Monday, July 23, 2018

The Kelly Criterion

There is a lot of incorrect information on the web about applying the Kelly criterion in the stockmarket. It is very different to applying it in a card game where you either win or lose a fixed amount. In that context the Kelly criterion tells you how much to bet on each gamble. But whether you are doing short-term trading or long-term investing that is not the case in the financial markets where there are continuous payoffs. In this paper, Ed Thorp lays out the Kelly criterion for investing in financial markets. It results in a rule of how much leverage to use when investing in a portfolio. That portfolio could be a buy and hold portfolio of stocks, or it could be a high turnover futures trading account. To determine how much of total net worth to allocate to a particular asset class or strategy is a different calculation. I think you should maximize the Sharpe ratio for your total portfolio. Where to set the stop loss in trading is a similar calculation - you want to use stop loss rules that maximize the Sharpe ratio for the strategy. I don't think Kelly tells you how much to risk on each trade in the way it can tell you how much to bet on each gamble.

The Kelly criterion isn't a practical rule in the real world as it requires you to continuously change the size of your position as you win or lose money. The suggested leverage for my trading model – this may be exaggerated because of too short a sample of returns and volatility – is greater than that allowed by the futures exchange. This amount of leverage would immediately blow up in the real world and result in huge amounts of commission and bid-ask spread payments...

Very Good Service from Interactive Brokers

We phoned Interactive Brokers about the login problem. They have a system issue. They set up the account so it can accept a temporary security code which they gave to us. We'll use this until they resolve the issue. The questions they asked to confirm our identity were what the net asset value in the account was, what position was in the account (short NASDAQ 100 futures), and what bank we use to transfer money to the account.

I managed to use the temporary security code to set up the mobile app which can produce codes even if it can't receive texts.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Can't Log Into Account

As of Saturday morning I am not receiving the test messages from Interactive Brokers that I need to log into the account. I sent a text to myself using Skype, so it is not the same problem that I had in Japan where I just can't receive texts. If this is still the case on Monday morning we will need to phone the broker to resolve this. They do have a mobile app that can generate the required login numbers even if you don't have phone service, but to set this up you need to get a text from the broker... At the moment this isn't a problem as the model is short for Monday still. In the worst case scenario, I can trade in the opposite direction using my own trading account until the stop is hit at NQ=7441. As my account is much older I have a physical security device - actually a bunch of codes on a card. But I will need to sell stocks/and or transfer money into my account to have enough margin to trade with. And this isn't ideal as profits are taxed higher in my account.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Switching to Short

The model has switched to short as at the open of today's Globex session (8am Eastern Australian Time, 6pm New York Time). I went short 2 contracts in an attempt to move to Stage 3 of the experiment.... The stop is at NQ=7441 and am short from 7383, so risk is relatively low (compared to what it might be), though the nearer the stop the greater the chance of hitting it...

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Selling Everything

Well, in my mother's former account. Apparently the main (international) bank doesn't care that we the estate hasn't yet completed probate. Another local bank is, by contrast, very concerned about that. If we sell and go to cash, apparently we avoid paying this investment bank's very high fees. The account has returned practically nothing after fees in the last three years. August and September are historically bad months for equities (though only about 20% of the account is in equities). As we want to sell in the end anyway, it makes sense then to sell now. The plan is to hold everything in US Dollars in the interim.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Stopped Out Again

So, I put on my second trade of the month - long NQ - and was stopped out again, losing $1100 this time. The stop actually saved about $300 this time. But the model is still long for 17 July and so I put on a new long trade at 8:00am Australian time at 7320, which is up $190 at the moment. Stop is 7253 on this trade, currently at 7329.75. Down about $1700 for the month so far. NASDAQ 100 model is up 3.6% and NASDAQ 100 index 4.5% but I'm down 4.5% (due to two bad trades only and leverage). I'm determined to stick to the model now... let's see how I do.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Model Decisions for the Year So Far


The chart shows each short and long decision the model has made in the NASDAQ 100 index since the beginning of the year. The letter S or L is placed on the first day the model was long or short in each trade. So in theory you should get long or short at the previous close. Most trades were winners, though in late February, for example, the model got short on a big up day and then switched back to long the next day, which turned out to be the top. That long trade was also a loser. There were also stop outs along the way, which aren't marked here as new trades. Some times the model picks the exact top or bottom, at other times it misses it by a couple of days.

So, all I need to do is trade exactly like the model :) I put a new long trade on this morning.

New Investment: BlueSky Alternatives Fund


I had read back in April about BlueSky's battle with activist hedge fund Glaucus. As a result, the share price of the management company (BLA.AX) collapsed and they undertook a thorough review and independent valuation of all their investments. Listed investment company (closed-end fund) BAF.AX, is a fund of funds, investing in BLA managed investments in real estate, private equity, agriculture, and water rights. The price of this fund also fell, though not as dramatically. The valuation of all but one of its investments is now complete and the net asset value is AUD 1.13 per share. On Friday the stock was trading around AUD 0.80. The company is buying back a lot of stock which is supporting the price. I made an initial investment today and could add more if my thesis that it should rise, plays out.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Position Size

One of the main ideas in traditional momentum trading wisdom is that as volatility increases your position size should decrease. This is one of the key ideas in the Turtle Trading System, for example. If you have no idea what will happen, then higher volatility likely will result in higher losses as well as higher gains.

But if you do have some ability to predict the future, that trading signal might be stronger when volatility is higher and weaker when volatility is lower. Then you will have more losing trades when volatility is low and a higher proportion of winning trades when volatility is high. This seems to be the case with my system. Higher volatility means higher risk but also a higher probability of being right. In this case, position size maybe should be constant regardless of volatility.

P.S. 22 July

I calculated the Sharpe ratio for constant position size and for strategies that reduce position size as volatility increases and and increase position size as volatility increases. The constant position size strategy has the highest Sharpe ratio confirming my intuition. The strategy with a negative correlation between position size and volatility has the lowest Sharpe ratio. The strategy with a positive correlation is in between. So, for the moment I will stick with constant position sizing.

Turtle Trading


I have been reading the Complete Turtle Trader, trying to get some inspiration. Back in the early 1980s, futures trader Richard Dennis hired a bunch of relative novices (some actually had trading experience) and taught them a trend-following method of trading. He then got them to trade some of his assets using the methods. The idea was to see if trading could be taught. During the next few years, many of them generated extraordinary returns, as documented in the book. Then the experiment ended after Dennis suffered major losses and shut his fund.

Some of the "turtles" went on to run their own investment firms. The star pupil seems to be Jerry Parker who founded Chesapeake Capital. However, subsequent performance has not really been that good.* The fund has underperformed the S&P 500 and has had about twice as much volatility. Taxes would be much higher on Chesapeake's strategy than on buying and holding the index. Why does voltatility matter? Because I could have used leverage to invest in the S&P 500, increasing volatility to the level of the Chesapeake Capital fund, but increasing returns far beyond its returns.

This doesn't encourage me to adopt a long-term trend following strategy. The assumption of this kind of model is that the future is entirely unpredictable... Eckhardt is cited in the book as saying that random entry into a trade is just as good as long as you follow exit rules. That's true about most momentum trading strategies I think.

It's notable that none of these turtle related firms are very big in terms of assets under management.

