Kahler’s fair bet volatility

Volatility is a measure of risk. It describes how far a commodity will most probably move within a given period of time. The most common measure for volatility is historical volatility. But I do not like the complicated formula for standard deviation.

There has to be a better way to explain and calculate volatility….

Implied Volatility

The options market has got a perfect measure for volatility. Done without formulas, just by demand and supply. And as I believe in efficient markets, the option markets fair price for volatility will be my starting point.

To get the price for volatility at the option market you just have to place  a bet. Assume you want to know the (expected) volatility for the next 30 days, then you would just add the price for an at the money put and call with 30 days to expiry. Option traders call this bet a straddle, and you would win if the market moves more than the price you have payed for the (european style) put and call.

The fair price for a volatility bet

Implied volatility and this Straddle bet is the starting point to calculate my own volatility measure.

The fair price for this bet is, when neither the buyer nor the seller of the bet has got an advantage. In the long run it should be a zero sum game game for both of them. Calculating the fair bet price for a straddle is the idea behind my volatility measure.

Think about a simple coin flip game. If you bet on head you can either win 1€ if head is up or nothing if tail comes on top. What would be the fair price for such a bet?

As head and tail got the same probability, the expected return of a bet on head’s up would be 0.5€. If I would sell you a bet on the next coin flip, I would charge you this 0.5€ to make it a fair bet. So you would either lose the 0.5€ if tail’s up, or win 1€ -0.5€ if head’s up. In the long run this would be a zero sum game for both of us. Do the same thing for the tail is up bet. It also got a value of 0.5€.

Historical Volatility vs. Kahler’s Volatility:

Historical volatility uses standard deviation of daily log returns to describe the volatility of the market. The standard deviation of this +1 -1 coin flip experiment would be 1€. The same would be true if you would buy a head’s up and a tail’s up bet; it would also cost you 1€. So for this simple example the fair bet based volatility is the same as the historical volatility.

But the market is not a coin flip. There will be some differences between historical volatility and KVOL fair bet based volatility.

KVOL vs. historical volatility:

The chart shows you a comparison between KVOL (blue) and historical volatility (standard deviation). On the chart shown above both calculate the volatility for 10 day returns, using the previous 30 bars as data sample.

As you can see historical volatility and KVOL are highly correlated.

But there are some major differences:

As an example in the end of 2017/beginning of 2018 KVOL starts to rise as the market is exploding to the upside. This is due to the virtual call used to calculate KVOL gains value. At the same time historical volatility stays low, as the market has got one direction and no setbacks.

Another advantage of KVOL is it`s response to singular events. As you can see on Sept. 3rd on the chart above the singular big red candle leads to a spike in historical volatility. It also raises KVOL, but not as much. As both indicators are calculated over the same period of bars they both got the same speed of change, but when you have a look at the scale you will see the advantage of KVOL: Historical volatility jumps from 0.2 to over 0.5 – it more than doubles just because of a single event. KVOL also raises,but only from 0.2 to 0.3.

For me this mild response to to singular events is the main advantage. Imagine a portfolio based on value at risk – would it really be useful to half the exposure just because historical volatility jumps after a single red candle?

KVOL  – Tradesignal Equilla Code:

The code to calculate KVOL is simple and straightforward.

The inputs:

multi: just a multiplier, like you can display 1 or 2 standard deviations..

datapoints: The number of bars used to calculate KVOL

returnperiod: calculate the volatility for 1,2,3… bars

showresult: show the result as a percentage of the underlying or as an absolute number

show: show either kvol or the rank of  kvol within the last 100 bars. This gives an idea if volatility is high or low

Meta: subchart(true);
Inputs: multi(1.0), Datapoints(30), returnperiod(5), showresult(percent, absolute), show(result,rank);
Variables:Kvol, i, rp,rc, rpsum, rcsum, call, put, hh,ll;


for i =0 to datapoints-1 begin // loop over last bars
  rc=maxlist((close[i]-close[i+returnperiod])/close[i+returnperiod],0); // % return of call
  rp=maxlist((close[i+returnperiod]-close[i])/close[i+returnperiod],0); // % return of put
  rcsum=rcsum+rc; // sum of all %returns over time

if show=result then drawline(multi*iff(showresult=percent,100*Kvol,Kvol*close),"KVOL");

if show=rank and (hh-ll)>0 then drawline(100-100*(hh-kvol)/(hh-ll),"rank");


keep researching…



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A graphical approach to indicator testing

A graphical approach to indicator testing

The first step in algorithmic strategy design usually is to find some indicators which give you an edge and tell you something about tomorrow’s market behaviour. You could use a lot of statistics to describe this edge, but I like to take a graphical approach in indicator testing first, and only later on worry about the maths and statistics.

