Quantifying the Impact of the Number of Decks and Depth of Penetration While Counting Blackjack

Counting Blackjack has become an interest of mine over the past few months. After learning the basics of the Hi-Lo counting strategy I thought it would be beneficial to analyze how much time I should expect to have the advantage during my trips.

The Hi-Lo Count is the most used and discussed counting strategy for Blackjack because of its simplicity and effectiveness. Each card is given a value of either -1, 0, or +1. The low cards (2-6) are given values of +1. The neutral cards (7-9) are given values of 0. The high cards (10-Ace) are given values of -1. At any point in the shoe, the running count is the summation of card values dealt up until that point. The running count at the beginning of the shoe is zero and if all cards of the shoe were dealt, it would end at zero. To calculate the true count, the running count is divided by the number of decks remaining in the shoe. This standardizes the true count, so it is comparable at any point of the shoe. The true count represents the player vs the house edge and instructs the player to increase their bet when the advantage is in their favor. The player’s advantage increases as the true count increases because there are more high cards left in the shoe, which then gives the player better hands and causes the dealer to bust more frequently. When playing perfect basic strategy, the player begins to have the advantage when the true count (TC) becomes larger than +1. If you’re interested in the details of basic strategy, card counting, and expected value, I encourage you to check out the available resources online that cover these topics thoroughly.

This advantage from counting can vary based on the number of decks being used and the depth of penetration (how far into the shoe the dealer places the shuffle card). It is widely preached that the player has a larger positive expected value when fewer decks are used with deeper penetration. Therefore, many casinos deal 6+ decks with penetration as low as 60% to make it more difficult for players to get an advantage.

To quantify the impact of penetration and the number of decks on the advantage from counting cards, I ran rudimentary simulations that dealt through shoes, one card at a time, while keeping track of the true count at each point. To start, I simply plotted the different paths of true counts for different shoes. In Figure 1 below, the paths of 1000 simulations with a shoe of 5 decks and poor penetration are shown. The true count never passes +/-10.

Figure 1: True Count Paths w/ Low Penetration

Since the true count depends on the number of decks remaining in the shoe, having deeper penetration can result in more extreme true counts. In Figure 2 below, the same amount of decks are used but now the shoe is dealt entirely through.

Complete Pen
Figure 2: True Count Paths w/ Full Penetration

In all simulations the true count must end at zero since the running count of an entire shoe is zero. These situations when the true count is high and reverts back to zero are where the advantage from counting pays dividends. It is also clear from the simulations that the variance of the true count increases as the penetration becomes deeper which gives rise to more of these profitable periods. These periods also will return to neutral quicker though. A +5 TC could return to zero in one hand (5 cards) if there is only one deck remaining in the shoe. A +5 TC with 3 decks left would take 15 face cards to return to zero.

Next, to visualize how these simulations compare across different combinations of decks and penetration, I needed to choose what variables mattered. The average number of points per simulation where the TC > 2 quantifies the amount of points with a player advantage. Since this is dependent on the shoe size, these values were divided by the shoe size to give the percent of shoe with the advantage. Additionally, the variance of the true count was monitored because as we saw previously, a larger variance may amplify the advantage. The results are presented in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3: Heatmaps of Outcomes Based on Different Combinations of the Number of Decks and Depth of Penetration

These findings are consistent with previous analysis of Blackjack. The player can expect to spend the most time with the advantage in games using fewer decks and deeper penetration. The value of this advantage time is also improved by a larger variance. The variance is more dependent on the depth of penetration than the number of decks, but both affect its value. If we look at a standard game available at many casinos of 6 decks with 65% penetration, the player will have the TC > 2 for 13% of the shoe on average with a TC standard deviation of 1.3. If we were to find a 2-deck game with 90% penetration, the player will have the TC > 2 for 28% of the shoe on average with a TC standard deviation of 4.1. If these games have the same rules, the player will gain more of an edge with fewer decks and deeper penetration.

The code for generating this analysis can be found on Github here. An interesting topic to explore next would if the path that the TC takes when reverting back to zero affects expected value and if so, how?

Acknowledgements: Thank you to James Sweetman for helping me better understand the Blackjack concepts.



