Better Strategies 4: Machine Learning

Deep Blue was the first computer that won a chess world championship. That was 1996, and it took 20 years until another program, AlphaGo, could defeat the best human Go player. Deep Blue was a model based system with hardwired chess rules. AlphaGo is a data-mining system, a deep neural network trained with thousands of Go games. Not improved hardware, but a breakthrough in software was essential for the step from beating top Chess players to beating top Go players. 
   In this 4th part of the mini-series we’ll look into the data mining approach for developing trading strategies. This method does not care about market mechanisms. It just scans price curves or other data sources for predictive patterns. Machine learning or “Artificial Intelligence” is not always involved in data-mining strategies. In fact the most popular – and surprisingly profitable – data mining method works without any fancy neural networks or support vector machines. Continue reading “Better Strategies 4: Machine Learning”

Build Better Strategies! Part 3: The Development Process

This is the third part of the Build Better Strategies series. In the previous part we’ve discussed the 10 most-exploited market inefficiencies and gave some examples of their trading strategies. In this part we’ll analyze the general process of developing a model-based trading system. As almost anything, you can do trading strategies in (at least) two different ways: There’s the ideal way, and there’s the real way. We begin with the ideal development process, broken down to 10 steps. Continue reading “Build Better Strategies! Part 3: The Development Process”

Dear Brokers…

Whatever software we’re using for automated trading: We all need some broker connection for the algorithm to receive price quotes and place trades. Seemingly a simple task. And almost any broker supports it through a protocol such as FIX, through an automated platform such as MT4™, or through a specific broker API. But if you think you can quickly hook up your trading software to a broker API, you’re up for a bad surprise. Dear brokers – please read this post and try to make hacker’s and coder’s lifes a little easier! Continue reading “Dear Brokers…”

Build Better Strategies! Part 2: Model-Based Systems

Trading systems come in two flavors: model-based and data-mining. This article deals with model based strategies. Even when the basic algorithms are not complex, properly developing them has its difficulties and pitfalls (otherwise anyone would be doing it). A significant market inefficiency gives a system only a relatively small edge. Any little mistake can turn a winning strategy into a losing one. And you will not necessarily notice this in the backtest.  Continue reading “Build Better Strategies! Part 2: Model-Based Systems”

Better Tests with Oversampling

The more data you use for testing or training your strategy, the less bias will affect the test result and the more accurate will be the training. The problem: price data is always in short supply. Even shorter when you must put aside some part for out-of-sample tests. Extending the test or training period far into the past is not always a solution. The markets of the 1990s or 1980s were very different from today, so their price data can cause misleading results.
   In this article I’ll describe a simple method to produce more trades for testing, training, and optimizing from the same amount of price data. The method is tested with a price action system based on data mining price patterns. Continue reading “Better Tests with Oversampling”

Build Better Strategies!

Enough blog posts, papers, and books deal with how to properly optimize and test trading systems. But there is little information about how to get to such a system in the first place. The described strategies often seem to have appeared out of thin air. Does a trading system require some sort of epiphany? Or is there a systematic approach to developing it?
   This post is the first of a small series in which I’ll attempt a methodical way to build trading strategies. The first part deals with the two main methods of strategy development, with market hypotheses and with a Swiss Franc case study. Continue reading “Build Better Strategies!”

The Cold Blood Index

You’ve developed a new trading system. All tests produced impressive results. So you started it live. And are down by $2000 after 2 months. Or you have a strategy that worked for 2 years, but revently went into a seemingly endless drawdown. Situations are all too familiar to any algo trader. What now? Carry on in cold blood, or pull the brakes in panic? 
    Several reasons can cause a strategy to lose money right from the start. It can be already expired since the market inefficiency disappeared. Or the system is worthless and the test falsified by some bias that survived all reality checks. Or it’s a normal drawdown that you just have to sit out. In this article I propose an algorithm for deciding very early whether or not to abandon a system in such a situation. Continue reading “The Cold Blood Index”

I Hired a Contract Coder

You’re a trader with serious ambitions to use algorithmic methods. You already have an idea to be converted to an algorithm. The problem: You do not know to read or write code. So you hire a contract coder. A guy who’s paid for delivering a script that you can drop in your MT4, Ninja, TradeStation, or Zorro platform. Congratulations, now you’re an algorithmic trader. Just start the script and wait for the money to roll in. – Does this really work? Answer: it depends. Continue reading “I Hired a Contract Coder”

Is “Scalping” Irrational?

Clients often ask for strategies that trade on very short time frames. Some are possibly inspired by “I just made $2000 in 5 minutes” stories on trader forums. Others have heard of High Frequency Trading: the higher the frequency, the better must be the trading! The Zorro developers had been pestered for years until they finally implemented tick histories and millisecond time frames. Totally useless features? Or has short term algo trading indeed some quantifiable advantages? An experiment for looking into that matter produced a surprising result. Continue reading “Is “Scalping” Irrational?”

Hacker’s Tools

For performing our financial hacking experiments (and for earning the financial fruits of our labor) we need some software machinery for research, testing, training, and live trading financial algorithms. No existing software platform today is really up to all those tasks. So you have no choice but to put together your system from different software packages. Fortunately, two are normally sufficient. I’ll use Zorro and R for most articles on this blog, but will also occasionally look into other tools. Continue reading “Hacker’s Tools”