunity. Also I will be releasing my graduating thesis in the coming weeks on RSO optimization. David Varadi has been my thesis advisor and mentor and I want to thank him for that!

Mike

Natural Language Processing

I’ve recently updated some matlab code about machine learning on to github. Today I’ll be adding to that with some Natural Language Processing (NLP) Code. The main concepts we covered in class were ngram modelling which is a markovian process. This means that future states or values have a conditional dependence on the past values. In NLP this concept is utilized via training n gram probabilities models on given texts. For example, if we specify N to equal to 3, then each word in a given sentence depends on the last two words.

So the equation for conditional probability is given by:

CodeCogsEqn

Extending this to multiple sequential events, this is generalized to be (chain rule)

CodeCogsEqn (1)

 

This above equation is very useful for modelling sequential stuff like sentences. Extension to these concepts to finance are utilized heavily in hidden Markov models that attempts to model states in various markets.  I hope the interested reader comment below for other interesting applications.

The last topic we are covering is class is computer vision. As of now, topics like image noise reduction via Gaussian filtering, edge detection, segmentation are being covered. I will post more about them in the future.

Code Link

Cheers,

Mike

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence surrounds much of our lives. The aim of this branch of computer science is to build intelligent machines that is able to operate as individuals; much like humans. I am sure most of us have watched the Terminator movie series and questioned to what extent will our own society converge to that in the movie. While that may sound preposterous, much of what automated system developers do revolves around building adaptive systems that react to changes in markets. Inspired by a course I am taking at school right now, I would like to use this post as a general fundamental intro to AI.

If you ask people what intelligence is, most will initially find it hard to wrap words around the idea. We just know what it is and our gut tells us we, humans, are the pinnacle of what defines intelligence. But fact is, intelligence encompasses so much. According to the first sentence in wikipedia, there are ten different ways to define it.

“Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving.” -Wikipedia

Since it encompasses so much it is not easy to define it in a single sentence. What can be said is that intelligence relates to one’s ability to problem solve, reason, perceive relationships, and learn.

Now that I’ve offered a sense of what intelligence means, what, on the other hand, is artificial intelligence? Artificial intelligence is the field of designing machines that is capable of intelligent behavior; machines that is able to reason; machines that is able to learn. More precisely, the definition of AI can be organized in to four different sections:

  • Thinking Humanly
  • Thinking Rationally
  • Acting Humanly
  • Acting Rationally

The first two relates to thoughts processes while the last two relates to behavior. Thinking humanly revolves around whether the entity in question is able think and have a mind of its own. This is essentially making decision, learning and  problem solving. Acting humanly is whether a machine is able to process and communicate language, store information or knowledge and act based on what it knows and learn to adapt based on new information. These set of required traits are formulated based on the famous Turing Test which examines if a machine is able to act like a human through answering questions asked by anther human being. The machine passes the test if the person asking the question isn’t able to determine if its a machine or human. Thinking rationally closely incorporates the study of logic and logical reasoning. It was first introduced by Aristotle who attempted to provide a systematic way of inferring a proposition based on a given premise. An famous example would be “Socrates is a man; all man are mortal; therefore, Socrates is mortal.” Lastly, acting rationally is the idea of choosing the most suitable behavior that produces the best expected outcome. Another word one is rational if given all its knowledge and experience, selects the action that maximizes their own performance measure/utility.

Agents

When studying AI, the term agent is used to represent an entity/model that interacts with the environment. More precisely, an agent perceives the environment through its sensors and employ actions through actuators. Comparing this to humans, imagine sensors as eyes/ears and actuators as arms and legs. The sensors will at each time step take inputs, called percepts, which are than processed by the agent program. The agent program then passes the inputs in to an agent function. The agent function maps inputs to correct outputs (actions) which are then sent via the agent program to the actuators. This agent based framework closely relates to automated trading systems. The environment is the market and the changing prices at each time interval. The agent program would be our trading system which takes in daily price information and pipes it into the agent function, or the logic of the trading system. For example, todays new price is updated which is passed in to the trading logic. The logic specifies that if the current price is $10, it will sell. The sell action is passed back to the environment as a sell order.

The above example is a very basic type of agent known as the simple reflex agent. This type of agent only makes decision solely on the current percept (price). It doesn’t have a memory of the previous states. A more complex agent known as the model based reflex agent is one in which it has memory of the past, known as its own percept sequence. Also this agent has an internal understanding of how the environment works which is detailed in its own model. This model of the world takes inputs and identify the state it is in. Given the state, the model forecasts what the likely environment will be like in the next time step. Proper action is then recommended and executed via actuators. (Think of markov models)  So far, the agents I’ve introduced largely reflect that of a function that take input and spits out a output. To make things more humanly, the next agent I will introduce is called a goal based agent. This is similar to how given our current circumstances, we aim to maximize out objective function. The objective function can be money or anything that makes us happy. More concretely, the goal based agent is an extension of the model based reflex agent but it assigns a score for each recommended action. The agent will choose the one that maximizes its own objective function.

