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Diffusing Explosive Portfolio Performance Evaluation Of High Frequency Traders

G. Charles-Cadogan

posted on 19 June 2015

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Several analysts report explosive annualized Sharpe Ratios (ASRs) for investment portfolio performance evaluation of high frequency traders (HFTers) ranging from 4.3 to 5,000. This suggests that the profitability of HFT is much higher than that of other actively managed portfolios. In highly competitive financial markets where ASRs for experienced traders are often much less than 2, those numbers imply that the ASR for HFT is misspecified. Thus, HFT performance is incomparable to the performance of experienced traders, hedge funds, and other actively managed portfolios. This paper addresses the misspecification problem by introducing an efficient Sharpe Ratio (ESR) that diffuses explosive ASRs for HFT so that they are comparable to SRs for other actively managed funds. We derive a subordinate stochastic process for HFT strategy which jumps positively only when the trader executes a successful trade or stays flat otherwise. We apply the ESR formula to a sample of risk and return data on HFT strategy, and find that the ESR for aggressive HFT is 1.15, medium HFT is 2.88, and passive HFT is 1.43. For the HFT industry as a whole the ESR is between 1.07 and 1.87. Those ESRs for HFT are equivalent to SRs reported for experienced traders, hedge funds multistrategy, convertible option arbitrage, and fund of fund strategies. Thus, contrary to reports, the profitability of HFT is in line with industry norms for active portfolio management.