Hedging Derivative Securities and Incomplete Markets: An Epsilon-Arbitrage Approach
with Dimitris Bertsimas and Leonid Kogan, Operations Research 49 (2001), 372–397.
Given a European derivative security with an arbitrary payoff function and a corresponding set of underlying securities on which the derivative security is based, we solve the dynamic replication problem: find a self-financing dynamic portfolio strategy—involving only the underlying securities—that most closely approximates the payoff function at maturity. By applying stochastic dynamic programming to the minimization of a mean-squared-error loss function under Markov state-dynamics, we derive recursive expressions for the optimal-replication strategy that are readily implemented in practice. The approximation error or "epsilon" of the optimal-replication strategy is also given recursively and may be used to quantify the "degree" of market incompleteness. To investigate the practical significance of these epsilon-arbitrage strategies, we consider several numerical examples including path-dependent options and options on assets with stochastic volatility and jumps.
Computational Challenges of Financial Engineering
with Martin Haugh, Computing in Science & Engineering 3 (2001), 54–59.
One of the fastest growing areas of scientific computing is in the financial industry. Many of the most basic problems in financial analysis are still unsolved, and are surprisingly resilient to the onslaught of legions of talented researchers from many diverse disciplines. In this article, we hope to give readers a sense of these challenges by describing a relatively simple problem that all investors face—managing a portfolio of financial securities over time to optimize a particular objective function—and showing how complex such a problem can become as real-world considerations such as taxes, preferences, and portfolio constraints are incorporated into its formulation.
Asset Allocation and Derivatives
with Martin Haugh, Quantitative Finance 1 (2001), 45–72.
The fact that derivative securities are equivalent to specific dynamic trading strategies in complete markets suggests the possibility of constructing buy-and-hold portfolios of options that mimic certain dynamic investment policies, e.g., asset-allocation rules. We explore this possibility by solving the following problem: given an optimal dynamic investment policy, find a set of options at the start of the investment horizon which will come closest to the optimal dynamic investment policy. We solve this problem for several combinations of preferences, return dynamics, and optimality criteria, and show that under certain conditions, a portfolio consisting of just a few options is an excellent substitute for considerably more complex dynamic investment policies.
An Econometric Model of Serial Correlation and Illiquidity in Hedge-Fund Returns
with Mila Getmansky and Igor Makarov, Journal of Financial Economics 74 (2004), 529–609.
The returns to hedge funds and other alternative investments are often highly serially correlated in sharp contrast to the returns of more traditional investment vehicles such as long-only equity portfolios and mutual funds. In this paper, we explore several sources of such serial correlation and show that the most likely explanation is illiquidity exposure, i.e., investments in securities that are not actively traded and for which market prices are not always readily available. For portfolios of illiquid securities, reported returns will tend to be smoother than true economic returns, which will understate volatility and increase risk-adjusted performance measures such as the Sharpe ratio. We propose an econometric model of illiquidity exposure and develop estimators for the smoothing profile as well as a smoothing-adjusted Sharpe ratio. For a sample of 908 hedge funds drawn from the TASS database, we show that our estimated smoothing coefficients vary considerably across hedge-fund style categories and may be a useful proxy for quantifying illiquidity exposure.
Foundations of Technical Analysis: Computational Algorithms, Statistical Inference, and Empirical Implementation
with Harry Mamaysky and Jiang Wang, Journal of Finance 55 (2000), 1705–1765.
Technical analysis, also known as "charting,'' has been a part of financial practice for many decades, but this discipline has not received the same level of academic scrutiny and acceptance as more traditional approaches such as fundamental analysis. One of the main obstacles is the highly subjective nature of technical analysis—the presence of geometric shapes in historical price charts is often in the eyes of the beholder. In this paper, we propose a systematic and automatic approach to technical pattern recognition using nonparametric kernel regression, and apply this method to a large number of U.S. stocks from 1962 to 1996 to evaluate the effectiveness of technical analysis. By comparing the unconditional empirical distribution of daily stock returns to the conditional distribution—conditioned on specific technical indicators such as head-and-shoulders or double-bottoms—we find that over the 31-year sample period, several technical indicators do provide incremental information and may have some practical value.
