Two Sigma

Case Study: History of Jane Street

"I don't stop when I'm tired, I stop when I'm done." - James Bond Alphacution publishes its 125-page, 149-exhibit, 26,000-word case study, "History of Jane Street," with notable expansions into regional, US option strategy and revenue estimation details. The following is the Opening to that report with Table of Contents, including download of the full Executive Summary. Access to this report is available to Premium Subscribers. Subscription and individual report purchase inquiries can be directed to info@alphacution.com. NOTE: No representative of Alphacution has been in contact with any representative of Jane Street Group, LLC or affiliated entities for the preparation of this report. This report is solely based on the author’s interpretation of Alphacution’s ongoing assembly of raw, open-access data; library of contextualized modeling; and, internally-developed content. This report does not benefit from, nor include, any material non-public information (MNPI). Introduction Volatility... It’s like the highest-octane fuel in the engine of every proprietary trading and market making firm – and it is very difficult to capture, harvest or [...]

By |2020-10-05T15:55:53-04:00May 28th, 2020|Open|

Cheap Volatility: A Lesson In Market Structure Mechanics

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway   Alphacution has always been fascinated by the players. Unlike the world of sport, market players have unique potential to influence the field of play, and thus create a feedback loop that influences other players, and so on causing market ecosystem evolution. In this game, the rulemakers and overseers - the referees - are typically playing catch up... This is not to suggest that markets don't have naturally occurring limits in addition to those that are imposed by referees. They do. There are always capacity constraints, given performance requirements and performance expectations; and so, we are further fascinated by how players navigate - how they survive, thrive and scale (or not) - relative to the inevitability of market limitations, many of which are currently not well understood. Throughout these digital pages, Alphacution has plotted a journey to fill this unmet need for understanding -  presenting the output of our fascinations - the stories of [...]

By |2020-10-05T16:03:25-04:00May 1st, 2020|Open|

Virtu’s Optionality? Some Good News…

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” - Friedrich Nietzsche “We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” ― M.C. Escher   One intangible cost of being the sole US publicly-traded market making firm is the required level of financial and operational transparency - and the investor relations burden - that comes with that status. In this case, that cost may be unusually high because of the relative opacity of the competitors in this sector - what Alphacution typically refers to as the structural alpha zone of its asset management ecosystem map - coupled with the unparalleled use of technology and extraordinary magnitude of wealth generated by that small group of players. To compound this dynamic, recent dramatic shifts in the landscape for retail order flow sparked by the late 2019 moves - en masse - to $zero commissions by retail-oriented brokerage platforms, and the quick follow-on consolidations of TD Ameritrade (by Charles Schwab) and E*Trade (by Morgan Stanley), and given the pandemic-fueled volatility and volumes of [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:40:22-04:00March 12th, 2020|For Subscribers|

AQR Capital Management: The Ominous Shapes of Strategy

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." - Joseph Campbell   For 12 straight years beginning Q4 2001, AQR Capital Management, LLC (AQR) - one of the great and legendary quant hedge funds of the current era - grew equity positions until peaking at 2,346 (long equity) positions by Q4 2013. Since that time, AQR's long US equity book has found an ominously consistent plateau averaging 2,140 positions. Here, in what would normally seem to be a benign factoid, lie the seeds of the story for why AQR has been suffering performance challenges of late; and, apparently, performance challenges for the foreseeable future according to co-founder and front-man, Cliff Asness. We start that story with the exhibit, below, where Alphacution presents the full 72-quarter record of total 13F (long) positions for the lineage of AQR Capital Management entities beginning Q4 2001 and ending Q3 2019. With these first shapes, we want to highlight that stocks are the dominant product class, thereby implying that there is little [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:02-04:00February 9th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Tom Brady, Louis Bacon and the Game Changers

“From the point of ignition to the final drive, the point of the journey is not to arrive.” - Neil Peart   New clues are emerging on the nature and pace of change... Here's the setup: Unlikely and unexpected virtuosity often serves as the catalyst for a dynastic run of success. Moreover, legend has it, that it's usually the will over and above the skill that fuels the initiation and duration of that run. While skills eventually decay, it's the will to keep finding a way to win - to distinguish oneself or team relative to the competition - that's the defining factor. Of course, whether it be a football field or a market landscape, like a moving sidewalk, everything happens as the ground is constantly shifting below our feet. What happens to Tom Brady next, I'm not here to predict. He is merely a reliable hook to drag your attention to this point in the story because the debate about whether his game has changed to favor running, mobile [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:02-04:00January 23rd, 2020|For Subscribers|