Constructing Continuous Futures Price Series

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All of my previous analysis has focused on US equities, but today we begin the journey into another asset class, futures. Futures are traded via contracts where two parties agree to exchange a quantity of an asset for a price decided today and delivered at a specified date in the future. The expiration dates of the contracts vary based on the underlying asset and range from monthly to quarterly. To properly evaluate the profitability of trading strategies with historical futures contract data, it is necessary to combine these contracts into a continuous price series. This isn’t entirely straightforward because contango and backwardation factors cause contracts of the same underlying asset with different expiration dates to be priced differently. It is initially unclear how to best concatenate these price series, so I want to explore a few of the basic methods and their advantages. I’m interested in exploring futures strategies, so this was a necessary first step since Quandl’s free continuous futures data is of insufficient quality, but they provide high quality individual contract data. Becoming comfortable with the contract data while creating flexible, testable continuous price series is a valuable exercise. Additionally, I decided to use Python because I have not done a project with it and this is a useful applied problem to build some Python skills.

For this example, we will construct a variety of continuous price series for the commodity wheat. The first step is to pull the contract data from the Quandl API and store it appropriately (see the included code). To begin, let’s plot all the contracts’ prices to observe the behavior of the price data. As seen in Figure 1 below, although there is some consistency between the contracts, there is a significant amount of variance.

Figure 1: Futures Prices of All Wheat Contracts

Ideally, to make this a backtest-ready series, we need to be trading a single contract at each point in time (or possibly a combination of contracts). The further we are from a contract’s expiration; the more price speculation is embedded into the price. The front or nearest month contract refers to the contract which has the soonest expiration date and thus has the least amount of speculation. Generally, front month contracts have the most trading activity, as measured by open interest. When expiration approaches, traders will roll their positions over to the next contract or let them expire. A basic approach to construct a continuous series would be to always use the front month contract’s price and when the current front month contract expires, switch to the new front month contract. There is one caveat, the price of the contracts when you rollover may not be the same, and in general, won’t be the same. These gaps will create artificial, untradeable price movements in the continuous series. To create a smooth transition between contracts, we can adjust them in such a way so that there won’t be a gap. We’ll refer to the size of this gap as the adjustment factor. Forward adjusting would shift the next contract to eliminate the gap by subtracting the adjustment factor from the next contract’s price series. Backward adjusting would shift the previous contract to eliminate the gap by adding the adjustment factor to the previous contract’s price series. Figure 2 below shows an example of these adjustments for an actual rollover.

Figure 2: Backward/Forward Adjusting Example

Now, when this approach is extended over multiple contracts the adjustment factors will simply cumulate so that prices for every contract are appropriately adjusted. The quality of the data is the same whether you backward or forward adjust. The difference is what needs to be recalculated with each new contract and what the values represent. The backward adjusted series’ current values represent the actual market values thus the historical data needs to be recalculated when a new contract is added to the series. The forward adjusted series does not require recalculating historical data but since each new contract that is added to the series needs to be adjusted, the new prices will not represent the actual market values. Figure 3 below shows the fully adjusted wheat series. Notice that the difference between the forward and backward adjusted series remains constant. This difference is the total adjustment factor.

Figure 3: Expiration Adjusted Wheat Series

A point that becomes apparent, here, is that we are adjusting the price series, not the returns. The daily returns of the forward and backward adjusted series differ. When creating continuous prices, you are forced to choose between either correct P&L or correct returns. To adjust for correct returns, one would need to work with the daily log returns series of the contracts and then construct a usable price series from those. Dr. Ernest Chan’s second book covers this concept thoroughly on pg. 12-16.

Another approach to construct a continuous series is the perpetual method, which smooths the transitions between contracts by taking a weighted average of the contracts’ prices during the transition period. This can be weighted on time left to expiration, open interest, or other properties of the contracts. For this example, we will begin the transition to the next contract once its open interest becomes greater than the current contract and weight the prices during the transition based on open interest. As seen in Figure 4 below, this happens prior to the expiration of the contracts.

Figure 4: 2014 Wheat Contracts’ Open Interest

Like the previous example, one could also forward/backward adjust using the open interest crossover date which is more realistic because of better liquidity. This option is available in the attached code. In our case, after this crossover date, we transition to the next contract over the next 5 days (the number of days is adjustable) based on open interest. Figure 5 below shows the slightly smoother perpetual adjusted series.

Figure 5: Perpetual Adjusted Wheat Series

This smoothed price series may be advantageous for statistical research since it reduces noise in longer term signals but it contains prices that are not directly tradable. To trade the price during the transition period, one would have to rebalance their percentage of the current and next contract each day, which would incur transaction costs.

There are a variety of other adjustment methods, but the examples shown here provide a strong and sufficient foundation. A paper that I found very helpful and one that covers additional methods is available here. The Python code accompanying this post can be found here. I hope you found these examples helpful. In my next post, I am going to use these continuous series as I analyze futures trading strategies. Thanks for reading!

Cointegration, Correlation, and Log Returns

Co-Author: Eric Kammers

I recently created a Twitter account for the blog where I will curate and comment on content I find interesting related to finance, data science, and data visualization. Please follow me at @Quantoisseur (see the embedded stream on the sidebar). Enjoy the post!