Regulatory Reform in the Wake of the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008
Journal of Financial Economic Policy 1 (2009), 4-43
Financial crises are unavoidable when hardwired human behavior—fear and greed, or 'animal spirits—is combined with free enterprise, and cannot be legislated or regulated away. Like hurricanes and other forces of nature, market bubbles and crashes cannot be entirely eliminated, but their most destructive consequences can be greatly mitigated with proper preparation. In fact, the most damaging effects of financial crisis come not from loss of wealth, but rather from those who are unprepared for such losses and panic in response. This perspective has several implications for the types of regulatory reform needed in the wake of the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, all centered around the need for greater transparency, improved measures of systemic risk, more adaptive regulations including counter-cyclical leverage constraints, and more emphasis on financial literacy starting in high school, including certifications for expertise in financial engineering for the senior management and directors of all financial institutions.
Where Do Alphas Come From?: A New Measure of the Value of Active Investment Management
Journal of Investment Management 6 (2008), 1–29.
The value of active investment management is traditionally measured by alpha, beta, tracking error, and the Sharpe and information ratios. These are essentially static characteristics of the marginal distributions of returns at a single point in time, and do not incorporate dynamic aspects of a manager's investment process. In this paper, I propose a new measure of the value of active investment management that captures both static and dynamic contributions of a portfolio manager's decisions. The measure is based on a decomposition of a portfolio's expected return into two distinct components: a static weighted-average of the individual securities' expected returns, and the sum of covariances between returns and portfolio weights. The former component measures the portion of the manager's expected return due to static investments in the underlying securities, while the latter component captures the forecast power implicit in the manager's dynamic investment choices. This measure can be computed for long-only investments, long/short portfolios, and asset allocation rules, and is particularly relevant for hedge-fund strategies where both components are significant contributors to their expected returns, but only one should garner the high fees that hedge funds typically charge. Several analytical and empirical examples are provided to illustrate the practical relevance of these new measures.
Illiquidity Premia in Asset Returns: An Empirical Analysis of Hedge Funds, Mutual Funds, and US Equity Portfolios
with Amir Khandani, Quarterly Journal of Finance 1 (2011), 1-59.
We establish a link between illiquidity and positive autocorrelation in asset returns among a sample of hedge funds, mutual funds, and various equity portfolios. For hedge funds, this link can be confirmed by comparing the return autocorrelations of funds with shorter vs. longer redemption-notice periods. We also document significant positive return-autocorrelation in portfolios of securities that are generally considered less liquid, e.g., small-cap stocks, corporate bonds, mortgage-backed securities, and emerging-market investments.
130/30: The New Long-Only
with Pankaj Patel, Journal of Portfolio Management 34 (2008), 12-38.
Long-only portfolio managers and investors have acknowledged that the long-only constraint is a potentially costly drag on performance, and loosening this constraint can add value. However, the magnitude of the performance drag is difficult to measure without a proper benchmark for a 130/30 portfolio. In this paper, we provide a passive but dynamic benchmark consisting of a 'plain-vanilla' 130/30 strategy using simple factors to rank stocks and standard methods for constructing portfolios based on these rankings. Based on this strategy, we produce two types of indexes: investable and 'look ahead' indexes, in which the former uses only prior information and the latter uses realized returns to produce an upper bound on performance. We provide historical simulations of our 130/30 benchmarks that illustrate their advantages and disadvantages under various market conditions.
The Origin of Behavior
with Thomas Brennan, Quarterly Journal of Finance 1 (2011), 55-108.
We propose a single evolutionary explanation for the origin of several behaviors that have been observed in organisms ranging from ants to human subjects, including risk-sensitive foraging, risk aversion, loss aversion, probability matching, randomization, and diversification. Given an initial population of individuals, each assigned a purely arbitrary behavior with respect to a binary choice problem, and assuming that offspring behave identically to their parents, only those behaviors linked to reproductive success will survive, and less reproductively successful behaviors will disappear at exponential rates. This framework generates a surprisingly rich set of behaviors, and the simplicity and generality of our model suggest that these behaviors are primitive and universal.