* The "LV" fund performed better but still underperformed the S&P 500 on a risk adjusted basis. Salem Abraham's – described as a "second-generation turtle" in the book – fund has gone nowhere in the last ten years.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Index Gives Better Trading Signals than Futures Prices Do

It turns out that the NASDAQ 100 Index gives better trading signals than the NQ futures prices themselves do. I think the reason for this is that most trading takes place when the stock market is open and that is usually when big moves happen. The "out of hours" trading is mostly noise then reflecting what is happening in other stock markets and after hours earnings reports etc. The futures prices still provide signals that "beat the market" but not as well.

I did find again, that stops mostly detract from performance and I am introducing a new stops policy. When we change direction we set the stop loss at the the second pivot support for a long or the second pivot resistance for a short. We then keep that stop until either the direction of trade changes or we are stopped out. This results in far fewer stop outs.

It's likely that in commodity markets such as oil or gold the futures prices do provide good trading signals. Well, there isn't anything else to use anyway.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Futures Prices vs. Index Values

I didn't trade while I was in Japan because my mobile phone wasn't receiving the text messages I needed to log in to my trading account. When I got back to Australia I dithered about getting back in for a couple of days, missing a nice rally. Then this morning I decided to make the plunge (on the long side) and 2 hours later I was stopped out. Apparently there is negative news on US tariffs on trade with China.

After the cash market closes at 4pm New York time, the stock index futures trade for another hour before closing for one hour. The futures closing price can, therefore, be quite different to the index closing price. This was the case today where the futures plunged around 30 points in the last ten minutes of the futures trading session. Using the index data for the 4pm close, my model said to stay long. However, if we had knocked 30 NASDAQ points off to reflect the futures closing price, it would have switched to short. So, I think I need to get historical futures data and re-estimate my model with these. I should be able to get these from Quandl. An additional advantage of using futures prices is that I can do the analysis one hour later -  currently from 7am Australian Eastern time rather than 6am Australian Eastern time. The futures market then shuts for an hour and reopens at 6pm New York time or 8am Australian time.

However, on Saturday morning the futures market closes at Friday 5pm New York time and then doesn't reopen till Monday morning at 8am in Australia. So, I will need to do the analysis with index closing data before 7am on Saturdays unless I want to get stuck in possibly the wrong direction over the weekend.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

June 2018 Report

This month was the third month of the futures trading experiment. The first month was the model development phase, while last month was about ironing out the glitches and training myself to trade the model properly (and not give in to gut instinct etc). It turned out that this month was more of the same and I am still on the second stage of the experiment, which is learning to consistently trade the model and iron out the glitches. The third stage is to reach a level of profits equal to my salary, while the fourth stage would be to maximize returns beyond that. I had planned to move to trading two contracts this month, but mostly traded one contract still.

June is the month when our Australian managed funds pay out their main distributions at the end of the Australian financial year. These usually have large tax credits associated with them. In this report, I have estimated the likely tax credits, which won't be known till later in July.

The Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.7571 to USD 0.7391. The MSCI World Index fell 0.50% and the S&P 500 rose 0.62%. The ASX 200 rose 3.63%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 3.16% in Australian Dollar terms and 0.71% in US Dollar terms. So, we  underperformed the Australian market and outperformed international markets.

The best performing investment in dollar terms  was CFS Geared Share Fund gaining AUD 23k. The next best in dollar terms was IPE, gaining AUD 19k. The best performing asset class was "private equity", gaining 7.79%. The second best performer was Australian large cap stocks, gaining 3.21%. The worst performing asset class was hedge funds, losing 0.46%, the only asset class that lost money.

The following is table of investment performance statistics computed over the last 36 months of data:


The first two rows gives the annual rate of return and Sharpe ratio for our investment performance in US dollars and Australian dollars. The other statistics are in comparison to the two indices. Beta expresses the change in investment returns for a 1% change in the market. Compared to the MSCI World Index we seem to be slightly geared, while compared to the Australian index we are less sensitive to market movements. Alpha shows the risk adjusted excess annual return. This is how much we are beating the market (or not) adjusted for risk expressed as beta. We have a slightly positive alpha compared to the Australian and world markets. Finally, up capture and down capture breaks beta into the response to positive and negative months in the stockmarket. A greater up capture than down capture ratio is desirable. We now capture more of the up movements in the international and less in the Australian market and suffer less of the down movements in both the Australian and international markets. A hedge fund like return would show this positive skew and a positive alpha. We show some hedge fund like properties across the markets.

This month I only made a small amount of money trading futures: USD 1.2k. The table compares my performance to the markets and the models:


The US markets went up and then down, ending quite flat. The models did outperform the market.* Through a series of missteps I performed worse than the models given that I was using leverage. This is mostly because I picked the wrong contract to trade with for some of the time. I think one way to trade in strongly trending markets is to act more tactically, trading in the direction of the model when other short term indicators (using a chart with 3 hour candles) show it is advantageous and then closing the position when the odds move the other way. More than once I was up USD 2k and then gave it all back... On 21 June I did exactly the wrong thing, throwing in the towel for the day and closing my short just as the market was about to reverse and go down... Seeing that happen did increase my faith in the model a little bit more. Gut instinct is not as good as the model. But then the same thing, kind of, happened on the last day of the month. The models were short, the market went up, but I capitulated at almost the worst point, because at the market close the indices were way down from the highs.

The best I can say is that I didn't lose money for the month as a whole. So it looks like more of the same for next month. I'll try to trade one contract exactly according to the model and one tactically.

We made a little more progress towards the new long-run asset allocation:



Total leverage includes borrowing inside leveraged (geared) mutual (managed) funds. The allocation is according to total assets including the true exposure in leveraged mutual funds.

The improvement in allocation, came partly due to market movements and partly due to investment activity. We invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Then there are distributions from funds and dividends. During the month, I also:
    • I shifted money out of trading when I shifted the account I am trading with. This decreased the allocation to commodities.
    • Added another AUD 10k to the Winton Global Alpha fund, increasing the allocation to commodities.
    • I sold 500,000 shares in IPE and bought a small amount of OCP.AX, reducing the allocation to private equity.
    • I sold some Platinum Capital (PMC.AX) and bought a lot of PIXX.AX, which is the equivalent ETF, because PMC was particularly overvalued. This increased the allocation to hedge funds.
    * The statistics at the bottom of the table are based on only 3 months of data and so are not at all reliable yet.

    Monday, July 02, 2018

    Trading Update: Tokyo Edition

    So far it looks like the "old" more systematic model won today. US stocks are down. I'm not trading as I was flying to Japan and now my phone's connectivity is dodgy and I need it as a security device. Anyway, Wednesday is US Independence Day and Tuesday is already a short trading day so, I'll wait till Thursday or when I am back in Australia next week,


    My hotel is the blue tower in the background.

    P.S.
    The stockmarket turned and went up. So, the "new" model was vindicated in the end. Still, I don't like trading rules that don't make logical sense.

    Sunday, July 01, 2018

    Changing the Model Back and Researching the Model

    I'm not happy with this model rule that I added on 27th April. It's not very systematic. So, I dropped it, while keeping rules added more recently. The stock market switches between two states - trending and cycling - and the model uses different indicators in each state. Deciding what state we are in is a little problematic. So, I am going to have another look at the rules for that and also possibly smoothing out very small moves, which are noise. The rule I just dropped was ad hoc - it switched to the indicator for the cycling state when we are in a trending state based on one period lagged positive performance.

    Monday is a good test of the two algorithms - the simpler model is short and the model with the "ad hoc" rule is long. Let's see which wins.

