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Technical Trading

Does technical trading work, or not? Rationalists dismiss it; behavioralists investigate it. Is there any verdict? These blog entries relate to technical trading.

Exploiting Stock Limit Order Books?

Do stock limit order books tip the direction of stock price? In their October 2015 paper entitled “Enhancing Trading Strategies with Order Book Signals”, Alvaro Cartea, Ryan Donnelly and Sebastian Jaimungal test the use of buying and selling pressures based on limit order book data to predict the direction, depth and magnitude of near-term stock price movements. They define pressure simply as the difference between the volume of limit orders at the highest bid minus volume of limit orders at the lowest ask, divided by the sum of the two volumes. When the ratio approaches 1 (-1), there is strong buying (selling) pressure. They test the degree to which traders can enhance performance of round-trip trading strategies by exploiting buying and selling pressure. Using stock limit order book data for ten Nasdaq stocks with relatively large tick sizes during January 2014 through June 2014 to calibrate trading rules and during July 2014 through December 2014 to test application of the rules to trading, they find that: Keep Reading

Annual Stock Market Streaks

Are annual stock market winning and losing streaks informative about future market performance? To investigate, we consider up and down annual streaks for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). We look at streaks in two ways:

  1. Retrospective (non-overlapping). We know the total duration of each streak.
  2. Experienced (real-time and partially overlapping). We know each year how long a streak has lasted, but we don’t know when it will end.

Using DJIA annual returns for 1929 through 2014 (86 years), we find that: Keep Reading

Profit Drivers of Actual Short-term Algorithmic Trading?

What drives the profitability of algorithmic long-short statistical arbitrage trading (such as pairs trading) of liquid U.S. stocks? In their September 2015 paper entitled “Performance v. Turnover: A Story by 4,000 Alphas”, Zura Kakushadze and Igor Tulchinsky examine portfolio turnover and portfolio volatility as potential net return drivers for such trading. Their data source is 4,002 randomly selected portfolios (essentially synonymous with “alphas” in their lexicon) from a substantially larger survivorship bias-free pool of real trading accounts. Position holding periods for sampled portfolios range from 0.7 to 19 trading days. The authors exclude 366 portfolios with negative performance and then remove 347 portfolios as outliers for a residual sample of 3,289 portfolios. Using daily closing prices for holdings in these portfolios over an unspecified sample period, they find that: Keep Reading

High-Frequency Technical Trading of Gold and Silver?

Does simple technical analysis based on moving averages work on high-frequency spot gold and silver trading? In their August 2015 paper entitled “Does Technical Analysis Beat the Market? – Evidence from High Frequency Trading in Gold and Silver”, Andrew Urquhart, Jonathan Batten, Brian Lucey, Frank McGroarty and Maurice Peat examine the profitability of 5-minute moving average technical analysis in the gold and silver spot markets. They consider simple moving average (SMA), exponential moving average (EMA) and weighted moving average (WMA) crossing rules. These rules buy (sell) when a fast moving average crosses above (below) a slow moving average. They start with four commonly used parameter settings, all using a fast moving average of one interval paired with a slow moving average of 50, 100, 150 or 200 intervals [(1-50), (1-100), (1-150) or (1-200)]. They then test all combinations of a fast moving average ranging from 1 to 49 intervals and a slow moving average ranging from 50 to 500 intervals, generating a total of 66,297 distinct rules. To compensate for data snooping bias, they specify in-sample and out-of-sample subperiods and test whether the most successful in-sample rules work out-of-sample. They also use bootstrapping as an additional robustness test. Using 5-minute spot gold and silver prices during January 2008 through mid-September 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Technical vs. Fundamental Investment Recommendations

Are expert technicians or fundamentalists better forecasters of short-term and intermediate-term asset returns? In the August 2015 version of their paper entitled “Talking Numbers: Technical versus Fundamental Recommendations”, Doron Avramov, Guy Kaplanski and Haim Levy assess the economic value of dual technical and fundamental recommendations presented simultaneously on “Talking Numbers”, a CNBC and Yahoo joint broadcast… “featuring fundamental and technical recommendations before and during the market open. Dual recommendations are made by highly experienced analysts representing prominent institutions.” Recommendations address both individual stocks and asset classes, including U.S. and foreign broad equity indexes, sector/industry equity indexes, bonds, commodities and exchange rates. Using 1,000 dual recommendations on 262 stocks and 620 dual recommendations on other assets, along with associated price data, during November 2011 through December 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Combining Annual Fundamental and Monthly Trend Screens

Stock return anomaly studies based on firm accounting variables generally employ annually reformed portfolios that are long (short) the tenth of stocks expected to perform well (poorly). Does adding monthly portfolio updates based on technical stock price trend measurements boost anomaly portfolio performance? In the June 2015 version of their paper entitled “Anomalies Enhanced: The Use of Higher Frequency Information”, Yufeng Han, Dayong Huang and Guofu Zhou test eight equal-weighted long-short portfolios that combine annual screening based on a predictive accounting variable with monthly screening based on a simple moving average (SMA)-based stock price trend rule. The eight accounting variables (screened in June based on prior December data) are: (1) book-to-market ratio; (2) gross profitability; (3) operating profitability; (4) asset growth; (5) investment growth; (6) net stock issuance; (7) accruals; and, (8) net operating assets. The price trend screen excludes from the long (short) side of the portfolio any stock for which 50-day SMA is less than (greater than) 200-day SMA at the end of the prior month. Using accounting and daily price data for a broad sample of U.S. stocks during July 1965 through December 2013, they find that: Keep Reading

Best Stock Pairs Trading Method?