The differences between correlation and cointegration can often be confusing. While there are some helpful explanations online, I wasn’t satisfied with the visual examples. When looking at a plot of an actual pair of symbols where the correlation and cointegration test results differ, it can be difficult to pinpoint which portions of the time series are responsible for these separate properties. To solve this, I decided to produce some basic examples with sinusoidal functions so I could solidify my understanding of these concepts.

First, let’s highlight the difference between cointegration and correlation. Correlation is more familiar to most of us, especially outside of the financial industry. Correlation is a measure of how well two variables move in tandem together over time. Two common correlation measures are Pearson’s product-moment coefficient and Spearman’s ranks-order coefficient. Both coefficients range from -1, perfect negative correlation, to 0, no correlation, to 1, perfect positive correlation. Positive correlation means that the variables move in tandem in the same direction while negative correlation means that they move in tandem but in opposite directions. When calculating correlation, we look at returns rather than price because returns are normalized across differently priced assets. The main difference between the two correlation coefficients is that the Spearman coefficient measures the monotonic relationship between two variables, while the Pearson coefficient measures their linear relationship. Figure 1 below shows how the different coefficients behave when two variables exhibit either a linear or nonlinear relationship. Notice how the Spearman coefficient remains 1 for both scenarios since the relationship in both cases is perfectly monotonic.

Figure 1: Pearson vs Spearman for Nonlinear and Linear Functions

Based on the distributions of the data, these coefficients can behave differently which I will explore with additional examples later in this post. Here are some resources for further clarification on the Pearson and Spearman coefficients.

Now, cointegration tests do not measure how well two variables move together, but rather whether the difference between their means remains constant. Often, variables with high correlation will also be cointegrated, and vice versa, but this isn’t always the case. In contrast to correlation, when testing for cointegration we use prices rather than returns since we’re more interested in the trend between the variables’ means over time than in the individual price movements. There are multiple cointegration tests, but in this case, I’ll be using the Augmented Dicky-Fuller test to evaluate the stationarity of the residuals from the linear model created with the pair’s price series.

Second, using log returns for financial calculations is, in many cases, preferable to using simple returns. There are many resources online explaining the advantages and disadvantages of using log returns. We will not dive into this topic too much, but some of the advantages are due to assuming a log normal distribution which makes them easier to work with and gives them convenient properties like time-additivity. Figure 2 below shows the relationship between log and simple returns.

Figure 2: Relationship between Simple and Log Returns

Furthermore, correlation is a second moment calculation meaning that it is only appropriate if higher moments are insignificant. Using log returns is better so we can ensure the higher moments are negligible and avoid having to use copulas.

Now with this framework, we can introduce some visual examples. Figure 3 below will be our baseline example which we will adjust in a variety of ways to examine how the values in the table react. In this figure, the red and green series are identical but are oscillating around different mean prices. The difference between the means of the variables is static over time which is why ADF test confirms their cointegration. The price, simple returns, and log returns correlations are all 1, perfectly positively correlated.

Figure 3: Baseline Example, Perfect Cointegration and Correlation

By phase shifting the green price series as seen in Figure 4 below, all the correlation coefficients now indicate a lack of correlation between the series. As expected, the pair remains cointegrated.

Figure 4: Perfect Cointegration but No Correlation

I now put the pair back in sync and the red series is adjusted as seen in Figure 5. The pair isn’t cointegrated anymore since the difference between their means fluctuates over time. The returns correlation coefficients agree that the series are strongly correlated while the price only supports a weak correlation.

Figure 5: No Cointegration but Strong Returns Correlation

In the above example, the Pearson and Spearman coefficients begin to diverge but now we’ll look at an example where they differ significantly. Since the Spearman coefficient is based on the rank-order of the variables and not the actual distance between them, it is known to be more resilient to large deviations and outliers. We can test this by adding an anomaly, possibly a data outage, to the top series by randomly choosing a period of 25 data points to set equal to 1. The effect can be observed in the table accompanying Figure 6 below. The Spearman coefficient supports strong positive correlation while the Pearson coefficient claims there is little to no correlation.

Figure 6: Outliers Effect on Pearson and Spearman Coefficient Calculations

The final example we will look at it is a situation where the returns are not strongly correlated but the prices are. Instinctively, I think I would side with the returns correlation results in Figure 7.

