Understanding Financial Market Behavior through Empirical Game-Theoretic Analysis
AbstractFinancial market activity is increasingly controlled by algorithms, interacting through electronic markets. Unprecedented information response times, autonomous operation, use of machine learning and other adaptive techniques, and ability to proliferate novel strategies at scale are all reasons to question whether algorithmic trading may produce dynamic behavior qualitatively different from what arises in trading under direct human control. Given the high level of competition between trading firms and the significant financial incentives to trading, it is desirable to understand the effect incentives have on the behavior of agents in financial markets. One natural way to analyze this effect is through the economic concept of a Nash equilibrium, a behavior profile of every agent such that no individual stands to gain by doing something different. Some of the incentives traders face arise from the complexities of modern market structure. Recent studies have turned to agent-based modeling as a way to capture behavioral response to this structure. Agent-based modeling is a simulation paradigm that allows studying the interaction of agents in a simulated environment, and it has been used to model various aspects of financial market structure. This thesis builds on recent agent-based models of financial markets by imposing agent rationality and studying the models in equilibrium. I use empirical game-theoretic analysis, a methodology for computing approximately rational behavior in agent-based models, to investigate three important aspects of market structure. First, I evaluate the impact of strategic bid shading on agent welfare. Bid shading is when agents demand better prices, lower if they are buying or higher if they are selling, and is typically associated with lower social welfare. My results indicate that in many market environments, strategic bid shading actually improves social welfare, even with some of the complexities of financial markets. Next, I investigate the optimal clearing interval for a proposed market mechanism, the frequent call market. There is significant evidence to support the idea that traders will benefit from trading in a frequent call market over standard continuous double auction markets. My results confirm this statement for a wide variety of market settings, but I also find a few circumstances, particularly when large informational advantages exist, or when markets are thin, that call markets consistently hurt welfare, independent of frequency. I conclude with an investigation on the effect of trend following on market stability. Here I find that the presence of trend followers alters a market’s response to shock. In the absence of trend followers, shocks are small but have a long recovery. When trend followers are present, they alter background trader behavior resulting in more severe shocks that recover much more quickly. I also develop a novel method to efficiently evaluate the effect of shock anticipation on equilibrium. While anticipation of shocks does make markets more stable, trend followers continue to be profitable.
empirical game-theoretic analysisfinancial markets
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