Scatter Charts

A scatter chart is a simple to read chart style to see the correlation between two input values. A regression line on the scatter chart gives you a visual idea if the two securities are positively or negatively correlated, the “cloud structure” of the scatter points tell you if this correlation is tight or loose.

This sample scatter shows the correlation between the DAX and DOW levels, and it can be easily seen that these two markets are tightly correlated in a positively way.

The horizontal scale is used for the second security (DAX), the vertical scale is used for the first security (DOW). This chart type is predefined in Tradesignal, just drag&drop it onto the securities on the chart and select the right amount of data to get the analysis you want to see. (eg. 2000-now). If you see a tight and positive correlation like on the chart above, It might be used to select the instrument you want to trade. If market A is easier to predict than market B, select A.

Scatter on Indicators

Although a scatter chart is usually used to show the correlation between two markets, it can also be used to show the correlation between two indicators.

The chart above shows the correlation between digital stochastic and momentum. Have a look at the clustering of points in on the right side of the scatter, a high level in digital stochastic usually goes with a high momentum. This insight enables you to get rid of momentum, as digital stochastic is easier to read than the shaky momentum. Less indicators = less parameters = less curve fitting.

Scatter prognosis

Doing this analysis and getting rid of parameters is great if you want to minimise the dangers of curve fitting, but it does not tell you if your indicator is of any use at all, when it come to describing tomorrows move of the market. Surely it is valuable insight that a high level of stochastics corresponds to a high momentum, but does a high momentum today also mean that the market will move up tomorrow? And this question about tomorrow is the key question I ask myself when searching for some edge.

To get a glimpse on the prognosis quality of an indicator we will have to add some colour to our scatter chart. This colour tells me what the market has done after a specific indicator level has been reached. Green for an up move, red for a down move, black for not decided by now.

This chart shows the prognosis quality of the stochastic indicator. The left chart shows the 1 day prognosis of a 5 day stochastic, the right chart gives you the 5 day prognosis of a 21 day stochastic. Observe the clustering of the red and green dots. (black for not decided by now) As you can see on the left chart, the one day prognosis using a 5 day stochastic is not the thing to do. Regardless if stochastic is high or low, you get a nice mixture of red and green dots. This means the market, at a given stochastic level, sometimes moved up, sometimes moved down. Not this behaviour is not very useful for trading. Only in the extreme, near 0 and 100, this indicator seems to implicate a bearish next day movement.

The right chart, showing the longer term prognosis of a long term stochastic seems to be more useful. High levels of the indicator also show positive returns on the 5 days after, unfortunately you can not reverse the logic, as low indicator levels give a rater mixed prognosis. This visual analysis can give you an idea which areas of the indicator might be useful for further analysis.

A one dimensional analysis like on the chart above could also be done without this scatter chart. Going from one dimension to two dimensions is more useful, as it directly can be translated to do a kNN machine learning trading strategy. Have a look at the following chart. It shows the scatter of two indicators and the implication on the next days market move.

Lets start with he right chart. As you can see the red and green dots are evenly distributed, meaning there is no useful correlation between the used indicators and the movement of the market on the day after. If you would use a kNN algorithm with these two indicators, I would bet it would not return great results. Even if you would get a positive return, it might just be a lucky hit or curve fitting.

The opposite is true for the chart on the left. Here you can see some nice clustering of the red and green dots. Low indicator levels seem to predict a bearish move, high indicator levels result in a bullish move on the next day. A distribution like this is the perfect starting point for investing some time in a kNN machine learning  trading strategy. The kNN algorithm would give you a strong prognosis with high or low indicator levels, and most probably only a weak or no prognosis when the indicators are around 50. The returns will be stable, no curve fitting problems should be expected.