Figure 7: High Price Correlation but Low Returns Correlation

One aspect of these correlation tests we have been overlooking, is the distributions of the variables. In these sinusoidal examples, neither simple nor log returns are normally distributed. It is often advertised that the Pearson correlation coefficient requires the data to be normally distributed. One counter argument is the distribution only needs to be symmetric, not necessarily normal. The Spearman coefficient is a nonparametric statistic and thus does not require a normal distribution. In many of the previous examples, the two coefficients are functionally the same despite the odd distribution of the log returns. In Figure 8 below, we take our basic series and add random noise to one of them which creates a more normal distribution. The normality of these log returns are tested with the Shapiro-Wilk normality test. As seen in the right histogram, our basic sinusoidal wave’s log returns reject the null hypothesis that they are normally distributed. In the left histogram, the noisy wave’s log returns fail to reject the null hypothesis.


Figure 8: Distributions and Price Series when Noise is Added to One Series

Despite changing one variable’s distribution, the Pearson and Spearman coefficients remain about the same. Additionally, as seen in Figure 9 below, normalizing both variable’s distributions does not cause the coefficients to differ.

Figure 9: Noise Added to Both Price Series

These distribution examples do not fully support a side of the debate but I’m not convinced that the Pearson coefficient strictly requires normality.

Playing around with these examples was very helpful for my understanding of cointegration, correlation, and log returns. It is now very clear to me why returns, particularly log returns, are used when calculating correlation and why price is used to test for cointegration. The choice between using the Pearson or Spearman correlation coefficient is slightly more difficult but it can’t hurt to look at both and see how it impacts your data decisions!

The code to generate all the figures in this post can be found here.

Eric Kammers is a recent graduate of the University of Washington (2017) where he studied Industrial & Systems Engineering. He is actively seeking opportunities that will add value to his current skill-set. He is a strong-willed, self-driven individual who has the urge for life-time learning. He loves mathematics and statistics, especially applying their methods to practical problems in data science and engineering. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ekammers/

Redesigning Data Visualization Atrocities #1

Hello all, for a while I’ve been wanting to diversify the content on my blog to include general data science and visualization samples. I finally got a burst of motivation this weekend when I was casually studying for the GRE and came across a figure in a practice test that, in my opinion, is an example of a failed visualization. Figure 1 below shows the original figure which was followed by a series of basic data interpretation questions.

Figure 1: Original Figure

Now before we dive into this, I’m sure the GRE purposefully uses unhelpful visualizations to ensure test takers understand the components of a graph (legend, axes, etc.) well enough to extract the necessary information via brute force inspection. Either way, we’re going to make this figure more accessible and visualizing assisting. There are 3 serious issues that I have with it.

  1. The date ranges (top series) and individual months (bottom series) are seemingly unrelated but are plotted on the same graph using a broken y-axis with a discontinuous scale. The two parts of the graph are pretty well distinguished but to avoid associating their patterns/trends with each other, it would be recommended to separate these plots.
  2. The only way to understand the time period for each line is by looking at the markers and legend. Besides their filling, these markers have no connection to their corresponding time periods.
  3. The x-axis contains the different charitable causes where their order is irrelevant. By using a line plot with markers, it gives you the impression that order is important and that the upward trend, for example, could matter.

To solve the first problem, the plots are separated and placed side-by-side in Figure 2 below. Though not a huge improvement, the y-axes are now appropriate and the date ranges are clearly separated from the individual months.

Figure 2: Enhanced Figure – Y-Axes Fixed

Now to fix the second problem, we drop the meaningless markers and adopt a grayscale where more recent dates are darker than earlier dates. It still requires you to refer to the legend but once you understand the direction of the grayscale, the figure becomes much more digestible as seen below.

Figure 3: Enhanced Figure – Markers Fixed

Based on the dates in the figure, I assume adding color was not an option at the time of its creation but we’re going to go ahead and spice it up with some color now. Finally, to fix the third problem, the x-axis is now time, increasing left to right, and the individual lines represent the different charitable causes. The figure is immediately more intuitive as now trends along the x-axis have meaning. As seen in Figure 4 below, in the date range plot, your attention is immediately drawn to the increase in disaster relief between the 2nd and 3rd date range. In the monthly plot, the uniqueness of the disaster relief and child safety lines compared to the others is quickly realized.

Figure 4: Enhanced Figure – Independent Variable

Now that we have fixed my issues with the original figure, we have a clean visualization. There are still some improvements we can make though. Having to track the individual lines and values can be visually straining. It is much easier on our eyes to compare 2-D areas so by switching to a stacked bar chart, Figure 5 becomes even more accessible. The significant changes in private donations to disaster relief are still very prominent in the new figure. Unfortunately, by switching chart types, we lose information on the exact donation values for each cause in exchange for gaining information on the total amount of private donations.

