What Happened To The Quants In August 2007?2007
During the week of August 6, 2007, a number of quantitative long/short equity hedge funds experienced unprecedented losses. Based on TASS hedge-fund data and simulations of a specific long/short equity strategy, we hypothesize that the losses were initiated by the rapid "unwind" of one or more sizable quantitative equity market-neutral portfolios. Given the speed and price impact with which this occurred, it was likely the result of a forced liquidation by a multi-strategy fund or proprietary-trading desk, possibly due to a margin call or a risk reduction. These initial losses then put pressure on a broader set of long/short and long-only equity portfolios, causing further losses by triggering stop/loss and de-leveraging policies. A significant rebound of these strategies occurred on August 10th, which is also consistent with the unwind hypothesis. This dislocation was apparently caused by forces outside the long/short equity sector—in a completely unrelated set of markets and instruments—suggesting that systemic risk in the hedge-fund industry may have increased in recent years.
The Derivatives Sourcebook2006
The Derivatives Sourcebook is a citation study and classification system that organizes the many strands of the derivatives literature and assigns each citation to a category. Over 1800 research articles are collected and organized into a simple web-based searchable database. We have also included the 1997 Nobel lectures of Robert Merton and Myron Scholes as a backdrop to this literature.
Attack of the Clones2006
Hedge funds are considered by many investors to be an attractive investment, thanks in large part to their diversification benefits and distinctive risk profiles. The major drawbacks are their high fees and lack of transparency. Research by Jasmina Hasanhodzic and Andrew W. Lo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology raises the possibility of creating passive portfolios that provide similar risk exposures to those of hedge funds at lower costs and with greater transparency. Hasanhodzic and Lo find that for certain hedge fund strategies, these hedge fund “clones” perform well enough to warrant serious consideration.
Survival of the Richest2006
In financial markets, as in many human endeavors, there’s a battle between reason and madness. On one side are the disciples of the efficient-markets hypothesis: the notion that markets fully, accurately, and instantaneously incorporate all relevant information into prices. These adherents assume that market participants are rational, always acting in their own interest and making mathematically optimal decisions. On the other side are the champions of behavioral economics: a younger discipline that points to bubbles, crashes, panics, manias, and other distinctly unreasonable phenomena as evidence of irrationality.
It’s hard to deny that investors act irrationally from time to time, yet behavioralists have so far failed to offer an alternative to supplant the efficient-markets hypothesis, which does brilliantly explain many economic occurrences and has had an enormous impact on modern financial theory and practice. Both approaches seem to have compelling explanatory power in their own right, yet they have opposing premises: rationality versus human psychology. How can the efficient-markets hypothesis and behavioral economics ever be reconciled? Perhaps by looking to Charles Darwin instead of Adam Smith.
Do Hedge Funds Increase Systemic Risks?2006
In this article, we attempt to quantify the potential impact of hedge funds on systemic risk by developing a number of new risk measures for hedge funds and applying them to individual and aggregate hedge-fund returns data. These measures include: illiquidity risk exposure, nonlinear factor models for hedge-fund and banking-sector indexes, logistic regression analysis of hedge-fund liquidation probabilities, and aggregate measures of volatility and distress based on regime-switching models. Our preliminary findings suggest that the hedge-fund industry may be heading into a challenging period of lower expected returns, and that systemic risk is currently on the rise. This is a redacted version of our paper "Systemic Risk and Hedge Funds".
Trading Volume: Implications of an Intertemporal Capital Asset Pricing Model2006
We derive an intertemporal capital asset pricing model with multiple assets and heterogeneous investors, and explore its implications for the behavior of trading volume and asset returns. Assets contain two types of risks: market risk and the risk of changing market conditions. We show that investors trade only in two portfolios: the market portfolio, and a hedging portfolio, which allows them to hedge the dynamic risk. This implies that trading volume of individual assets exhibit a two-factor structure, and their factor loadings depend on their weights in the hedging portfolio. This allows us to empirically identify the hedging portfolio using volume data. We then test the two properties of the hedging portfolio: its return provides the best predictor of future market returns and its return together with the return of the market portfolio are the two risk factors determining the cross-section of asset returns.