    I also thought of using the volatility indices, VIX and VXN, as indicators. The basic idea is that volatility is highest at bottoms in the market. But I couldn't see a way to do this. This graph shows why:


    VXN (and VIX) rose throughout January while the stock market rose too. This was a warning sign that a correction was coming. But a model that shorts the market when VXN is expected to increase would have lost money all January. Also, my existing forecasting model is no good here...

    Saturday, June 16, 2018

    Gold 2048: The Future of Gold

    This report seems bullish for the price of gold over the next 30 years. Continued growth in India and limited gold discoveries recently seem bullish. On the other hand, some regions haven't been explored much and technology could enhance extraction, though the latter likely balanced by increased environmental restrictions.

    Wednesday, June 06, 2018

    Mercantile Makes Offer to Take Over IPE

    Mercantile Capital (MVT.AX) has made an offer to take over IPE.AX at AUD 0.0775 per share. I've discussed Mercantile's interest in IPE before and bought shares as a result. I had 1.5 million shares. My only regret is I didn't buy more. People selling even below 6 cents discouraged me from buying more.

    I had 500,000 on offer for sale and they sold just now at 0.075 up from 0.063 yesterday. I will wait and see with the remaining million. I should at least hold it into the next tax year, next month. If I sell now, it will wipe out my existing tax losses and more. So better to defer tax for another year.


    Sunday, June 03, 2018

    Tax Optimization for Trading

    I still have some capital losses left over from the financial crisis. I will probably use them up for this tax year ending 30 June. After that, trading profits would be taxed at my marginal rate of 47% (and even higher if Labor get back into power and implement their tax policy). So, I am opening an account at Interactive Brokers for Moominmama (formerly Snork Maiden). Trading in her account will only attract a marginal rate of 34.5% initially and then higher if we make lots of profits. This will reduce our overall tax bill and is totally legitimate in Australia.

    Actually, given that franking credits are fully refundable, even if they exceed your tax bill (but Labor wants to change that too), it also would make sense to have other investments in Moominmama's name. The reason we don't, is that up to a couple of years ago, when my income went over AUD 180k per year and she went part-time we were in the same marginal tax bracket. But perhaps I should direct new investments to her account?

    In somewhat related news, the minimum wage in Australia has just been raised, so that someone working full time at the minimum wage earns just over AUD 37k a year (about USD 14.25 per hour). This means that the marginal rate for such workers is now also 34.5%! That really seems crazy to me.

    Friday, June 01, 2018

    May 2018 Report

    Another very active month financially. The Australian stock market rebounded quite strongly but then turned over as other markets did. This month was the second month of the futures trading experiment. The first month was the model development phase, while this month was about ironing out the glitches and training myself to trade the model properly (and not give in to gut instinct etc).

    The Australian Dollar rose from USD 0.7540 to USD 0.7571. The MSCI World Index rose 0.21%, and the S&P 500 2.41%. The ASX 200 rose 1.09%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 1.84% in Australian Dollar terms and 2.26% in US Dollar terms. So, we outperformed both the Australian market and the international markets and slightly underperformed the US market.

    The best performing investment in dollar terms was NASDAQ futures gaining AUD 9.5k (this is going to be a theme :)). The second best was CFS Geared Share Fund gaining AUD 8.9k. The worst performer in dollar terms was IPE, losing AUD 1.5k. The best performing asset class was "commodities", which includes futures trading, gaining 6.24%. Hopefully, this will become a near permanent feature. The second best performer was Australian small cap stocks, gaining 2.92%. The worst performing asset class was private equity, losing 0.78%, the only asset class that lost money.

    A new feature starting this month is the following table of investment performance statistics. The statistics are computed with the last 36 months of data:

    The first row gives the Sharpe ratio for our investment performance in US dollars and Australian dollars. The other statistics are in comparison to the two indices. Beta expresses the change in investment returns for a 1% change in the market. Compared to the MSCI World Index we seem to be slightly geared, while compared to the Australian index we are less sensitive to market movements. Alpha shows the risk adjusted excess annual return. This is how much we are beating the market (or not) adjusted for risk expressed as beta. We have a slightly positive alpha compared to the Australian market and a close to zero alpha compared to the world market. Finally, up capture and down capture breaks beta into the response to positive and negative months in the stockmarket. A greater up capture than down capture ratio is desirable. We do capture more of the up movements in the Australian market and suffer less of the down movements. A hedge fund like return would show this positive skew and a positive alpha. Compared to the Australian market we show some hedge fund like properties.

    This month I made money trading futures: USD 7.2k. The table compares my performance to the markets and the models:

    I also bought and sold investments in this account and added AUD 25k in cash towards the end of May, so don't expect the starting cash to change with just income earned. My rate of return in May far exceeds the models or markets because of leverage. I mostly traded one contract at a time and so was using a bit over 3 times leverage. I could also select the market where I thought the model signal was most reliable. In the early part of the month I mostly traded NQ (NASDAQ) and in the later part of the month ES (S&P 500). I also traded CL (oil). Most of the gains were made early in the month when the market rose. After that the market mostly went sideways.

    I more or less successfully followed the plan for the month, which was to consistently trade one futures contract according to the trades that the model provides, while learning about entering trades more optimally and setting stops. There were some hiccups, particularly on 14 May when I lost much more than the model due to bad trading. I can say that the second of my goals in the experiment - to consistently trade the model - was a qualified success. I was much more disciplined than when I previously traded futures, but still not disciplined enough. The third goal - to earn as much as my salary from trading fell short though I was in the ballpark. I would need to make USD 12.5k to reach the goal. For the next month I plan to work on the same goals and maybe increase the position size when I am particularly certain about the market direction. This is why I added more cash to the account. After adding the money and doing some bad daytrading, which I shouldn't be doing, I had second thoughts about taking a larger position. But I maybe should be trading both stocks and oil simultaneously. Horizontal rather than vertical expansion.

    We made more progress towards the new long-run asset allocation:


    Total leverage includes borrowing inside leveraged (geared) mutual (managed) funds. The allocation is according to total assets including the true exposure in leveraged mutual funds.

    The improvement in allocation, came partly due to market movements and partly due to investment activity. We invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Then there are distributions from funds and dividends. During the month, I also:
      • Traded futures successfully, increasing the allocation to "commodities" as a result. As mentioned above, I also added cash to the trading account. Just over 4% of net worth is now allocated to trading.
      • Added another AUD 10k to the Winton Global Alpha fund, also increasing the allocation to commodities.
      • Closed my investment in GMOM, due to poor performance over many years.
      • Increased investments in the China Fund (CHN), Boulder Income Fund (BIF), and 3i (III.L).
      • Sold my trade in Woolworths (WOW.AX) and made a quick trade in Platinum Capital (PMC.AX).
      • Switched from Colonial First State Geared Share Fund to CFS Conservative Fund in a small account I have, which I am planning to close soon (after the end of June distribution). Then I switched back again. Originally, I had this account as a trading account!

      Wednesday, May 23, 2018

      Flipped Back to Short

      The model was long NQ for one day and lost a little (it remained short ES, surprisingly). Now it has flipped back to short. Given yesterday's post, I'm still thinking this is a limited correction. Here is a possible interpretation based on Elliott Wave Theory:



      We are now in wave C of 4. Based on Elliott Wave Theory that wave should stop before price falls below the maximum point of Wave 1, as shown on the graph. I find Elliott Wave very useful in understanding the different things that might happen, but I don't think it is an exact fit to what the market does, especially on very long and very short time scales. Over the time scale shown on this chart, it is particularly useful. On the other hand, Eliott Wave is notorious for continually morphing and following what the market does, rather than predicting it.