Figure 5: Enhanced Figure – Stacked Bar Chart

Depending on the purpose of the figure, the trade-off between individual donation values and the total donation values may or may not be worth it. A somewhat happy medium when working with a stacked bar chart, with this many categories, is to use a radar chart instead. As seen in Figure 6 below, the individual donation values are available and by considering the area of the series, the total donation values can be extrapolated. Additionally, a monochromatic scale can be used to highlight time component of the series.

Figure 6: Enhanced Figure – Radar Chart

I hope this example highlighted the importance of choosing an appropriate visualization based on your audience and the aspects of the data that you want emphasized. Especially when working with a small data set like this, the details matter. Thanks for reading!

Twitter and StockTwits Sentiment Data Open-Close

Hello all, last week I wrote a guest post featured on Dr. Ernest Chan’s blog which highlighted some of my research while working with QTS Capital Management on social media sentiment analysis and its place in financial models. The focus of this research was on how to derive sentiment signals from the labeled StockTwits data. This proved to be possible but not as statistically significant as using natural language processing on all of the StockTwits data, like we do at Social Market Analytics.  In addition to performing sentiment analysis on StockTwits, we also use Twitter as a source. In some cases we find the Twitter data to outperform StockTwits. In the Figure below, the same open to close simulation is ran with the Twitter data and results in a 4.8 Sharpe Ratio.


(Enlarge Figure)

Please contact me if you have any questions. Thanks!

Cointegrated ETF Pairs Part II

Update 5/17: As discussed in the comments, the reason the results are so exaggerated is because it is missing portfolio rebalancing to account for the changing hedge ratio. It would be interesting to try an adaptive hedge ratio that requires only weekly or monthly rebalancing to see how legitimately profitable this type of strategy could be.

Welcome back! This week’s post will backtest a basic mean reverting strategy on a cointegrated ETF pair time series constructed using the methods described in part I. Since the EWA (Australia) – EWC (Canada) pair was found to be more naturally cointegrated, I decided to run the rolling linear regression model (EWA chosen as the dependent variable) with a lookback window of 21 days on this pair to create the spread below.

Figure 1: Cointegrated Pair, EWA & EWC

With the adaptive hedge ratio, the spread looks well suited to backtest a mean reverting strategy on. Before that, we should check what the minimum capital required to trade this spread is. Though everyone has a different margin requirement, I thought it would be useful to walkthrough how you would calculate the capital required. In this example we assume our broker allows a margin of 50%. We first will compute the daily ratio between the pair, EWC/EWA. This ratio represents the amount of EWA shares for each share of EWC that must be owned to have an equal dollar move for every 1% move. The ratio fluctuates daily but has a mean of 1.43. This makes sense because EWC, on average, trades at higher price. We then multiply these ratios by the rolling beta. Then for reference, we can fix the held EWC shares to 100 and multiply the previous values (ratios*rolling beta) by 100 to determine the amount of EWA shares that would be held. The amount of capital required to hold this spread can then be calculated with the equation: margin*abs((EWC price * 100) + (EWA price * calculated shares)). This is plotted for our example below.

Figure 2: Required Capital

From this plot we can see that the series has a max value of $5,466 which is not a relatively large required capital. I hypothesize that the less cointegrated a pair is, the higher the minimum capital will be (try the EWZ-IGE pair).

We can now go ahead and backtest the figure 1 time series! A common mean reversal strategy uses Bollinger Bands, where we enter positions when the price deviates past a Z-score/standard deviation threshold from the mean. The exit signals can be determined from the half-life of its mean reversion or it can be based on the Z-score. To avoid look-ahead bias, I calculated the mean, standard deviation, and Z-score with a rolling 50-day window. Unfortunately, this window had to be chosen with data-snooping bias but was a reasonable choice. This backtest will also ignore transaction costs and other spread execution nuances but should still reasonably reflect the strategy’s potential performance. I decided on the following signals:

  • Enter Long/Close Short: Z-Score < -1
  • Close Long/Enter Short: Z-Score > 1

This is a standard Bollinger Bands strategy and results were encouraging.



Though it made a relatively small amount of trades over 13 years, it boasts an impressive 2.7 Sharpe Ratio with 97% positive trades. Below on the left we can see the strategy’s performance vs. SPY (using very minimal leverage) and on the right the positions/trades are shown.


Overall, this definitely supports the potential of trading cointegrated ETF pairs with Bollinger Bands. I think it would be interesting to explore a form of position sizing based on either market volatility or the correlation between the ETF pair and another symbol/ETF. This concludes my analysis of cointegrated ETF pairs for now.