Using a scatter chart can give you a nice visual indication if your indicator might be useful for a prognosis of the next days market move. This is valuable insight, as you can see the whole data universe with one glimpse, even before you do a thoroughly statistical analysis. Numbers can deceive you, pictures usually tell the complete story.

Tradesignal Equilla code:




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Machine learning: kNN algorithm explained

I always thought that inspiration and experience are key factors in trading. But every time my chess computer beats me without any inspiration, just by brute force, I get my doubts. This article will be about a brute force approach in trading. The kNN algorithm.

Rule based trading

Rule based trading – algorithmic trading, is just a name for a set of if..then rules which will define the machines trading decisions. e.g. if the market crosses below the 200 day line, then short 100 contracts. If the market rises by 2% then exit the position.  Easy stuff like this… (for the beginning)

This article will be a short introduction to machine learning. I will use a classic algorithm of machine learning to let my computer find a prediction for tomorrows market move. In the meantime I’ll have a glass of wine with some friends and let the machine do the job; At least that’s the idea, but can it be that simple in real life trading?

Unsupervised machine learning – kNN algorithm

The kNN algorithm is one of the most simple machine learning algorithms. Learning, in this case, is only a nice sounding label, in reality kNN is more of a classification algorithm.

This is how it woks:

The scatter chart above is a visualisation of a two dimensional kNN data set. For this article I used a classical indicators of technical analysis to do the prediction: a long-term and a short-term RSI indicator. The dots on the two dimensional scatter chart represent the historic RSI values at a given point of time.

Now have a look at the fat circled point. This point represents today’s value. It means, that today’s RSI1 has a value of 63, and RSI2 got a value of 70.

Additionally to the position on the chart the dots have got colours. A green dot means that the market moved up on the following day, a red dot shows a falling market on the day after.

We already know what has happened in history, so it is easy to colour the historic dots. But we do not know the colour of today’s dot, as it is not known where tomorrow’s market will end.

Based on the chart above, will it be a red or green dot? Will tomorrow be up or down?  Should I go long or should I go short?

kNN – k nearest neighbours

To do a prediction of tomorrow’s market move, the kNN algorithm uses the historic data shown on the scatter plot above and finds the k-nearest neighbours of today’s RSI values. As you can see, our current fat point is surrounded by red dots. This means, that every time the two RSI values have been in this area, the market fell on the day after. That’s why today’s data point is classified as red. Wish it would be that easy all the times…

Call it classification or prediction, the two dimensional kNN algorithm just has a look on what has happened in the past when the two indicators had a similar level. It then looks at the k nearest neighbours, sees their state and thus classifies today point.

kNN as Tradesignal Equilla Code

In this article I would like to show you an implementation with the Tradesignal programming language Equilla.

To implement the algorithm in Tradesignal we first have to do the shown scatter plot. The algorithm stores the values in an array.

8/9 calculates the value of the fast and slow RSI indicators

12/13 looks what will happen on the day after (for the training data set)

16/17/18 stores everything in an array.

The next task to complete is to calculate the distances of today’s RSI point to all the historic points in the training data set.

23/27 calculates the euclidean distance of today’s point to all historic points, line 29 then creates a sorted list of all these distances to find the k nearest historic data points in the training data set.

Nearly done. The next step is just to find out what classification (colour) the nearest points have got and use this information to create a prediction for tomorrow. This is done in lines 33 to 35

Have a look at the scatter chart at the beginning. If this would be the data stored in our training data set, the prediction, using the 5 nearest neighbours, would be -5. All the 5 nearest neighbours of our current data point are red.

Now that we got a prediction for tomorrow, we need to make use of this prediction and trade it. The returns then will show if everything works as predicted.

Over here I just do a simple long/short interpretation of the prediction, but of course you could also use the quality of the prediction (+5 or +1?) in some sort of way. Position sizing…?

kNN algorithm performance

The next chart shows 2000 bars of daily Brent data. It uses a 14 and 28 day RSI to predict the next day’s move in the Brent oil market. The training was on the first half of the data set, and the 5 nearest neighbours did the classification.

