Finance: A Selective Survey
Journal of the American Statistical Association 95 (2000), 629-635.
Ever since the publication in 1565 of Girolamo Cardano's treatise on gambling, Liber de Ludo Aleae (The Book of Games of Chance), statistics and financial markets have become inextricably linked. Over the past few decades many of these links have become part of the canon of modern finance, and it is now impossible to fully appreciate the workings of financial markets without them. This selective survey covers three of the most important ideas of finance—efficient markets, the random walk hypothesis, and derivative pricing models—that illustrate the enormous research opportunities that lie at the intersection of finance and statistics.
The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis: Market Efficiency from an Evolutionary Perspective
Journal of Portfolio Management 30 (2004), 15–29.
One of the most influential ideas in the past 30 years of the Journal of Portfolio Management is the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, the idea that market prices incorporate all information rationally and instantaneously. However, the emerging discipline of behavioral economics and finance has challenged this hypothesis, arguing that markets are not rational, but are driven by fear and greed instead. Recent research in the cognitive neurosciences suggests that these two perspectives are opposite sides of the same coin. In this article I propose a new framework that reconciles market efficiency with behavioral alternatives by applying the principles of evolution—competition, adaptation, and natural selection—to financial interactions. By extending Herbert Simon's notion of "satisficing'' with evolutionary dynamics, I argue that much of what behavioralists cite as counterexamples to economic rationality—loss aversion, overconfidence, overreaction, mental accounting, and other behavioral biases—are, in fact, consistent with an evolutionary model of individuals adapting to a changing environment via simple heuristics. Despite the qualitative nature of this new paradigm, the Adaptive Markets Hypothesis offers a number of surprisingly concrete implications for the practice of portfolio management.
When Is Time Continuous?
with Dimitris Bertsimas and Leonid Kogan, Journal of Financial Economics 55 (2000), 173–204.
In this paper we study the tracking error resulting from the discrete-time application of continuous-time delta-hedging procedures for European options. We characterize the asymptotic distribution of the tracking error as the number of discrete time periods increases, and its joint distribution with other assets. We introduce the notion of temporal granularity of the continuous-time stochastic model that enables us to characterize the degree to which discrete-time approximations of continuous time models track the payoff of the option. We derive closed form expressions for the granularity for a put and call option on a stock that follows a geometric Brownian motion and a mean-reverting process. These expressions offer insight into the tracking error involved in applying continuous-time delta-hedging in discrete time. We also introduce alternative measures of the tracking error and analyze their properties.
It’s 11pm—Do You Know Where Your Liquidity Is? The Mean-Variance-Liquidity Frontier
with Constantin Petrov and Martin Wierzbicki, Journal of Investment Management 1 (2003), 55–93.
We introduce liquidity into the standard mean-variance portfolio optimization framework by defining several measures of liquidity and then constructing three-dimensional mean-variance-liquidity frontiers in three ways—liquidity filtering, liquidity constraints, and a mean-variance-liquidity objective function. We show that portfolios close to each other on the traditional mean-variance efficient frontier can differ substantially in their liquidity characteristics. In a simple empirical example, the liquidity exposure of mean-variance efficient portfolios change dramatically from month to month, and even simple forms of liquidity optimization can yield significant benefits in reducing a portfolio's liquidity-risk exposure without sacrificing a great deal of expected return per unit risk.
Trading Volume: Definitions, Data Analysis, and Implications of Portfolio Theory
with Jiang Wang, Review of Financial Studies 13 (2000), 257–300.
We examine the implications of portfolio theory for the cross-sectional behavior of equity trading volume. We begin by showing that a two-fund separation theorem suggests a natural definition for trading volume: share turnover. If two-fund separation holds, share turnover must be identical for all securities. If (K+1)-fund separation holds, we show that share turnover satisfies and approximate linear K-factor structure, These implications are empirically tested using weekly turnover data for NYSE and AMEX securities from 1962 to 1996. We find strong evidence against two-fund separation and an eigenvalue decomposition suggests that volume is driven by a two-factor linear model.
Bubble, Rubble, Finance In Trouble?