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Brian Peterson and Ernest Chan for explaining how to calculate the minimum capital required to trade a spread. Additionally, all of my blog posts have been edited prior to being published by Karin Muggli, so a huge thank you to her!

Note: I’m currently looking for a full-time quantitative research/trading position beginning summer/fall 2017. I’m currently a senior at the University of Washington, majoring in Industrial and Systems Engineering and minoring in Applied Mathematics. I also have taken upper level computer science classes and am proficient in a variety of programming languages. Resume: https://www.pdf-archive.com/2017/01/31/coltonsmith-resume-g/. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/coltonfsmith. Please let me know of any open positions that would be a good fit for me. Thanks!

Full Code:

detach("package:dplyr", unload=TRUE)

# Full test

## Create "symbols" for Quanstrat
## adj1 = EWA (Australia), adj2 = EWC (Canada)

## Get data
getSymbols("EWA", from=from, to=to)
getSymbols("EWC", from=from, to=to)
dates = index(EWA)

adj1 = unclass(EWA$EWA.Adjusted)
adj2 = unclass(EWC$EWC.Adjusted)

## Ratio (EWC/EWA)
ratio = adj2/adj1

## Rolling regression
window = 21
lm = roll_lm(adj2,adj1,window)

## Plot beta
rollingbeta <- fortify.zoo(lm$coefficients[,2],melt=TRUE)
ggplot(rollingbeta, ylab="beta", xlab="time") + geom_line(aes(x=Index,y=Value)) + theme_bw()

## Calculate the spread
sprd <- vector(length=3273-21)
for (i in 21:3273) {
sprd[i-21] = (adj1[i]-rollingbeta[i,3]*adj2[i]) + 98.86608 ## Make the mean 100
plot(sprd, type="l", xlab="2003 to 2016", ylab="EWA-hedge*EWC")

## Find minimum capital
hedgeRatio = ratio*rollingbeta$Value*100
spreadPrice = 0.5*abs(adj2*100+adj1*hedgeRatio)
plot(spreadPrice, type="l", xlab="2003 to 2016", ylab="0.5*(abs(EWA*100+EWC*calculatedShares))")

## Combine columns and turn into xts
close = sprd
date = as.data.frame(dates[22:3273])
data = cbind(date, close)
dfdata = as.data.frame(data)
xtsData = xts(dfdata, order.by=as.Date(dfdata$date))
xtsData$close = as.numeric(xtsData$close)
xtsData$dum = vector(length = 3252)
xtsData$dum = NULL
xtsData$dates.22.3273. = NULL

## Add SMA, moving stdev, and z-score
avg=rollapply(x, n, mean)
std=rollapply(x, n, sd)

## Varying the lookback has a large affect on the data
xtsData$zScore = rollz(xtsData,50)
symbols = 'xtsData'

## Backtest
stock(symbols, currency="USD", multiplier=1)

#trade sizing and initial equity settings
tradeSize <- 10000
initEq <- tradeSize

strategy.st <- portfolio.st <- account.st <- "EWA_EWC"
initPortf(portfolio.st, symbols=symbols, initDate=initDate, currency='USD')
initAcct(account.st, portfolios=portfolio.st, initDate=initDate, currency='USD',initEq=initEq)
initOrders(portfolio.st, initDate=initDate)
strategy(strategy.st, store=TRUE)

add.signal(strategy = strategy.st,
arguments = list(label = "enterLong",
formula = "zScore < -1", cross = TRUE), label = "enterLong") add.signal(strategy = strategy.st, name="sigFormula", arguments = list(label = "exitLong", formula = "zScore > 1",
cross = TRUE),
label = "exitLong")

add.signal(strategy = strategy.st,
arguments = list(label = "enterShort",
formula = "zScore > 1",
cross = TRUE),
label = "enterShort")

add.signal(strategy = strategy.st,
arguments = list(label = "exitShort",
formula = "zScore < -1",
cross = TRUE),
label = "exitShort")

add.rule(strategy = strategy.st,
name = "ruleSignal",
arguments = list(sigcol = "enterLong",
sigval = TRUE,
orderqty = 15,
ordertype = "market",
orderside = "long",
replace = FALSE,
threshold = NULL),
type = "enter")

add.rule(strategy = strategy.st,
name = "ruleSignal",
arguments = list(sigcol = "exitLong",
sigval = TRUE,
orderqty = "all",
ordertype = "market",
orderside = "long",
replace = FALSE,
threshold = NULL),
type = "exit")

add.rule(strategy = strategy.st,
name = "ruleSignal",
arguments = list(sigcol = "enterShort",
sigval = TRUE,
orderqty = -15,
ordertype = "market",
orderside = "short",
replace = FALSE,
threshold = NULL),
type = "enter")

add.rule(strategy = strategy.st,
name = "ruleSignal",
arguments = list(sigcol = "exitShort",
sigval = TRUE,
orderqty = "all",
ordertype = "market",
orderside = "short",
replace = FALSE,
threshold = NULL),
type = "exit")

