Portfolio Construction Tilting towards Higher Moments

When you build your portfolio you must decide what is your risk profile. A pension fund’s risk profile is different than that of a hedge fund, which is different than that of a family office. Everyone’s goal is to maximize returns given the risk. Sinfully but commonly risk is defined as the variability in the portfolio, and so we feed our expected returns and expected risk to some optimization procedure in order to find the optimal portfolio weights. Risk serves as a decision variable. You choose the risk, and (hope to) get the returns.

A new paper from Kris Boudt, Dries Cornilly, Frederiek Van Hollee and Joeri Willems titled Algorithmic Portfolio Tilting to Harvest Higher Moment Gains makes good progress in terms of our definition of risk, and risk-return trade-off. They propose a quantified way in which you can adjust your portfolio to account not only for the variance, but also for higher moments, namely skewness and kurtosis. They do that in two steps. The first is to simply set your portfolio based on whichever approach you follow (e.g. minvol, equal risk contribution or other). In the second step you tilt the portfolio such that the higher moments are brought into focus and get the attention they deserve. This is done by deviating from the original optimization target so that higher moments are utility-improved: less variance, better skew and lower kurtosis.

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Day of the week and the cross-section of returns

I just finished reading an interesting paper by Justin Birru titled: “Day of the week and the cross-section of returns” (reference below). The story is much too simple to be true, but it looks to be so. In fact, I would probably altogether skip it without the highly ranked Journal of Financial Economics stamp of approval. However, by the end of the paper I was as convinced as one can be without actually running the analysis.

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Create own Recession Indicator using Mixture Models

Context

Broadly speaking, we can classify financial markets conditions into two categories: Bull and Bear. The first is a “todo bien” market, tranquil and generally upward sloping. The second describes a market with a downturn trend, usually more volatile. It is thought that those bull\bear terms originate from the way those animals supposedly attack. Bull thrusts its horns up while a bear swipe its paws down. At any given moment, we can only guess the state in which we are in, there is no way of telling really; simply because those two states don’t have a uniformly exact definitions. So basically we never actually observe a membership of an observation. In this post we are going to use (finite) mixture models to try and assign daily equity returns to their bull\bear subgroups. It is essentially an unsupervised clustering exercise. We will create our own recession indicator to help us quantify if the equity market is contracting or not. We use minimal inputs, nothing but equity return data. Starting with a short description of Finite Mixture Models and moving on to give a hands-on practical example.

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Market intraday momentum

I recently spotted the following intriguing paper: Market intraday momentum.
From the abstract of that paper:

Based on high frequency S&P 500 exchange-traded fund (ETF) data from 1993–2013, we show an intraday momentum pattern: the first half-hour return on the market as measured from the previous day’s market close predicts the last half-hour return. This predictability, which is both statistically and economically significant is stronger on more volatile days, on higher volume days, on recession days, and on major macroeconomic news release days.

Nice! Looks like we can all become rich now. I mean, given how it’s written, it should be quite easy for any individual with a trading account and a mouse to leverage up and start accumulating. Maybe this is so, but let’s have an informal closer look, with as little effort as possible, and see if there is anything we can say about this idea.

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Portfolio Construction with R

Preview

Constructing a portfolio means allocating your money between few chosen assets. The simplest thing you can do is evenly split your money between few chosen assets. Simple as it is, good research shows it is just fine, and even better than other more sophisticated methods (for example Optimal Versus Naive Diversification: How Inefficient is the 1/N). However, there is also good research that declares the opposite (for example Large Dynamic Covariance Matrices) so go figure.

Anyway, this post shows a few of the most common to build a portfolio. We will discuss portfolios which are optimized for:

  • Equal Risk Contribution
  • Global Minimum Variance
  • Minimum Tail-Dependence
  • Most Diversified
  • Equal weights

We will optimize based on half the sample and see out-of-sample results in the second half. Simply speaking, how those portfolios have performed.

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Bitcoin investing

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency created in 2008. I have never belonged with team “gets it” when it comes to Bitcoin investing, but perhaps time has come to reconsider.

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Why bad trading strategies may perform well? Mathematical explanation

You probably know that even a trading strategy which is actually no different from a random walk (RW henceforth) can perform very well. Perhaps you chalk it up to short-run volatility. But in fact there is a deeper reason for this to happen, in force. If you insist on using and continuously testing a RW strategy, you will find, at some point with certainty, that it has significant outperformance.

This post explains why is that.

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Multivariate volatility forecasting, part 2 – equicorrelation

Last time we showed how to estimate a CCC and DCC volatility model. Here I describe an advancement labored by Engle and Kelly (2012) bearing the name: Dynamic equicorrelation. The idea is nice and the paper is well written.

Departing where the previous post ended, once we have (say) the DCC estimates, instead of letting the variance-covariance matrix be, we force some structure by way of averaging correlation across assets. Generally speaking, correlation estimates are greasy even without any breaks in dynamics, so I think forcing some structure is for the better.

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Linking backtesting with multiple testing

The other day, Harvey Campbell from Duke University gave a talk where I work. The talk- bearing the exciting name “Backtesting” was based on a paper by the same name.

The authors tackle the important problem of data-snooping; we need to account for the fact that we conducted many trials until we found a strategy (or a variable) that ‘works’. Accessible explanations can be found here and here. In this day and age, the ‘story’ behind what you are doing is more important than ever, given the things you can do using your desktop/laptop.

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Mom, are we bear yet? (2)

5 weeks ago we took a look at the rising volatility in the (US) equity markets via a time-series threshold model for the VIX. The estimate suggested we are crossing (or crossed) to the more volatile regime. Here, taking somewhat different Hidden Markov Model (HMM) approach we gather more corroboration (few online references at the bottom if you are not familiar with HMM models. The word hidden since the state is ‘invisible’).

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Non-linear beta

If you google-finance AMZN you can see the beta is 0.93. I already wrote in the past about this illusive concept. Beta is suppose to reflect the risk of an instrument with respect for example to the market. However, you can estimate this measure in all kind of ways.

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