The reader will most likely ask how this knowledge helps them make money in the markets. What I can say is that finance is enter a brave new world where together with technology is transforming how money is being made in the markets. Having a understanding in finance and statistics in my opinion is not enough. Those are the areas where your competitors are already fishing (mostly). Knowledge in subject areas like AI, speech recognition, natural language processing, machine learning, and computer vision (just to name a few) will allow you to be more creative in design. I urge the curious minds to explore the unexplored!

Engineering Risks and Returns

In this post, I want to present a framework for formulating portfolio with targeted risk or return. The basic idea was inspired by controlling risk from a different point of view. The traditional way of controlling for portfolio risk was to apply a given set of weights to historical data to calculate historical risk. If estimated portfolio risk exceeds a threshold, we peel off allocation percentages for each asset. In this framework, I focus on constructing portfolios that target a given risk or return on a efficient risk return frontier.

First lets get some data to so we can visualize traditional portfolio optimization’s risk return characteristics. I will be using a 8 asset ETF universe.

rm(list=ls())
setInternet2(TRUE)
con = gzcon(url('http://www.systematicportfolio.com/sit.gz', 'rb'))
source(con)
close(con)
tickers = spl('EEM,EFA,GLD,IWM,IYR,QQQ,SPY,TLT')
data <- new.env()
getSymbols(tickers, src = 'yahoo', from = '1980-01-01', env = data, auto.assign = T)
for(i in ls(data)) data[[i]] = adjustOHLC(data[[i]], use.Adjusted=T)
bt.prep(data, align='keep.all', dates='2000:12::')

Here are the return streams we are working with

Rplot

The optimization algorithms I will employ are the following:

  • Minimum Variance Portfolio
  • Risk Parity Portfolio
  • Equal Risk Contribution Portfolio
  • Maximum Diversification Portfolio
  • Max Sharpe Portfolio

To construct the risk return plane, I will put together the necessary input assumptions (correlation, return, covariance, etc). This can be done with create.historical.ia function in the SIT tool box.

#input Assumptions
prices = data$prices
n=ncol(prices)
ret = prices/mlag(prices)-1
ia = create.historical.ia(ret,252)
# 0 <= x.i <= 1
constraints = new.constraints(n, lb = 0, ub = 1)
constraints = add.constraints(diag(n), type='>=', b=0, constraints)
constraints = add.constraints(diag(n), type='<=', b=1, constraints)

# SUM x.i = 1
constraints = add.constraints(rep(1, n), 1, type = '=', constraints)

With the above we can go ahead and input both ‘ia’ and ‘constraints’ in to the above optimization algorithms to get weights. With the weights, we can derive the portfolio risk and portfolio return. These then can be plotted on a risk return plain visually.

# create efficient frontier
ef = portopt(ia, constraints, 50, 'Efficient Frontier')
plot.ef(ia, list(ef), transition.map=F)

Rplot01

The risk return plain in the above image shows all the possible space to which a portfolio’s risk and return characteristic can reside. Anything that is beyond to the left side of the frontier do not exist (unless leverage, to which the EF will also shift leftward too). Since I am more of a visual guy, I tend to construct this risk return plain whenever I am working on new allocation algorithms. This allows me to compare with other portfolio the expected risk and return.

As you can see, each portfolio algorithm has their own set of characteristics. Note that these characteristics fluctuate across the frontier were we to frame this rolling through time. A logical extension to these risk return concepts is to construct a portfolio that aims to target ether a given risk or a given return on the frontier. To formulate this problem in SIT for the return component, simply modify the constraints as follows:

constraints = add.constraints(ia$expected.return,type='>=', b=target.return, constraints)

Note that the target.return variable is simply a variable storing the desired target return. After adding the constraint, simply run a minimum variance portfolio and you will get a target return portfolio. On the other hand, targeting risk is a bit more complicated. If you look at the efficient frontier, you will find that for a given level of risk there is two portfolios that line on it.  (The sub-optimal portion of the efficient frontier is hidden). I solved for the weights using a multi optimization framework which employed both linear and quadratic (dual) optimization.

target.risk.obj<-function(ia,constraints,target.risk){

 max.w = max.return.portfolio(ia, constraints)
 min.w = min.var.portfolio(ia, constraints)
 max.r = sum(max.w * ia$expected.return)
 min.r = sum(min.w * ia$expected.return)
 max.risk = portfolio.risk(max.w,ia)
 min.risk = portfolio.risk(min.w,ia)

 # If target risk exists as an efficient portfolio else
 # return weights of 0
 if(target.risk >= min.risk | target.risk <= max.risk){
 out <-optimize(f =target.return.risk.helper,
 interval = c(0,max.r),
 target.risk = target.risk,
 ia = ia,
 constraints = constraints)$minimum
 weight=target.return.portfolio(out)(ia,constraints)
 }else{
 weight=rep(0,ia$n)
 }

 return(weight)
}

Below is a simple backtest that takes the above assets and optimizes for the target return or target risk component. Each will run with a target of 8%.

Backtest1Now the model itself requires us to specify a return or risk component. What if instead we make that a dynamic component such that we extract ether the risk or return component of a alternative sizing algorithm. Below are the performance of the dynamic risk or return component extracted from naive risk parity.

Backtest2

 

Not surprisingly, whenever we target risk, the strategy tends to become more risky. This confirms confirms risk based allocations are superior if investors are aiming to achieve low long term volatility.

 

Thanks for reading,

Mike