#apply strategy
t1 <- Sys.time()
out <- applyStrategy(strategy=strategy.st,portfolios=portfolio.st)
t2 <- Sys.time()

#set up analytics
dateRange <- time(getPortfolio(portfolio.st)$summary)[-1]

tStats <- tradeStats(Portfolios = portfolio.st, use="trades", inclZeroDays=FALSE)
tStats[,4:ncol(tStats)] <- round(tStats[,4:ncol(tStats)], 2)

(aggPF <- sum(tStats$Gross.Profits)/-sum(tStats$Gross.Losses))
(aggCorrect <- mean(tStats$Percent.Positive))
(numTrades <- sum(tStats$Num.Trades))
(meanAvgWLR <- mean(tStats$Avg.WinLoss.Ratio))

#portfolio cash PL
portPL <- .blotter$portfolio.EWA_EWC$summary$Net.Trading.PL

## Sharpe Ratio
(SharpeRatio.annualized(portPL, geometric=FALSE))

## Performance vs. SPY
instRets <- PortfReturns(account.st)
portfRets <- xts(rowMeans(instRets)*ncol(instRets), order.by=index(instRets))

cumPortfRets <- cumprod(1+portfRets)
firstNonZeroDay <- index(portfRets)[min(which(portfRets!=0))]
getSymbols("SPY", from=firstNonZeroDay, to="2015-12-31")
SPYrets <- diff(log(Cl(SPY)))[-1]
cumSPYrets <- cumprod(1+SPYrets)
comparison <- cbind(cumPortfRets, cumSPYrets)
colnames(comparison) <- c("strategy", "SPY")
chart.TimeSeries(comparison, legend.loc = "topleft", colorset = c("green","red"))

## Chart Position
rets <- PortfReturns(Account = account.st)
rownames(rets) <- NULL
charts.PerformanceSummary(rets, colorset = bluefocus)

Cointegrated ETF Pairs Part I

The next two blog posts will explore the basics of the statistical arbitrage strategies outlined in Ernest Chan’s book, Algorithmic Trading: Winning Strategies and Their Rationale. In the first post we will construct mean reverting time series data from cointegrated ETF pairs. The two pairs we will analyze are EWA (Australia) – EWC (Canada) and IGE (NA Natural Resources) – EWZ (Brazil).

Figure 1&2: Blue: EWA (left) & EWZ (right), Red: EWC (left) & IGE (right)
Figure 3&4: Scatter Plots

EWA-EWC is a notable ETF pair since both Australia and Canada’s economies are commodity based. Looking at the scatter plot, it seems likely that they cointegrate because of this. IGE-EWZ seems less likely to cointegrate but we will discover that it is possible to salvage a stationary series with a statistical adjustment. A stationary, mean reverting series implies that the variance of the log price increases slower than that of a geometric random walk.

Running a linear regression model with EWA as the dependent variable and EWC as the independent variable we can use the resulting beta as the hedge ratio to create the data series below.

Figure 5: Cointegrated Pair, EWA & EWC

It appears stationary but we will run a few statistical tests to support this conclusion. The first test we will run is the Augmented Dickey-Fuller, which tests whether the data is stationary or trending. We set the lag parameter, k, to 1 since the change in price often has serial correlations.


The ADF test rejects the null hypothesis and supports the stationarity of the series with a p-value < 0.04. The next test we will run is the Hurst Exponent, which will analyze the variance of the log price and compare it to that of a geometric random walk. A geometric random walk has H=0.5, a mean reverting series has H<0.5, and a trending series has H>0.5. Running this test on the log residuals of the linear model gives a Hurst Exponent of 0.27, supporting the ADF’s conclusion. Since this series is now surely stationary, the final analysis we will do is find its half-life of the mean reversion. This is useful for trading as it gives you an idea of what the holding period of the strategy will be. The calculation of the half-life involves regressing y(t)-y(t-1) against y(t-1) and using the lambda found. See my code for further explanation. The half-life of this series is found to be 67 days.

Next, we will look at the IGE-EWZ pair. Running a linear regression model with IGE as the dependent variable and EWZ as the independent variable we can use the resulting beta as the hedge ratio to create the data series below.

Figure 6: Cointegrated Pair, EWZ & IGE

Compared to the EWA-EWC pair, this looks a lot less stationary which makes sense considering the price series and scatter plot. Additionally, the ADF test is inconclusive.