      Of course, my model has nothing to do with Elliott Wave Theory it is just nice to have some other approach that does not conflict with the model or confirms it.

      If you look closely you'll see I'm short from 6911.5 and up quite nicely, but I was up $500 when long yesterday evening too and that reversed...

      P.S.
      The downside didn't last long! Market turned around in the morning US time and went up, eventually reaching above the top of the triangle in the chart above. At one point I was up USD 1500, but unfortunately I didn't take profits as I was sticking to what the model said to do. Now I am considering doubling my position during the Australian daytime - the US overnight and then closing half in the US morning. If I had done that yesterday I would have ended up on the day. I am going to backtest the strategy of course. 10 years back when I previously was trading futures, I did look at "overnight trading" as a strategy, and now it has come up again.

      Model has now flipped back to long. S&P model was short till today, and now has also gone long.

      Tuesday, May 22, 2018

      Getting Bullish

      The model is switching back to long today. The last seven business days it was short but the market just went sideways more or less and it netted USD 1,200 a contract or 0.85% for the effort. The previous 10 days of being long, by contrast yielded USD 5k (3.67%). That's an indication of the bullishness. Australian and European markets have been more bullish throughout this period - the US market has been lagging perhaps due to relative over-valuation and to all this trade war and other nonsense.


      So far for the month, the model is up USD 7k per contract and I am about matching that.

      Sunday, May 20, 2018

      Backtesting 1987


      You would want to make sure that your trading model put you in the right direction in the 1987 crash (which I am old enough to remember very well), wouldn't you? So, I backtested the model for 1986-87. The main model would be short going into the crash. But a more primitive model I am using in conjunction with the main model would switch to long on the Friday before the crash. That day the market went down 5%, so it would have already been a bad idea on the Friday. Recently, this secondary model has been doing well and I have combined its signals with my main model. So, we need some new rules about how and why to combine them. In this chart you can see that the buy signal would have come with the price already outside the +/- 2 standard deviations envelope (S&P 500 index):


      These are "Bollinger Bands", though I use a 34 day moving average instead of Bollinger's 20 day MA. So, the new rule is not to take that signal when the price is outside the Bollinger Bands and the width of the Bollinger Bands is increasing. That wouldn't change much recently (NASDAQ 100 index):


      The secondary model gave some very good buy signals just as price hit the Bollinger Bands in early February and late March. In these cases the price was not outside the Bollinger Bands or they weren't expanding.

      The model is short for Monday.

      Saturday, May 19, 2018

      How Big Should the Trading Program Be?

      At the moment I am still in the experimental phase of the trading program. A 1 contract S&P or NASDAQ position either adds or subtracts about 0.1 beta to the portfolio. So if the beta of our portfolio to the market was 1.0, trading modifies this to 0.9 when short to 1.1 when long. My goal is to be able to hedge our portfolio against a market crash. That means we need to subtract up to 1 full beta from the portfolio. On the long side we then would double exposure. This means that the trading program needs eventually to be 10 times the size it is now. Using 3 times leverage on the cash in the trading account that implies allocating 25% of assets to trading. My existing allocation has 25% of assets allocated to managed futures. This total could be allocated between my own trading and "outside managers" such as Winton and meet this goal.

      Why 3 times leverage? Simulation shows that about a 12% drawdown is possible. Remember that we use stops and or hedging to limit possible daily losses. So this drawdown means a string of large losses. With 3 times leverage that would wipe out 1/3 of the trading account. More than that and it will reduce the earning potential of the account too much going forward, I think. And be way too scary.

      Thursday, May 17, 2018

      Formal Rules for Stops

      I have decided on formal rules for setting daily stop losses. It is based on the pivot-point method. The pivot point is the average of the high, low, and close for the previous day. When short the stop loss is set at the second resistance level - the pivot point plus the previous day's high-low range - and when long it is set at the second support level - the pivot point minus the previous day's high-low range. If this results in a stop that is less than 1% from the opening price, I instead set a 1% stop. These stops increase the Sharpe ratio of the model though they slightly decrease returns. The chart below shows the last month of daily pivot points and first and second resistance levels:


      The model got stopped out on 26 April when short - losing 1.42% that day. The market closed up 2.08%. So that saved 0.66% of losses The model also got stopped out on 3 May when long losing 1%. The market closed only down 0.02%. So that increased loss by 0.98%. That shows you why this reduces returns...

      These numbers don't quite match what you can see on the chart as the chart shows the 24/5 futures market and the model is based on the NASDAQ 100 index. I am thinking of switching the model to use actual futures prices. Will need to pay for the data, I think.

      Tuesday, May 15, 2018

      Trying to Learn the Lesson about Narrow Stops Again


      Yesterday the model said to go short NQ (NASDAQ) and long ES (S&P500). I started off the day, doing exactly that, though I entered the trade badly and ended up down on the NQ part of the trade relative to the ES part of the trade. Then, I closed the ES long for a small profit and based on "pivot points", I set a stop loss at 7010 - 50 points above my entry point. As you can see from the chart, the market briefly went through the stop but then turned and ended the day near where it started. So, I lost a lot more money than the model did. If I had set the stop at 1% (7030) or kept the hedge without stops, I would have ended the day with only a small loss. Really, it was fear of missing out on making a profit on the ES trade that screwed me up.

      I also did a long CL (crude oil) trade yesterday and was stopped out too. Then the market also turned around and actually ended the day higher. The lesson I am learning from that one is to stick to the stock market for the moment so I can set wider stops and not worry about the potential loss from multiple positions going wrong.

      The model is again short NQ and long ES for today. I was going to sit out for today, but writing this post has inspired me to put on that hedged trade. For the record, I sold NQ at 6969.75 and bought ES at 2729.50.

      Saturday, May 12, 2018

      Weekly Update

      Another successful week. Now up USD 8k for the month and USD 6k since the trading experiment started. On Friday I was long NQ when I should have been short. I only lost USD 150 luckily (though double that relative to what I would have got if I had done the correct trade). This was because of an error in a link in a spreadsheet. That link is now fixed. The model says short NQ (NASDAQ), long ES (S&P 500), long CL (Crude) for Monday. I think the short NQ is only a short term correction in NQ and probably it will switch back to long by Tuesday. It is a bit of an unusual feeling to see myself keep winning trades. I said to Moominmama that it felt like I was cheating or something. She said: "Please don't feel like that, please make lots of money :)". So far, this month I just have had to stay long, which isn't so easy for me as I tend to be bearish. And apart from Monday it looks like that staying long will continue to be the challenge for a little while till the model actually shifts to the short side. So, for the meantime we are still in phase 2 of this experiment, which is to see if I can stick to what the model says to do. Only, when we've been through both a long and a short phase successfully, will we be able to say that I think.

      Sunday, May 06, 2018

      These 13F Tracking ETF's Have Horrible Performance

      13F is a form lodged quarterly by US based investment funds. A 13F following strategy takes the stock picks from top hedge funds as revealed by their 13F forms. Two ETF's that follow this strategy are ALFA and GURU. But both have horrible performance with negative alpha of of -5% and -7%, which is rather ironic. Does this strategy no longer work?

