Category Archives: Hedges

28/12/18: BTCD is neither a hedge nor a safe haven for stocks


A quick - and dirty - run through the argument that Bitcoin serves as a hedge or a safe haven for stocks. This argument has been popular in cryptocurrencies analytical circles of recent, and is extensively covered in the research literature, when it comes to 2014-2017 dynamics, but not so much for 2018 or even more recent period dynamics.

First, simple definitions:

  1. A financial instrument X is a hedge for a financial instrument Y, if - on average, over time - significant declines in the value of Y are associated with lower declines (weak hedge) or increases (strong hedge) in the value of X.
  2. A financial instrument X is a safe haven for a financial instrument Y, if at the times of significant short-term drop in the value of Y, instrument X posts increases (strong safe haven) or shallower decreases (weak safe haven) in its own value.
So here are two charts for Safe Haven argument:


The first chart shows that over the last 12 months, there were 3 episodes when - over time, on average, based on daily prices, stocks acted as a strong hedge for BTCUSD. There are zero periods when BTCUSD acted as a hedge for stocks. The second chart shows that within the last month, based on 30 minutes intervals data (higher frequency data, not exactly suitable for hedge testing), BTCUSD did manage to act as a hedge for stocks in two periods. However, taken across both periods, overall, BTCUSD only acted as a weak hedge.

The key to the above is,  however, the time frame and the data frequency. A hedge is a longer-term, averages-defined relationship. Not an actively traded strategy. And this means that the first chart is more reflective of true hedging relationship than the later one. Still, even if we severely stretch the definition of a hedge, we are still left with two instances when the BTCUSD acts as a hedge for DJIA against two instances when DJIA acts as a hedge for BTCUSD.

People commonly confuse both hedging and safe haven as being defined by the negative symmetric correlation between assets X and Y, but in reality, both concepts are defined by the directional correlation: when X is falling, correlation myst be negative with Y, and when Y is falling, correlation must be negative with X. The downside episodes are what matters, not any volatility.

Now, to safe haven:

Again, it appears that stocks offer a safe haven against BTCUSD (6 occasions in the last 12 months) more often than BTCUSD offers a safe haven against stocks (2 occasions).  Worse, the cost of holding BTCUSD long as a safe haven for stocks is staggeringly high: some 60-65 percentage points over 12 months, not counting the cost of trading.

In simple terms, BTCUSD is worse than useless as either a hedge or a safe haven against the adverse movements in stocks.

28/12/18: BTCD is neither a hedge nor a safe haven for stocks


A quick - and dirty - run through the argument that Bitcoin serves as a hedge or a safe haven for stocks. This argument has been popular in cryptocurrencies analytical circles of recent, and is extensively covered in the research literature, when it comes to 2014-2017 dynamics, but not so much for 2018 or even more recent period dynamics.

First, simple definitions:

  1. A financial instrument X is a hedge for a financial instrument Y, if - on average, over time - significant declines in the value of Y are associated with lower declines (weak hedge) or increases (strong hedge) in the value of X.
  2. A financial instrument X is a safe haven for a financial instrument Y, if at the times of significant short-term drop in the value of Y, instrument X posts increases (strong safe haven) or shallower decreases (weak safe haven) in its own value.
So here are two charts for Safe Haven argument:


The first chart shows that over the last 12 months, there were 3 episodes when - over time, on average, based on daily prices, stocks acted as a strong hedge for BTCUSD. There are zero periods when BTCUSD acted as a hedge for stocks. The second chart shows that within the last month, based on 30 minutes intervals data (higher frequency data, not exactly suitable for hedge testing), BTCUSD did manage to act as a hedge for stocks in two periods. However, taken across both periods, overall, BTCUSD only acted as a weak hedge.

The key to the above is,  however, the time frame and the data frequency. A hedge is a longer-term, averages-defined relationship. Not an actively traded strategy. And this means that the first chart is more reflective of true hedging relationship than the later one. Still, even if we severely stretch the definition of a hedge, we are still left with two instances when the BTCUSD acts as a hedge for DJIA against two instances when DJIA acts as a hedge for BTCUSD.

People commonly confuse both hedging and safe haven as being defined by the negative symmetric correlation between assets X and Y, but in reality, both concepts are defined by the directional correlation: when X is falling, correlation myst be negative with Y, and when Y is falling, correlation must be negative with X. The downside episodes are what matters, not any volatility.

Now, to safe haven:

Again, it appears that stocks offer a safe haven against BTCUSD (6 occasions in the last 12 months) more often than BTCUSD offers a safe haven against stocks (2 occasions).  Worse, the cost of holding BTCUSD long as a safe haven for stocks is staggeringly high: some 60-65 percentage points over 12 months, not counting the cost of trading.

In simple terms, BTCUSD is worse than useless as either a hedge or a safe haven against the adverse movements in stocks.

5/5/16: Macro Hedge Funds: Neither a Hedge, Nor a Fund…


Having written recently about the trials of Hedge Funds sub-sector (see http://trueeconomics.blogspot.com/2016/05/4516-talent-is-problem-but-so-is.html), it's worth posting this neat chart from Investcorp showing 12-mo rolling median return to macro strategy HFs:

Yeah, it is ugly. And it has been ugly since around 2012, and structurally non-pretty since the end of the Global Financial Crisis.

But the really, really ugly thing is that the chart above shows that macro hedge funds are now (over post-GFC period) pro-cyclical (or at least not countercyclical), in other words, they hedge nothing macro on the macro downside risks and do not perform well on macro upside. It is as if someone on purpose decided to create a strategy that underperforms the market on positive trends and fails to hedge the market on downside trend.

Any wonder everyone is running out of the hedgies barn?..

16/10/15: Gold and Bitcoin: Adjacency and Hedging Properties


This week, I spoke at a joint Markets Technicians Association and CAIA seminar hosted by Bloomberg, covering two recent research projects I was involved with on the role of Gold and Bitcoin as safe havens and hedges for other assets.

Here are my slides (omitting section division slides):
The first section was based on the following paper: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1057521912001226



A caveat to the above, we are seeing increasing evidence that Gold's hedging properties may be changing over time, especially due to increased financialisation of the asset. In this context, it is worth referencing a recent working paper by Brian M. Lucey et al linked here that I also cited at the seminar.




The Bitcoin section is based on a work-in-progress paper with Cormac Ennis: "Is Bitcoin like Gold? Hedging and Safe Haven Properties of the Virtual Currency". The results of presented below should be treated with serious caution as they are extremely preliminary.

Note: we are extending data set to cover longer period, although even with this extension data coverage for Bitcoin is still suboptimal in both duration and quality. Many thanks to the seminar participant for pointing out two key caveats to the overall data coverage:

  1. The 'lumpy' nature of demand around Cypriot banking crisis; and
  2. Potential effects on data quality reported for Bitcoin from a small number of high profile pricing events, such as technical glitches and supply/demand shifts linked to large exchanges-linked events (e.g. MtGox).


 Summarising the two papers findings: