September 9, 2015

"August Sucks" MIT Quant Warns New Strategies "Are Creating Volatility"

"August Sucks," concludes MIT Quant guru Andrew Lo, reflecting on the systematic-trading strategy effects on markets, and it's not going to get better any time soon. As he explains to Bloomberg, "algorithmic trading is speeding up the reaction times of these participants, so that’s the choppiness of the market. Everybody can move to the left side of the boat and the right side of the boat now within minutes as opposed to hours or days." As we have noted many time, Lo explains how "crowded trades have got to the point of alpha becoming beta," warning that volatility-targeting strategies (such as Risk-Parity) are not only "exaggerating the moves," but he cautions omniously reminiscent of the August 2007 quant crash, "I think they are creating volatility of volatility."

Bloomberg interviews MIT Quant guru and Chairman of AlphaSimplex Group LLC, Andrew Lo...

Question: What does this volatility look like to you? Is this another quant meltdown?
Lo: I’m not sure I’d characterize it as just a quant meltdown. I think that makes it a little bit too cut and dried. Probably there are a number of different factors, including algorithmic trading, that plays into it. We have a number of different forces that are all coming to a head. And because of the automation of markets and the electronification of trading, we’re seeing much choppier markets than we otherwise would have five or 10 years ago. But it’s many forces operating at different time scales, all coming to a head.
Question: Is systematic trading exaggerating the moves?

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