What is the best stock pairs trading method? In their June 2015 paper entitled “The Profitability of Pairs Trading Strategies: Distance, Cointegration, and Copula Methods”, Hossein Rad, Rand Kwong Yew Low and Robert Faff compare performances of three pairs trading methods as applied to U.S. stocks.

  1. Distance – Select the 20 stock pairs with the smallest sum of squared differences in initially normalized dividend-adjusted prices during a 12-month formation period. Then re-normalize prices of selected pairs and initiate equal long-short trades when prices diverge by at least two formation-period standard deviations during a subsequent six-month trading period. Close trades when prices converge or, if not, at the end of the trading period. Re-open trades if prices diverge again withing the trading period.
  2. Cointegration – Sort stock pairs based on sum of squared differences in initially normalized dividend-adjusted prices during a 12-month formation period. Then determine which pairs are cointegrated (exhibit a reliable mean-reverting relationship) during the formation period, and select the 20 cointegrated pairs with the smallest sum of squared differences. Over the subsequent six-month trading period, trade pair divergences and convergences based on cointegration statistics, with long and short position sizes also determined by these statistics.
  3. Copula – Select the 20 stock pairs with the smallest sum of squared differences in initially normalized dividend-adjusted prices during a 12-month formation period. Then construct best-fit copulas for each pair and use copula statistics to determine when pair prices diverge and converge during a subsequent six-month trading period, opening and closing equal long-short trades accordingly.

They iterate each method monthly, so each always involves six overlapping portfolios. They assume round trip broker fees start at 0.7% in 1962 and gradually decline to 0.09% in recent years. They estimate impact of trading on price as 0.3% during 1962-1988 and 0.2% since. They assume zero cost of shorting. They calculate returns based on both employed capital (funding only actual trades) and committed capital (funding 20 concurrent positions per portfolio, with no return on cash). Monthly return for each method is the equally weighted average for the six overlapping portfolios. Using daily dividend-adjusted prices for a broad sample of relatively liquid U.S. common stocks during 1962 through 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Best Moving Average Weighting Scheme for Market Timing?

What is the best scheme over the long run for identifying U.S. stock market trends? In the May 2015 version of his paper entitled “Market Timing With a Robust Moving Average”, Valeriy Zakamulin isolates the most robust moving average weighting scheme for a U.S. stock market index based on monthly data. He tests 300 weighting schemes. For all schemes, test portfolios are in stocks (a risk-free asset) when the last index price is above (below) the moving average. His principal performance metric is the Sharpe ratio. He defines robust as: (1) being insensitive to outliers; and, (2) generating consistent performance across all observed market environments. He specifies the range of observed market environments as 30 subperiods, each 10 years in length (with 5-year overlaps). He assumes that there is no optimal trend measurement look-back interval and therefore considers 15 intervals (4 to 18 months). He therefore generates 450 ranks by Sharpe ratio for each of the 300 weighting schemes and defines the most robust as the one with the highest median rank. Using monthly estimates of the Standard and Poor’s Composite Total Return Index and the risk-free rate during January 1860 through December 2014, he finds that: Keep Reading

Trend Indicator Similarities

What is the best way to do asset price trend analysis? Two recent papers address this question. In the May 2015 version of their paper entitled “Which Trend is Your Friend?”, Ari Levine and Lasse Pedersen compare time series (intrinsic or absolute) momentum, moving average (fast and slow) crossovers and other trend indicators to determine the best way to identify a price trend. In the May 2015 version of their paper entitled “Uncovering Trend Rules”, Paul Beekhuizen and Winfried Hallerbach describe how to determine the underlying historical weighting schemes (a combination of continuation and reversion) of price moving averages and combinations of price moving averages. Using both theoretical analyses and examples, these papers conclude that: Keep Reading

Long-term Tests of Simple X% Rules

A subscriber requested long-term tests of simple versions of the strategy described by Jason Kelly in The 3% Signal: The Investing Technique that Will Change Your Life. We start with a general strategy targeting an X% quarterly increase in a stock fund, as follows:

  1. Initiate X% rules with either 80%-20% or 60%-40% allocations to a stock fund and a bond fund.
  2. If over the next quarter the stock fund increases by more than X%, transfer the excess from the stock fund to the bond fund.
  3. If over the next quarter the stock fund increases by less than X%, make up the shortfall by transferring money from the bond fund to the stock fund.
  4. If at the end of any quarter the bond fund does not have enough money to make up a shortfall in the stock fund: either draw the bond fund down to 0 and add cash to make up the rest of the shortfall; or, draw the bond fund down to 0 and bear the rest of the shortfall in the stock fund.
  5. Consider two benchmarks: a 100% allocation to the stock fund (B&H); and, 60%-40% allocations to the stock and bond funds, rebalanced quarterly (60-40). Whenever adding cash to the bond fund per Step 4, add equal amounts to the benchmarks.

We consider for X% a range of 2% to 4% in increments of 0.5%. We employ stock and bond mutual funds with long histories: Fidelity Magellan (FMAGX) and Fidelity Investment Grade Bond (FBNDX). We assume there are no trading frictions when adding or withdrawing money from these funds. Using quarterly returns for these funds from the first quarter of 1972 (limited by FBNDX) through the first quarter of 2015 (43.25 years), we find that:

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