Reconciling Efficient Markets with Behavioral Finance: The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis2005
The battle between proponents of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and champions of behavioral finance has never been more pitched, and there is little consensus as to which side is winning or what the implications are for investment management and consulting. In this article, I review the case for and against the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, and describe a new framework—the Adaptive Markets Hypothesis—in which the traditional models of modern financial economics can co-exist alongside behavioral models in an intellectually consistent manner. Based on evolutionary principles, the Adaptive Markets Hypothesis implies that the degree of market efficiency is related to environmental factors characterizing market ecology such as the number of competitors in the market, the magnitude of profit opportunities available, and the adaptability of the market participants. Many of the examples that behavioralists cite as violations of rationality that are inconsistent with market efficiency—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, I show that the Adaptive Markets Hypothesis yields a number of surprisingly concrete applications for both investment managers and consultants.
Fear and Greed in Financial Markets: A Clinical Study of Day-Traders2005
We investigate several possible links between psychological factors and trading performance in a sample of 80 anonymous day-traders. Using daily emotional-state surveys over a five-week period as well as personality inventory surveys, we construct measures of personality traits and emotional states for each subject and correlate these measures with daily normalized profits-and-losses records. We find that subjects whose emotional reaction to monetary gains and losses was more intense on both the positive and negative side exhibited significantly worse trading performance. Psychological traits derived from a standardized personality inventory survey do not reveal any specific "trader personality profile", raising the possibility that trading skills may not necessarily be innate, and that different personality types may be able to perform trading functions equally well after proper instruction and practice.
The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis: Market Efficiency from an Evolutionary Perspective2004
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.
Asset Prices and Trading Volume Under Fixed Transactions Costs2004
We propose a dynamic equilibrium model of asset prices and trading volume with heterogeneous agents facing fixed transactions costs. We show that even small fixed costs can give rise to large "no-trade" regions for each agent's optimal trading policy and a significant illiquidity discount in asset prices. We perform a calibration exercise to illustrate the empirical relevance of our model for aggregate data. Our model also has implications for the dynamics of order flow, bid/ask spreads, market depth, the allocation of trading costs between buyers and sellers, and other aspects of market microstructure, including a square-root power law between trading volume and fixed costs which we confirm using historical US stock market data from 1993 to 1997.
An Econometric Model of Serial Correlation and Illiquidity in Hedge-Fund Returns2004
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.
Sifting Through the Wreckage: Lessons from Recent Hedge Fund Liquidations2004
We document the empirical properties of a sample of 1,765 funds in the TASS Hedge Fund database from 1994 to 2004 that are no longer active. The TASS sample shows that attrition rates differ significantly across investment styles, from a low of 5.2% per year on average for convertible arbitrage funds to a high of 14.4% per year on average for managed futures funds. We relate a number of factors to these attrition rates, including past performance, volatility, and investment style, and also document differences in illiquidity risk between active and liquidated funds. We conclude with a proposal for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to play a new role in promoting greater transparency and stability in the hedge-fund industry.
We develop a dynamic equilibrium model of an asset market with multiple securities in which investors trade to share risks and smooth consumption over time, and investigate the empirical implications for the cross-sectional characteristics of trading volume and the dynamic volume-return relation. We extend the model to include fixed transactions costs, and when calibrated to aggregate data, the model implies realistic levels of trading volume. We also evaluate the efficacy of technical analysis in capturing the relation between prices and volume heuristically.
It’s 11pm—Do You Know Where Your Liquidity Is? The Mean-Variance-Liquidity Frontier2003
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.
The Statistics of Sharpe Ratios2002
The building blocks of the Sharpe ratio—expected returns and volatilities— are unknown quantities that must be estimated statistically and are, therefore, subject to estimation error. This raises the natural question: How accurately are Sharpe ratios measured? To address this question, I derive explicit expressions for the statistical distribution of the Sharpe ratio using standard asymptotic theory under several sets of assumptions for the return-generating process—independently and identically distributed returns, stationary returns, and with time aggregation. I show that monthly Sharpe ratios cannot be annualized by multiplying by except under very special circumstances, and I derive the correct method of conversion in the general case of stationary returns. In an illustrative empirical example of mutual funds and hedge funds, I find that the annual Sharpe ratio for a hedge fund can be overstated by as much as 65 percent because of the presence of serial correlation in monthly returns, and once this serial correlation is properly taken into account, the rankings of hedge funds based on Sharpe ratios can change dramatically.