Balyasny’s Book: Hiding in Plain Sight

“Even though the transformation of energy, in all of its various forms, is the very basis of all economic activity, only a tiny fraction of economists have even studied thermodynamics. And only a handful of individuals inside the profession have attempted to redefine economic theory and practice based on the energy laws.” - Jeremy Rifkin, The Third Industrial Revolution With this Feed post, Alphacution adds Balyasny Asset Management, LLC (BAM) to its growing roster of modelled trading firms. BAM is a multi-strategy multi-manager investment firm who is often compared to the likes of Millennium, Point72, and Citadel. We might go a bit further to add Two Sigma and AQR Capital Management to a broader description of other large hedge fund managers that operate in the active management zone of our ecosystem map. To more specifically define BAM's core strategy genre as statistical arbitrage is likely to go a bit too far on the active and automated strategy spectrum, as its material reliance on fundamental analysis would more accurately put it [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:02-04:00December 1st, 2019|For Subscribers|

Puzzle: Two Sigma and the Sons of D. E. Shaw

"The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust I had hoped to be able to publish the executive summary to our latest case study on Two Sigma this week, however instead, here is one of the more fascinating findings from that research (that we explore in detail in that case study) in the form of a puzzle: In the chart below, Alphacution presents the average stock position by value for the 67-quarter period beginning Q4 2002 and ending Q2 2019 for the four legendary quant managers, Renaissance Technologies, Millennium Management, D. E. Shaw & Co., and Two Sigma Investments. What's fascinating here is how these four leaders, with their core strategies in equities, assembled their portfolios. Four managers with two methods for implementing position sizing; one method based on market capitalization weighting, the other based on liquidity weighting... Which manager is associated with which method? One more thing: If you think this is too deep in the weeds for where [...]

By |2020-10-05T16:29:22-04:00October 31st, 2019|For Subscribers|

#Hedgefunds: Is the Capacity of Alpha Unlimited?

Like the financial markets equivalent of "dude", or "bro" or the many satisfying derivations of "F**K," the term "alpha" seems to pepper our market discourse in a way that has few peers. Rightly or wrongly, there isn't an investment or trading context into which it is not shoehorned. We hear it everywhere, at all times, and in numerous forms: Achieving alpha... Delivering alpha... Portable alpha... (A strategy that had its heyday around 2006 and has recently tried to make a comeback.) Tainted alpha... (Not gonna go there right now.) And, my personal favorite (for its level of misguidedness), generating alpha... There are conferences named after it, like the CNBC and Institutional Investor ANNUAL Delivering Alpha Conference, now apparently in its 8th year. And, of course, some of the most brilliant and creative companies of all time have been named after it! - and, I'm not necessarily talking about firms like Visible Alpha or AlphaSense or the defunct quant strategy development platform, Alphacet... To be fair, the list of common usages [...]

By |2020-10-05T21:22:58-04:00September 23rd, 2018|Open|

α < ∞ ?

Like the financial markets equivalent of "dude", or "bro" or the many satisfying derivations of "F**K," the term "alpha" seems to pepper our market discourse in a way that has few peers. Rightly or wrongly, there isn't an investment or trading context into which it is not shoehorned. We hear it everywhere, at all times, and in numerous forms: Achieving alpha... Delivering alpha... Portable alpha... (A strategy that had its heyday around 2006 and has recently tried to make a comeback.) Tainted alpha... (Not gonna go there right now.) And, my personal favorite (for its level of misguidedness), generating alpha... There are conferences named after it, like the CNBC and Institutional Investor ANNUAL Delivering Alpha Conference, now apparently in its 8th year. And, of course, some of the most brilliant and creative companies of all time have been named after it! - and, I'm not necessarily talking about firms like Visible Alpha or AlphaSense or the defunct quant strategy development platform, Alphacet... To be fair, the list of common usages [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:07-04:00September 20th, 2018|For Subscribers|

When Market Makers Ate Their Own…

Right out of the gate, this story might emit a whiff of last year's news. Maybe. But, that sense would only last until you realize that this is also a template for improving predictions about future events. And, that kind of predictive power relies upon the bet that more markets and opportunities are becoming winner-take-all in the digital era... (Hint: As the functioning of markets - and other economic opportunities - become more "digital," a single leader can emerge in that market. This is how we end up with the "FANG's" - Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. It's also how US equity markets end up with ~80% lit market-making flows being split between Virtu and Citadel. Here are some facts to fill in the background: In the three years beginning 2006, the Timber Hill market making unit of Interactive Brokers Group (IB) had an annual revenue run rate of around $1 billion, peaking at over $1.3 billion in 2008. By 2017, Timber Hill's revenue run rate had declined 94% to [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:51:05-04:00July 18th, 2018|For Subscribers|