Frontiers of Finance: Evolution and Efficient Markets
with J. Doyne Farmer, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 96 (1999), 9991–9992.
In this review article, we explore several recent advances in the quantitative modeling of financial markets. We begin with the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and describe how this controversial idea has stimulated a number of new directions of research, some focusing on more elaborate mathematical models that are capable of rationalizing the empirical facts, others taking a completely different tack in rejecting rationality altogether. One of the most promising directions is to view financial markets from a biological perspective and, specifically, within an evolutionary framework in which markets, instruments, institutions, and investors interact and evolve dynamically according to the "law" of economic selection. Under this view, financial agents compete and adapt, but they do not necessarily do so in an optimal fashion. Evolutionary and ecological models of financial markets is truly a new frontier whose exploration has just begun.
The Sources and Nature of Long-Term Dependence in the Business Cycle
with Joseph Haubrich, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Economic Review 37 (2001), 15–30.
This paper examines the stochastic properties of aggregate macroeconomic time series from the standpoint of fractionally integrated models, and focuses on the persistence of economic shocks. We develop a simple macroeconomic model that exhibits long-term dependence, a consequence of aggregation in the presence of real business cycles. We derive the relation between properties of fractionally integrated macroeconomic time series and those of microeconomic data, and discuss how fiscal policy may alter their stochastic behavior. To implement these results empirically, we employ a test for fractionally integrated time series based on the Hurst-Mandelbrot rescaled range. This test is robust to short-term dependence, and is applied to quarterly and annual real GNP to determine the sources and nature of long-term dependence in the business cycle.
The Three P’s of Total Risk Management
Financial Analysts Journal 55 (1999), 13–26.
Current risk-management practices are based on probabilities of extreme dollar losses (e.g., measures like Value at Risk), but these measures capture only part of the story. Any complete risk-management system must address two other important factors: prices and preferences. Together with probabilities, these comprise the three P's of Total Risk Management. This article describes how the three Ps interact to determine sensible risk profiles for corporations and for individuals, guidelines for how much risk to bear and how much to hedge. By synthesizing existing research in economics, psychology, and decision sciences, and through an ambitious research agenda to extend this synthesis into other disciplines, a complete and systematic approach to rational decision-making in an uncertain world is within reach.
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 in Portfolio Management
with Martin Haugh, Computing in Science & Engineering 3 (2001), 54–59.
The financial industry is one of the fastest-growing areas of scientific computing. Two decades ago, terms such as financial engineering, computational finance, and financial mathematics did not exist in common usage. Today, these areas are distinct and enormously popular academic disciplines with their own journals, conferences, and professional societies. One explanation for this area’s remarkable growth and the impressive array of mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists, and economists that are drawn to it is the formidable intellectual challenges intrinsic to financial markets. Many of the most basic problems in financial analysis are unsolved and surprisingly resilient to the onslaught of researchers from diverse disciplines. In this article, we hope to give a sense of these challenges by describing a relatively simple problem that all investors face when managing a portfolio of financial securities over time. Such a problem becomes more complex once real-world considerations factor into its formulation. We present the basic dynamic portfolio optimization problem and then consider three aspects of it: taxes, investor preferences, and portfolio constraints. These three issues are by no means exhaustive—they merely illustrate examples of the kinds of challenges financial engineers face today. Examples of other computational issues in portfolio optimization appear elsewhere.
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.