Monday, 21 March 2016


Performance Analysis                                                                      

Managing risk according to Michael Halls-Moore comes down to:
  1. identifying and mitigating intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can affect the performance or execution of the algo
  2. managing the portfolio to maximise growth rate and minimise capital drawdown

Strategy and Model risk

This includes the risk from backtesting bias and assumptions in the statistical model that can be ignored. e.g a linear regression assumes homoscedasticity. We can see that through constant variance in the residual plot. However if this is not tested then the linear regression will provide less accurate results in parameter estimation.

Other models use moments of the data such as mean, variance, skewness and kurtosis of strategy returns. This means moments should be constant in time. However if a market regime changes then the model will not fit as well as it should due to a change in these moments. Models with rolling parameters can help.

Portfolio risk

Portfolio allocation may be heavy in certain sectors and therefore it is often important for institutional investors to override particular strategies to account for overloaded factor risk when the preservation of capital is more important than the long term growth rate of the capital.

Institutional investors may also face the risk of causing market impact particularly in illiquid assets. A large percentage of the daily trading volume if traded can invalidate the results of the backtest which typically neglect market impact. Therefore setting a limit such as small percentage of the running average daily volume over a certain period can help.

Strategies in the portfolio should also not be correlated. This correlation can be measured by the Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient (Pearson’s R), though it is best to design it specifically so that they are not correlated due to different asset classes or frequency, particularly as correlation can change during financial contagion. Rolling correlations can therefore be estimated over a long time frame to include in the backtest.

Counterparty risk

In the context of algo trading we are more concerned about the risk of default from suppliers such as an exchange or brokerage (though rare). Michael Halls Moore factors the risk of brokerage bankruptcy and recommends using multiple brokerages though this can make it difficult.
Money Management

Measurement of account drawdowns (drop in account equity) can allow the trader to realise how much they are able to tolerate because they find it is optimal for long term growth rate of the portfolio via leverage.

The Kelly Criterion enables control over this balance - it lets us see leverage and allocation towards various strategies.


  • Each algo strategy will be assumed to have a returns of a Gaussian distribution. Furthermore each strategy has their own fixed and constant mean and standard deviation of returns.
  • The returns are excess returns, having subtracted margin account interest and transaction costs (and management and performance fees for institutions). i.e mean annual return - risk free borrowing rate
  • The strategies have no correlation and therefore the covariance matrix between strategy returns is diagonal.

The Kelly Criterion fi for optimal leverage for each strategy to maximise growth rate and minimise drawdowns is:

fi = μi/σi2    for each strategy i to N of vector f
i.e average excess returns/variance of excess returns for that strategy

fi = optimal leverage = optimal size of portfolio/own equity
growth rate = rf + S^2/2    
Where rf is the risk-free interest rate, (the rate at which you can borrow from the broker), and S is the annualised Sharpe Ratio of the strategy.
Sharpe Ratio = annualised mean excess returns/annualised standard deviation of excess returns

Kelly Criterion is obviously not static and therefore should be recalculated regularly via a lookback window of 3-6 months of daily returns. Sometimes maintaining this level of leverage means selling into a loss though this is mathematically the way to maximise long term growth rate. Because the average excess returns and variance of excess returns are uncertain in practice traders tend to use the half Kelly, i.e divide it by two, where the actual value serves as an upper bound of leverage to use. Otherwise using the actual Kelly value can lead to a complete wipeout of account equity given the non Gaussian nature of returns for each strategy.
Risk Management
Value at Risk
VaR is an estimate at a certain confidence level of the size of a loss from a portfolio over a certain timeframe. This time period is one that would lead to the least market impact if the portfolio were to be liquidated.
Where L is loss, the value of the loss is VaR and c is confidence level:
P(L <= -VaR) = 1-c

So to mathematically express the fact there is a 95% chance of losing no more than US$100 000 the next day:

P(L <= -1.0 x 105 ) = 0.05            

Though straightforward to calculate, it does not tell us by how much the loss can exceed the value (that is expected shortfall). It also assumes typical market conditions (not tail risk) and volatility and correlation of assets need to be known, which can be difficult especially if there is a change in market regime that changes these parameters significantly.

Three techniques to calculate VaR are:
1.      variance-covariance method: assumes normal distribution
2.      monte carlo: assumes non normal distribution
3.      historical bootstrapping: uses historical returns of the asset/entire strategy

For the variance-covariance method for an asset/strategy, the daily VaR of a portfolio of P dollars with confidence level c and alpha being the inverse of a cumulative distribution function* of a normal distribution:

VaR = P - (P(alpha(1-c)+1))

*Cumulative frequency analysis is the analysis of the frequency of occurrence of values of a phenomenon less than a reference value.

The ppy method under the SciPy library in Python enables us to generate the values for the inverse cumulative distribution function of a normal distribution with mean and standard deviation values obtained from historical daily returns of an asset (we would replace these with returns of a strategy).

More info that describes the various ways in which R can calculate VaR and ES:

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-


#importing the required packages
from __future__ import print_function

import datetime

import numpy
from scipy.stats import norm

#creating the function to calculate VaR with the following parameters
def var_cov_var(P, c, mu, sigma):
    Variance-Covariance calculation of daily Value-at-Risk
    using confidence level c, with mean of returns mu
    and standard deviation of returns sigma, on a portfolio
    of value P.
    alpha = norm.ppf(1-c, mu, sigma)
    return P - P*(alpha + 1)

#reading the table of historical prices from Yahoo Finance for JP Morgan
#over the period 2012 to 2016
if __name__ == "__main__":
    start = datetime.datetime(2012, 1, 1)
    end = datetime.datetime(2016, 1, 1)

    jp ="JPM", 'yahoo', start, end)
    #converting into percentage returns
    jp["rets"] = jp["Adj Close"].pct_change()

    P = 1e6   # 1,000,000 USD portfolio 
    c = 0.99  # 99% confidence interval
    mu = numpy.mean(jp["rets"])
    sigma = numpy.std(jp["rets"])

    var = var_cov_var(P, c, mu, sigma)
    print("Value-at-Risk: $%0.2f" % var)
Value-at-Risk: $31676.22
There is a 99% chance of losing no more than $31 676.22 from a $100 000 portfolio the next day.

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