      Saturday, May 05, 2018

      Cracking Horse-Racing, the Lottery, and the Stockmarket?


      Articles about Bill Benter who "cracked" gambling on horse-racing by using a model to predict which horses would win and Eddie Tipton who cracked the state lottery, illegally. I'm testing whether I've cracked the stock market :) So far, so good this month, but it is early days.  

      P.S.
      More on quant betting on horse-racing. Model remains long stocks (NDX and SPX) and switches to long oil for Monday. Yes, I added a model for predicting oil, so far I only did very quick trades in oil.

      P.P.S.
      More on Zeljko Ranogajec.

      Friday, May 04, 2018

      Fear of Missing Out versus Loss Aversion

      The key to sleeping better in Australia while trading in the US markets seems paradoxically to be using wider stop losses rather than tighter stop losses. With a tighter stop, I am concerned that the market will hit the stop and then bounce back up strongly, which is what would have happened last night except I stayed up and adjusted the stop. This is the fear of missing out - crystallizing a loss and then missing the upside. I need to be more accepting of the possibility of large losses to allow the possibility of gains. I actually seem to have less aversion to losses if they aren't tied to then missing out on gains. FOMO seems to beat loss aversion. This is because my trading model has a high win rate. Traders with techniques that have a small edge or no edge have to make sure that wins are bigger than losses - letting winners run and cutting losses. They need the asymmetry to make money. I don't.

      Wednesday, May 02, 2018

      April 2018 Report

      A very active month financially. The Australian stock market rebounded quite strongly and now looks pretty bullish to me. I also started trading futures again, which so far had the opposite effect on the results for the month :)

      The Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.7680 to USD 0.7540. The MSCI World Index rose 1.08%, and the S&P 500 0.38%. The ASX 200 rose 3.92%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 2.86% in Australian Dollar terms and 0.98% in US Dollar terms. So, we underperformed the Australian market and to a small degree the international markets but outperformed the U.S. market.

      The best performing investment in dollar terms was CFS Geared Share Fund up AUD17k. The worst performer in dollar terms was IPE, down AUD3k. My holding is now quite large (more than 1% of the value of the company - it's a very low value company) and the price is quite erratic. The best performing asset class was large cap Australian stocks, which gained 2.84%. The worst performing asset class was private equity, losing 2.04%, the only asset class to lose money this month.

      A new item that I am reporting from this month is trading income. This includes trading in futures and options etc and interest on cash dedicated to trading. It doesn't include any trading done on fundamental grounds. This month I lost money - USD1,987 - which isn't surprising as I was experimenting with different models and approaches and learning to trade more confidently. I pretty much reversed that on the first day of this month, but anything could happen. Less than 3% of net worth is dedicated to trading at this point, which mainly means a deposit of Australian and US dollars used as margin for derivatives. The plan for this month is to consistently trade one futures contract according to the trades that the model provides, while learning about entering trades more optimally and setting stops or using options as hedges (much wider hedges than I was using last month).

      We made a bit more progress towards the new long-run asset allocation:


      Total leverage includes borrowing inside leveraged (geared) mutual (managed) funds. The allocation is according to total assets including the true exposure in leveraged mutual funds. I have reduced the allocation to cash, because assuming I will be trading, there will always be plenty of cash in the trading account plus the ability to borrow, though the latter can be reduced in a financial crisis. Commodities now includes managed futures, trading, and gold.

      The "improvement" in allocation, came partly due to market movements and partly due to investment activity. We invest AUD 2000 monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Then there are distributions from funds and dividends. During the month, I also:
      • Invested in a venture capital fund.
      • Bought more IPE (private equity) at below net asset value.
      • Sold out of Leucadia National (LUK) and bought more 3i (III.L, private equity) and China  Fund (CHN).
      • Bought more units in the Winton Global Alpha fund (managed futures - in the commodities category).
      • Transferred cash into my trading account and did a lot of trading of futures and options while developing my trading model.
      As a result the allocation to private equity and commodities increased quite a bit.

      Friday, April 27, 2018

      New Model Rule

      The model was still short yesterday based on the forward forecast.  But Facebook's earnings release pushed the market up and I lost money. So, now I will check the model in real time as well before putting on trades. Also, today's decision based purely on forecasts would have been to stay short like yesterday's. But yesterday the actual observed indicator signalled a buy. So, now we add a rule that if the actual observed signal yesterday was a buy that over-rides a forecast....

      Now Amazon released their earnings an the market is up in after hours again.... I put on my first full size futures order with a 1% stop buying the E_Mini S&P. Now this is the real test of the model...

      Tuesday, April 24, 2018

      Sophisticated Investor

      I got an e-mail about an Australian venture capital fund and decided to follow it up. The information the fund sent me looked very interesting, but it is limited to wholesale and sophisticated investors. In order to be classified as a wholesale investor you must have individually (not with your spouse) AUD 2.5 million in net assets or AUD 250k in gross income. I don't qualify individually on this basis, though we jointly would qualify on the second criterion and in the near future I will qualify on the first criterion. So, I told the fund salesperson that and they sent me a questionaire to see if I qualify as a sophisticated investor who understands the risks involved. I just sent the form back. If they qualify me I will invest in the fund and disclose more information here. Overall, I plan to invest 5% in private equity and it makes sense to allocate half of that to venture capital and half to buyout etc. IPE and OCP cover the later stage private equity in the portfolio 2.5% roughly equals the fund's minimum investment requirement, so that is what I will invest, if approved. Interestingly, early stage venture capital investments are tax free in Australia. That also means, of course, that you can't claim losses against your income tax.

      In other news, I redesigned a trading algorithm from the bottom up on 2018 data, using the same forecasting model. It has a bit lower return and larger drawdowns, but all the rules make theoretical sense and it sticks to the model predictions rather than reversing direction if stopped out. In fact, it only uses a stop when initiating a new direction - this is to guard against the new signal being noise - the stop is removed after the direction is confirmed. After that I would just use hedges. Next, I need to backtest it for 2017 and 2007. I think 2007 is analogous to 2018, while 2017 is very different - a constantly uptrending market.

      The model is currently short, but I am not trading it without backtesting and also there is higher risk entering a move already underway, as the model is unlikely to time the exact optimal turning point to reverse direction.

      P.S. 25 April
      I backtested the model for the second half of 2017. Results are not as good as year to date in 2018 but they are much better than the model I was using at that time when the fake stops are removed from the model. The main issue is that my model tends to underperform the market in strongly trending markets as it keeps looking for opportunities to go short. We can compensate for this by trading 2/3 the model and 1/3 just long the index. This means that when we go long we use 3 times the position we use when we go shorter. This results in a more consistently rising equity curve. Increasing position size when going in the direction of the established trend definitely makes sense.

      P.S. 27 April
      They accepted me as a sophisticated investor.

      Sunday, April 22, 2018

      Backtesting Failed

      I backtested the model for 2017 and some periods in 2006-8 and it either makes no money (2017) or matches the market. So, this needs a fundamental rethink to get a more robust model. For the moment I will step away from live trading and observe what happens and when I have more time have a look again and developing a robust framework. I also saw that some of what I put in spreadsheets from 2006-08 is not realistic regarding how stops work, and so exaggerates the performance of the model. The current model was stopped out very very often in that period as the index was often both up and down more than 1% in a day. It could only work with hedges rather than hard stops.