Journal of Psychology and Financial Markets 3 (2002), 76–86.
In this talk, I review the implications of the recent rise and fall of the technology sector for traditional financial theories and their behavioral alternatives. Although critics of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis argue that markets are driven by fear and greed, not fundamentals, recent research in the cognitive neurosciences suggest that these two perspectives are opposite sides of the same coin. I propose a new paradigm for financial economics that focuses more on the evolutionary biology and ecology of markets rather than the more traditional physicists' view. By marrying the principles of evolution to Herbert Simon's notion of "satisficing,'' I argue that much of what behavioralists cite as counter-examples to economic rationality—loss aversion, overconfidence, overreaction, mental accounting, and other behavioral biases—are, in fact, consistent with an evolutionary model of rational agents learning to adapt to their environment via satisficing heuristics.
Optimal Control of Execution Costs for Portfolios
with Dimitris Bertsimas and Paul Hummel, Computing in Science & Engineering 1 (2000), 40–53.
The dramatic growth in institutionally managed assets, coupled with the advent of internet trading and electronic brokerage for retail investors, has led to a surge in the size and volume of trading. At the same time, competition in the asset management industry has increased to the point where fractions of a percent in performance can separate the top funds from those in the next tier. In this environment, portfolio managers have begun to explore active management of trading costs as a means of boosting returns. Controlling execution cost can be viewed as a stochastic dynamic optimization problem because trading takes time, stock prices exhibit random fluctuations, and execution prices depend on trade size, order flow, and market conditions. In this paper, we apply stochastic dynamic programming to derive trading strategies that minimize the expected cost of executing a portfolio of securities over a fixed period of time, i.e., we derive the optimal sequence of trades as a function of prices, quantitites, and other market conditions. To illustrate the practical relevance of our methods, we apply them to a hypothetical portfolio of 25 stocks by estimating their price-impact functions using historical trade data from 1996 and deriving the optimal execution strategies. We also perform several Monte Carlo simulation experiments to compare the performance of the optimal strategy to several alternatives.
The Psychophysiology of Real-Time Financial Risk Processing
with Dmitry V. Repin, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 14 (2002), 323–339.
A longstanding controversy in economics and finance is whether financial markets are governed by rational forces or by emotional responses. We study the importance of emotion in the decisionmaking process of professional securities traders by measuring their physiological characteristics, e.g., skin conductance, blood volume pulse, etc., during live trading sessions while simultaneously capturing real-time prices from which market events can be detected. In a sample of 10 traders, we find significant correlation between electrodermal responses and transient market events, and between changes in cardiovascular variables and market volatility. We also observe differences in these correlations among the 10 traders which may be systematically related to the traders' levels of experience.
Nonparametric Risk Management and Implied Risk Aversion
with Yacine Ait-Sahalia, Journal of Econometrics 94 (2000), 9–51.
Typical value-at-risk (VAR) calculations involve the probabilities of extreme dollar losses, based on the statistical distributions of market prices. Such quantities do not account for the fact that the same dollar loss can have two very different economic valuations, depending on business conditions. We propose a nonparametric VAR measure that incorporates economic valuation according to the state-price density associated with the underlying price processes. The state-price density yields VAR values that are adjusted for risk aversion, time preferences, and other variations in economic valuation. In the context of a representative agent equilibrium model, we construct an estimator of the risk-aversion coefficient that is implied by the joint observations on option prices and underlying asset value.
Econometric Models of Limit-Order Executions
with Craig MacKinlay and June Zhang, Journal of Financial Economics 65 (2002), 31–71.
Limit orders incur no price impact, however, their execution time is uncertain. We develop an econometric model of limit-order execution times using survival analysis, and estimate it with actual limit-order data. We estimate versions for time-to-first-fill and time-to-completion, and for limit-sells and limit-buys, and incorporate the effects of explanatory variables such as the limit price, the limit size, the bid/offer spread, and market volatility. We find that execution times are very sensitive to limit price and several other explanatory variables, but not sensitive to limit size. We also show that hypothetical limit-order executions, constructed either theoretically from first-passage times or empirically from transactions data, are very poor proxies for actual limit-order executions.