The half-life of its mean reversion is calculated to be 344 days. In this form, it is definitely not a very practical pair to trade. Something that may improve the stationarity of this time series is to use an adaptive hedge ratio, determined from using a rolling linear regression model with a designated lookback window. Obviously, the shorter the lookback window, the more that the beta/hedge ratio will fluctuate. Though this would require daily portfolio adjustments, ideally the stationarity of the series will increase substantially. I began with a lookback window of 252, the number of trading days in a year, but it didn’t have large enough of an impact.  Therefore, we will try 21, the average number of trading days in a month, which will result in a significant impact. Without the rolling regression, the beta/hedge ratio was 0.42. Below you can see how the beta changes over time and how it affects the mean reverting data series.

Figure 7: Beta/Hedge Ratio vs. Time
Figure 8: Cointegrated Pair, EWZ & IGE, w/ Adaptive Hedge Ratio


With the adaptive hedge ratio, the ADF test strongly concludes that the time series is stationary. This also significantly cuts down the half-life of the mean reversion to only 33 days.

Though there are a lot more analysis techniques for cointegrated ETF pairs, and even triplets, this post explored the basics of creating two stationary data series. In next week’s post, we will implement some mean reversion trading strategies on these pairs. See ya next week!

Full Code:


## EWA (Australia) - EWC (Canada)
## Get data
getSymbols("EWA", from="2003-01-01", to="2015-12-31")
getSymbols("EWC", from="2003-01-01", to="2015-12-31")

## Utilize the backwards-adjusted closing prices
adj1 = unclass(EWA$EWA.Adjusted)
adj2 = unclass(EWC$EWC.Adjusted)

## Plot the ETF backward-adjusted closing prices
plot(adj1, type="l", xlab="2003 to 2016", ylab="ETF Backward-Adjusted Price in USD", col="blue")
plot(adj2, type="l", axes=F, xlab="", ylab="", col="red")

## Plot a scatter graph of the ETF adjusted prices
plot(adj1, adj2, xlab="EWA Backward-Adjusted Prices", ylab="EWC Backward-Adjusted Prices")

## Linear regression, dependent ~ independent
comb1 = lm(adj1~adj2)

## Plot the residuals or hedged pair
plot(comb1$residuals, type="l", xlab="2003 to 2016", ylab="Residuals of EWA and EWC regression")

beta = coef(comb1)[2]
X = vector(length = 3273)
for (i in 1:3273) {

plot(X, type="l", xlab="2003 to 2016", ylab="EWA-hedge*EWC")

## ADF test on the residuals
adf.test(comb1$residuals, k=1)
adf.test(X, k=1)

## Hurst Exponent Test

## Half-life
sprd = comb1$residuals
prev_sprd <- c(sprd[2:length(sprd)], 0)
d_sprd <- sprd - prev_sprd
prev_sprd_mean <- prev_sprd - mean(prev_sprd)
sprd.zoo <- merge(d_sprd, prev_sprd_mean)
sprd_t <- as.data.frame(sprd.zoo)

result <- lm(d_sprd ~ prev_sprd_mean, data = sprd_t)
half_life <- -log(2)/coef(result)[2]


## EWZ (Brazil) - IGE (NA Natural Resource)
## Get data
getSymbols("EWZ", from="2003-01-01", to="2015-12-31")
getSymbols("IGE", from="2003-01-01", to="2015-12-31")

## Utilize the backwards-adjusted closing prices
adj1 = unclass(EWZ$EWZ.Adjusted)
adj2 = unclass(IGE$IGE.Adjusted)

## Plot the ETF backward-adjusted closing prices
plot(adj1, type="l", xlab="2003 to 2016", ylab="ETF Backward-Adjusted Price in USD", col="blue")
plot(adj2, type="l", axes=F, xlab="", ylab="", col="red")

## Plot a scatter graph of the ETF adjusted prices
plot(adj1, adj2, xlab="EWA Backward-Adjusted Prices", ylab="EWC Backward-Adjusted Prices")

## Rolling regression
## Trading days
## 252 = year
## 21 = month
window = 21
lm = roll_lm(adj1,adj2,window)

## Plot beta
rollingbeta <- fortify.zoo(lm$coefficients[,2],melt=TRUE)
ggplot(rollingbeta, ylab="beta", xlab="time") + geom_line(aes(x=Index,y=Value)) + theme_bw()

## X should be the shifted residuals
X <- vector(length=3273-21)
for (i in 21:3273) {
X[i-21] = adj2[i]-rollingbeta[i,3]*adj1[i]

plot(X, type="l", xlab="2003 to 2016", ylab="IGE-hedge*EWZ")