      Saturday, April 21, 2018

      Improved Model

      The "Gold Model" was stopped out twice in a row on Thursday and Friday when the market was more than 1% down and it was long. So I now took another of my old models that uses a different approach entirely but only gives rare signals. Those signals over-ride the "Gold Model" signals. The combination enhances return. It would have been short Thursday and long Friday. It signals short for Monday. In simulation, it's average win is 1.3% a day and average loss 0.36% with a 62% probability of winning.  The Sharpe ratio is 0.52. This is only based on data since January 1st. Trading 1 NQ contract the biggest drawdown since January 1st is USD 3852.

      I ended up USD 200 down on the month in trading at the end of Friday after being USD 700 up on Wednesday. Plan is to switch to trading NQ contracts with a stop loss next week. I am a bit wary of taking the signal from the new model for my first larger trades and so maybe will wait till Tuesday.

      I made decision trees in Powerpoint for using the model in each of the 4 possible states where yesterday's trade was: long, short, long but stopped out, and short but stopped out. There is then no discretion over putting on trades. Here is one of the four decision trees, to give you an idea:


      Friday, April 20, 2018

      Collared Trading Has a Low Expected Value

      I did a proper analysis of trading futures with an options collar. The win and loss probabilities are the same as trading with a stop loss. But the average win is reduced from 1.26% to 0.73% and the average loss from -0.65% to -0.53%. As a result the expected value of each day's trade goes down from 0.57% to 0.28%. And that's with perfect execution of the hedges and entry point so that the hedge is costless and the upside and the futures entry point is exactly in the middle of the interval between the hedges. Usually the hedge costs something, maybe 0.1% and the entry point isn't perfect. Together this probably reduces the expected value to a 0.1% gain or so. Some slippage in entry point on the futures plus stop tactic doesn't have such a big effect on the expected value. Maybe reducing it to 0.5%.

      Given this, I have no choice but to bit the bullet and trade futures with a stop loss instead of a hedge and accept the relatively larger dollar value of losses when stopped out, as would have happened today trading NQ.

      Thursday, April 19, 2018

      Why is Trading Stocks So Expensive in Australia?

      Commonwealth Securities Charges 0.1% and Interactive Brokers 0.08% for Australian stock trades. That means that to trade AUD 170k of stock you would pay AUD 136 with IB. But to trade an S&P 500 futures contract costs USD 2.05 at IB. For U.S. stocks IB charge 0.5 cents per share so trading the same value of the SPY ETF costs USD 2.50.

      These high prices aren't unique to Australia. IB charges around 0.1% to trade shares in most countries apart from the U.S. and Canada. On the other hand they charge AUD 1-6.5 per contract for Australian futures. So, maybe the question, should be why U.S. and Canadian shares are so cheap to trade.

      Anyway, the high prices definitely discourages day-trading of Australian shares.

      Monday, April 16, 2018

      Long Futures Collar Trade



      I put on my first collared futures trade. The idea was to sell a call 5 points above my long futures entry point and buy a put 5 points below. But my futures entry was at 2676.25 instead of 2675 and and the call was 1.5 points less than the put. So my potential upside is only $112.50 not counting fees and my potential downside is $387.50. As the model has a 71% win rate, the expected value is -$32.50 :( It's probably worse than that because the futures gapped up over the weekend reducing the potential upside. Oh well, the expected "tuition fee" is not so big. The screenshot shows the current state of play. Down.

      P.S. 17 April
      I "managed" the trade a bit and the futures were just below 2680 when the options expired. So I had a naked futures position, which I then sold at 2680.25. Overall, I made about USD 200 on the trade. I have now put another trade on. Long futures at 2681.5, sold a 2690 call for 7.25 and bought a 2675 put for 9.25. Maximum upside is USD 325 and maximum downside is USD 425 not counting commissions, which are small. Expected value is about USD 100. The spread between the two options today is 15 points, up from 10 points yesterday. The idea is to gradually widen the points spread as I am comfortable with it, eventually buying the put 25 points below the futures entry price, which is equivalent to a 1% stop. Yeah, the model is still long, the market is "overbought" and trending up according to the model.

      ASX 200 and MSCI All World Total Returns


      The Australia share price index - the ASX 200 - has not performed well since 2007. The current level is below its peak. However, when you add in both dividends and franking credits, it has almost doubled since the peak. Since 1996 it has returned twice as much as the MSCI in Australian Dollar terms, though since the crisis the two have had about the same gain, tripling from the low.

      Sunday, April 15, 2018

      The Gold Model

      I have now managed to reconstruct something similar to the old model I tried to trade a decade ago. It is a mixture of trend following when the markets are trending and predicting the direction to trade in when markets are more choppy. It follows a clear set of rules with no real discretion. Using those rules since January 1st this year would have returned 51% with a Sharpe ratio of 0.58. The model wins 71% of the time with an average daily win of 1.15%. The maximum loss is 1% as set by the stop. When I optimize a portfolio of the various methods I have come up with to maximize the Sharpe ratio of the portfolio the solution says to put 90% in this strategy and to actually short one of the other strategies! At the moment the model is long, which is good, as I have a long calls position still on from Friday. I think I will rename the new version of the old model the "gold model" :)

      By the way, if you can borrow, maximizing the Sharpe ratio makes much more sense than maximizing return. You then get the smoothest time path of returns, which you can lever up if you want taking into account the size of likely drawdowns.

      Saturday, April 14, 2018

      Friday Update

      I finally exited Leucadia National after they announced they are converting into an investment bank and will sell some of their private equity assets and change their name to Jefferies. It has been one of my worst investments losing just under USD 4k (there have been some far worse ones though...). I got in too late just as the financial crisis was getting underway and the company never recovered. Previously, it had an excellent track record and was referred to as a mini Berkshire Hathaway. I bought some more shares in 3i instead, which has been a good investment.

      I have been doing more work on improving my trading model and more on trying to trade it. The options I am willing to buy - i.e. the maximum loss is bearable - have too much time decay and so the market can go up and I end up not making money. I about broke even over the week due to this and various stupid things I continued to do. I stayed up last night trading the market, though that is not something I should do. The market was beginning to go up after initially falling and I decided for some reason that shorting put options on expiration day would be a good idea. I shorted a 2650 Friday 13th S&P put and bought a 2625 Friday 13th S&P put. This exposed me to a maximum USD 1300 loss. Of course, the market immediately turned around and started going down. As it reached 2650 I sold short a futures contract as a delta hedge. Then the market bounced and hit the stop I had subsequently put in place at 2650. And then it went back down again... In the end, I actually ended up about USD 20 on the trade :) But it was quite nerve-wracking. I don't know how ERN sells lots of put options all the time without trying to determine market direction or "buy reinsurance" to make it an options spread.

      Next week I am thinking to experiment with futures contracts with options collars to limit both the upside and downside. Using options you can have a much tighter effective stop and not worry about the market coming down, hitting the stop, and then going up again. The downside is that the upside has to be limited or the cost of the put option (or call if short the futures) is too much. So, you sell a call (or a put) to defray the cost. I think for a reasonable net cost it's possible to have a little more upside than downside, though as the model does have an edge it's not strictly necessary to have more potential upside than downside. I am thinking of buying a put 10 points (E-Mini S&P) below the entry price into the futures contract and selling a call 20 points above. The maximum downside is then something like 13 points (USD 650) and the maximum upside 17 points (USD 850). Another downside is that if the market is flat, you lose 3 points (USD 150).