Underneath the chart the returns of this test are shown. (strategy equity). On the bottom of the char you see the two RSI indicators used for the generation of the prediction / buy-sell command.

kNN algorithm – conclusion

The kNN algorithm offers a framework to test all kind of indicators easily to see if they have got any predictive value. Judging on the shown graph it seems to work. It seems to be possible to use these two RSI indicators to predict tomorrow’s Brent move.

But unfortunately this also could be just completely useless curve fitting. It is you who has to select the indicators and their periods and you will have to define if you like the outcome of a selected parameter set. To many degrees of freedom to be sure. The kNN algorithm is useful, but its application in finance has to be treated carefully. Otherwise bad surprises are guaranteed

Not everything can be done by brute force, inspiration and experience are key factors in finance…




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Ranking: percent performance and volatility

When ranking a market analysts usually pick the percent performance since a given date as their key figure. If a stock has been at 100 last year and trades at 150 today, percent performance would show you a 50% gain (A). If another stock would only give a 30% gain (B), most people now would draw the conclusion that stock A would have been the better investment. But does this reflect reality?

Percent Performance and Volatility

In reality and as a trader I would never just buy and hold my position, I would always adjust my position size somehow related to the risk in it. I like instruments that rise smoothly, not the roller coaster ones which will only ruin my nerves. So ranking a market solely by percent performance is an useless statistic for me.

Lets continue with our example from above: if stock A, the one who made 50% has had a 10% volatility, and stock B, the 30% gainer, only had a 5% volatility, I surely would like to see stock B on top of my ranking list, and not the high vola but also high gain stock A.

Risking the same amount of money would have given me a bigger win with stock B.

Combining Performance and Volatility

To get stock B up in my ranking list I will have to combine the absolute gain with the market volatility in between. This can be done quite simple. Just add up the daily changes of the stock, normalized by market volatility.Have a look at the formula of this new indicator:

index(today)=index(yesterday)+(price(today)-price(yesterday))/(1.95*stdev(price(yesterday)-price(2 days ago),21))

In plain English: Today’s Vola Return Index equals yesterdays Vola Return Index plus the daily gain normalized by volatility

So if the index has been at 100, the volatility (as a 95% confidence interval over 21 days) is 1 and the stock made 2 points since yesterday, then today’s index would be 100 + 2/1 = 3

Vola Return Index vs. Percent Return Index

Lets have a look at a sample chart to compare the 2 ranking methods. I therefore picked the J.P.Morgan stock.

The upper indicator shows you a percent gain index. It sums up the daily percent gains of the stock movement, basically giving you an impression what you would have won when you would have kept your invested money constant.

The indicator on the bottom is the Vola Return Index. It represents your wins if you would have kept the risk invested into the stock constant. (=e.g. always invest 100$ on the 21 day 95%confidence interval of the daily returns)

Have a closer look at the differences of these two indicators up to October 2016. JPM is slightly up, and that`s why the percent change index is also in the positive area. During the same time the Vola Return Index just fluctuates around the zero line, as the volatility of JPM picked up during this period of time. To keep your risk invested constant over this period of time you would have downsized your position when JPMs volatility picked up, usually during a draw down. No good.

The same can be observed on the upper chart, showing the last months movements of the index. Right now, after the recent correction the percent change index is, like the JPM stock, up again. On the other side the Vola Return Index is still down, due to the rising volatility in JPM.

Vola Return Index – Ranking

Lets put this to a test and rank the 30 Dow Jones industrial stocks according to the percent return index and using my Vola Return Index as a comparison, calculated since 01/01/2015.

The first three stocks are the same, they got the highest vola and highest percent return. But JPM and Visa would get a different sorting. Just see how low the JPM Vola Index is, it would not be the 4th best stock.

Percent returns says JPM and Visa are abou the same, only the Vola Return Index shows that VISA would have been the better investment vehicle compared to JPM. But see for yourself on the chart…


Make sure your indicators show what you actually can do on the market. There is no use in just showing the percent gains of a stock if you trade some kind of VAR adjusted trading style.

Keeping you risk under control is one of the most important things in trading, and using the Vola Return Index instead of just plotting the percent performance can give you some key insights and keep you away from bad investment vehicles. Also have a look at this stock picking portfolio based on similar ideas.


Tradesignal Equilla Code for Vola Return Index:



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