      The only issue is if both options are out of the money at expiration I will have a naked futures position without a stop at the end of that day's session. I guess if the market hasn't moved in a decisive manner up to that point then maybe it won't suddenly, but I need to be up in time to put on a new options position.

      The model is neutral for Monday. The different predictors point in different directions.

      Another idea I had is that it is easy to adjust the ASX200 index for franking credits. S&P have a franking credit adjusted index but it only goes back to 2011 and has some weird features, like only reinvesting the dividends once a year. If you get the monthly values of the total return or accumulation index - which includes dividends but not franking credits and the price index which is without dividends, you can calculate the monthly dividend yield. The dividend yield can then be grossed up for franking - this will exaggerate franking a bit as some companies pay unfranked dividends. The return including franking credits matches the MSCI World Index gross total return since the financial crisis in 2009 very well:


      My performance is also given pre-tax includes estimated franking credits. A major reason why I am lagging the index is presumably management fees.... You can see though that my returns about match the ASX in the last five years, despite the drag of management fees. This is by investing more in funds that do generate alpha. The black line is a simulation for the "target portfolio".

      Wednesday, April 11, 2018

      Exited First Model Based Trade

      The futures market started crashing when the People's Daily said that Xi Jinping's comments on openness to trade did not apply to the US. I exited my trade when the S&P 500 was down 1% on the day, based on a 1% stop loss. I made USD 245 on the trade, which was roughly equivalent to 1/3 of an S&P 500 futures contract. So it's about 1/2% on the underlying stock. I was up about USD 650 at the close of Tuesday's regular market.

      I am continuing to fine tune my model strategy. It's different to how I traded a decade ago but following similar principles. When I deem the market is overbought I remain long (with a 1% stop) unless one model says that we will exit the overbought situation. Another indicator shows when we enter overbought. The mirror image applies to oversold - remain short with a stop. When neither overbought or oversold, I use the average of 4 predictors. This combination, if executed perfectly would have returned 37% since January 1st. It would have returned far less in the generally bullish market in 2017.

      Despite this, I have some further research ideas to test out to see if they can provide a more theoretically satisfying signal. One of the 4 signals in the composite makes no sense whatsoever, but it has done really well since the beginning of this year.

      The inverted head and shoulders formation still remains in play unless the market falls below the right hand shoulder:

      Notice the higher volume on the left shoulder than the right, which is a classic sign of a head and shoulders formation. The alignment of the recent highs perfectly along the white line is also a classic sign. P.S. 12 April Long again for 0.75 cents slippage.

      Sunday, April 08, 2018

      More Trading Model Research

      Even with all my old notes it is hard to reconstruct the trading rules I was using a decade ago. I have put that on the "back burner" while developing new approaches. I realised that I can actually make predictions on the level of the index. My model predicts the change in an indicator. I can solve for the index level that will generate that level given some assumptions. If there is little change in the index it's best not to trade. If a big move is predicted it is worth trading. The tests I've done so far are good, though it needs systematic backtesting. Using this approach the NASDAQ 100 index is projected to rise to 6555 on Monday up from 6433. That is a big move up. This will set up the price action of the last two weeks to be a "head and shoulders bottom". Based on that there should be a new uptrend over the next couple of weeks or so. Of course, my model can only project one day at a time. As this hasn't been extensively backtested yet, I think I will sell a put spread that limits my potential losses to less than a 1% stop loss on a futures contract would.

      P.S. 9 April
      After looking at my options (pun intended) I decided instead to buy a call option. Specifically a June 2018, ES-Mini 2800 call. This is an option on the ES-Mini futures contract. This option has currently a delta of about 0.16 - for a 1 point move in the futures contract it moves about 0.16 points. So, it is equivalent to going long USD 22k of stock instead of USD 130k. Also, the most I can lose is the USD 500 that the contract cost. The likely loss if I am wrong is more like half of that or about 1% of the implicit position. So, this is like a built in stop loss.* Because the option expires in a couple of months, the time decay shouldn't be too bad, but I will need to investigate further whether longer-dated options make more sense.

      I just found it impossible to find a risk-return trade off that I liked with selling put spreads. The net amount of premium I would have received was just too great relative to the potential loss.

      * This is particularly attractive for holding a position over the weekend when a stop can't be activated. The CME Globex market trades 24/5 not 24/7. Not that I'm planning to hold this position that long, but for future reference.

      Saturday, April 07, 2018

      Reviving Old Trading Models

      I dug into my computer files and updated the trading models I last used 10 years ago. One of them which is fairly simple flashed a strong warning sign at the January high in the market. It does tend to have false positives where it is fooled by a very strong trend into thinking that that is a top in the market, but this time the market actually did fall of course after the warning. This is a very negative signal. There was a minor buy signal at the recent low about a week back but there are typical several buy signals on the way down in bear markets. I had been looking for signs of a recession before taking de-risking action in a big way on our portfolio - for example, an inversion of the yield curve. There hasn't been any sign of a recession. But Trump's trade war and the Fed's unwinding of its inflated balance sheet are having a negative effect on the market.

      I have another much more complex model that attempts to forecast the day ahead direction of the market - despite what standard investment theory says, that the stock market is a random walk and can't be predicted this is actually possible to some degree with some insight from econometrics into how to turn it into a predictable problem. I updated the model using the last ten years of data and reoptimized the parameters - they hardly changed. That is a good sign. However, though I have all the past predictions and the trade directions I decided on based on them, I can't remember how I used the model to actually choose market direction. Unless I can find something I wrote about that, I'll have to reverse engineer that from scratch.

      P.S.
      I found a folder of handwritten research notes on my trading model from 2006-8 in my home office. This should help a lot.

      P.P.S.
      I predict the US will go into recession in 2019. In 2007 the stock market peaked in Summer-Fall but the recession didn't really get started till Bear-Stearns failed in March 2008. In 1999-2000 the stockmarket peaked in March 2000 but the recession didn't really get going till September 11, 2001.

      Friday, April 06, 2018

      Types of Trading

      There are lots of types of trading. Some of the important strategies are the following:

      1. Market-making: A market maker profits from the bid-ask spread in the market, selling at the ask and buying at the bid. This is very apparent in options markets where there is usually a big bid-ask spread. They can hedge their "delta" risk by buying or shorting the underlying security - for example for futures options they can buy and sell futures contracts. For individual stocks - if they are trading a diversified basket they can again hedge using futures contracts (or ETFs). It is possible for individual investors to make markets in small and illiquid stocks - ie. selling at the ask and buying at the bid, but it is a very slow process waiting for people to trade with you.

      2. Arbitrage: This exploits pricing anomalies, for example between futures contracts and ETFs for the same underlying index. Short one and buy the other. Occasionally, there are big arbitrage opportunities such as the famous Palm case.

      3. Mean reversion: These are generalizations of arbitrage. For example, buying closed end funds (listed investment company in Australian) when they are selling below net asset value and shorting them when they are above. I've done this quite a lot with Platinum Capital (PMC.AX - just selling when above NAV - but actually there is a CFD you could use to short the stock). This is arbitrage between the value of the portfolio and the price of the fund. Statistical arbitrage is a market-neutral mean reversion trade where stocks that have risen in value are shorted and those that have fallen are bought. It was pioneered by Ed Thorp.

      4. Selling option premium: This relies on the time decay of options. Most options expire worthless and risk aversion means that buyers should pay in net to reduce their risk. So option sellers should on average win. Again, delta risk could be hedged away in theory. The simplest case is covered calls where the trader buys a stock and sell a call - though actual delta hedging is a lot more complex than that.

      5. Information trading: Here the trader knows information that they think will move the security. For example, recently I bought shares in IPE because Mercantile did. I assumed correctly that their analysis must have shown that the underlying portfolio was worth more than the stock price. This is a kind of mean reversion/arbitrage of course and is could also be seen as investing. Even after the company released news of the sale of Threatmetrix to Elsevier, the price didn't immediately move to the new higher NAV.

      6. News trading: Here the information is not yet known but a trade is placed to take advantage of it. For example, if I know that Apple Computer will release their earnings but I don't have a hypothesis of which way it will move the stock, I could buy both calls and put options in the hope that a big move will make one increase by more than the other decreases. This seems pretty close to gambling - option prices should take into account the size of likely moves, so you are gambling that the move will be bigger than the market thinks.

      7. Trend following/momentum trading: This is what most people think of as trading. The trader tries to take advantage of market momentum. This is the approach taken by many managed futures funds. Much online trading advice is based on this.

      8. Hedging: These traders trade to hedge their investment or business positions. For example, an airline buying oil futures contracts to guarantee their future price of oil or an option buyer hedging an investment portfolio. The latter might also sell options to fund the hedging puts.

      What have I missed? This paper has an interesting discussion of types of traders.


      Tuesday, April 03, 2018

      First Futures Trades Since 2008

      I transferred some money from my Australian bank account to Interactive Brokers to do some practice trades. I haven't traded futures since 2008 and so just want to get used to doing trades again. I did 2 very quick daytrades, shorting the E-Mini S&P. The first trade I got out where I got in and so I lost $4.10 the cost of commissions. On the next trade I made 1 point or $50, so I made $46.90 net. I was very nervous while doing the trades even though I am trading with a stop that is transmitted at the same time as my order and is only one point above my sell price, so the most I can lose is $50.  The contract value is $130k (about my pretax annual salary :)), so short selling that much stock does make me feel nervous despite the stop. I've just got to get used to this again as I am thinking of doing more systematic trading again and doing it properly this time. When I traded before, I had lots of winning trades but my winning amounts were small relative to my losing amounts. If I can fix that I could trade profitably.

      March 2018 Report

      The first of the new style reports. A second losing month, but thanks to (listed) private equity investments, we beat the ASX200 index.

      The Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.7794 to USD 0.7680. The MSCI World Index fell 2.15%, and the S&P 500 2.54%. The ASX 200 lost 3.77%. All these are total returns including dividends. We lost 1.20% in Australian Dollar terms and 2.64% in US Dollar terms. So, we outperformed the Australian market and underperformed international markets.

      The best performing investment in dollar terms was IPE.AX, a listed private equity fund, which gained AUD 9.8k in the continuing rise after the acquisition of Threatmetrix by Elsevier. I sold my holding in IPE prior to the stock going ex dividend, as I didn't want an AUD 11k income tax bill. I then bought back even more shares than before as MVT.AX were recently still acquiring shares.

      The worst performer in dollar terms was not surprisingly CFS Geared Share Fund, down $18.6k. The best performing asset class was private equity, which gained 7.12%. The only other asset class with gains was hedge funds, up 0.57%. The worst performing asset class was large cap Australian stocks down 3.01%.

      We made a little progress towards the new long-run asset allocation:


      Total leverage includes borrowing inside leveraged (geared) mutual (managed) funds. The allocation is according to total assets including the true exposure in leveraged mutual funds. The "improvement" in allocation, came partly due to market movements and partly due to investment activity. We invest AUD 2000 monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Then there are distributions from funds and dividends. During the month, I also:
      • Sold out of Clime Capital (CAM.AX)
      • Bought a small amount of Oceania Capital Partners (OCP.AX, listed private equity)
      • Did the trading in IPE.AX
      • Bought more units in the Winton Global Alpha fund (managed futures - in the commodities category)
      Over time we've been reducing our exposure to large cap Australian stocks since the post financial crisis high:


      Monday, April 02, 2018

      New Era in Moomin Valley


      In a few months we will reach "financial independence" - our annual spending will be feasible with a little less than a 3% p.a. withdrawal rate. About 60% of this was due to our own efforts working, saving, and investing over the last 24 years and 40% from inheritance. I never depended on receiving the inheritance, which is why I saved so hard. Because I knew finding an academic job could be very hard when my initial short-term contracts ended, I saved up to 50% a year at times. This allowed me to live for a year in 2001-2 without working for pay, traveling around the world looking for work. Similarly, when we moved to Australia, I could experiment with trading in the financial markets while exploring alternatives.

      On the other hand, I think I was willing to take more risk based on the probability that we would receive a substantial amount. In the case of the financial crisis in 2008-9, I took on too much risk. The pressure of trying to make a living from trading with a small amount of capital combined with the volatility of the financial crisis was too much and I decided to stage an academic career comeback, which has been very successful.

      The other half of the financial independence equation in the blogging community is usually "retire early". I don't have any plan to do that any time soon. I like the research side of my work and I have my teaching etc organized so that going forward it shouldn't be too hard - I only need to teach during one half of the year for now. As things are at the moment, it would be hard to find a better job than this. So, it doesn't make any sense to sacrifice my salary. I am actually exploring a potential career move to another bigger city. That job would have more admin and maybe no teaching. Introspection tells me that I wouldn't like to retire currently.  On the other hand, Moominmama is pretty frustrated with her work at the moment and so now has options to take a break and consider alternatives.

      On the other hand, our spending is growing by more than the rate of inflation and I expect that to continue. So the current 3% withdrawal rate would become more than a 3% rate over time unless investment returns are very good, which does not seem likely. Continuing to earn some money does sound good in those circumstances.

      Is continuing to work limiting our location choices? At the moment, I don't think there is another location that we would both agree on and which would make practical sense. We have to consider education opportunities for little Moomin. So, moving to a small town in Australia does not sound like a good move from that perspective. The nice parts (with good education) of the two biggest Australian cities are extremely expensive and would take us out of the financial independence zone. We definitely would never move to Moominmama's home country (she doesn't even want to visit at the moment). Moominmama is not enthusiastic about moving to either of my home countries. One is too cold and dark as far as she is concerned (Northern Europe) and the other too foreign and dangerous (Middle East). That leaves Southern Europe as a sensible or feasible alternative, but I don't think we want Moomin to grow up speaking Spanish or French? I think it would be hard for Moominmama to learn those languages too, though not difficult for me. So, continuing to work is not stopping us from making a move to another location that we could or would want to make.

      So, for now not much will change, but this blog will change. I plan to stop reporting actual earning, spending, and net worth figures. Going forward, all numbers will be in percentage terms only. When the vast majority of our net worth was the result of our own work and effort I was happy to report those numbers, and reporting, even though it is mostly anonymously, helped keep us on track. But now that so much of our net worth has not come from our own efforts and we don't have the goal of achieving financial independence anymore, I don't want to report the numbers any more. On the other hand, I'm not going to erase the existing blog.

      Our long term goal now is to pass on at least as much wealth in real terms to the next generation as we received from the previous one. My parents also inherited more than 2/3 of their eventual net worth, though they also saved and worked hard to build up wealth in earlier years. They eventually passed on what they inherited.