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I am able and willing to invest some money into risky assets that may have high expected returns on at least one year: I want to invest my personal money into crypto currencies. I use a solver made by friends during Finance classes in order to know what would be the balance. Everything is okay but I'm not sure about the period to use to create the expected return. I use a three month period for all cryptocurrencies as far as one cryptocurrency is priced in my currency (the Euro) only for this time.

  • What would be the best period to compute the most accurate expected returns in order to do a covariance matrix used by my solver to find the optimal portfolio according to Markowitz method ?
  • A sub question would be : Should I close my eyes on the fact that these cryptocurencies aren't perfectly priced in my currency and use another one (such as the dollar) or should I use different time period for different assets (which I think is a bad idea because it therefore becomes impossible to compare).

What currency should I use as a reference ?

PS: (I'm okay to receive other tips over how to invest one's money when being young (I am over 20 and under 25 and I have no loans) ;) ).

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    I don't think there is any effective way to reasonably project returns of any crypto. – quid May 4 '17 at 23:59
  • @quid Ho ? Why ? I would be glad to hear your insights ! Let's open a chtaroom ? ;) – IggyPass May 5 '17 at 6:02
  • It's such a short lived market with such rampant speculation and wild volatility that I can't imagine relying on anything to predict tomorrow. For reference I've followed BTC since its origin and probably mined my first some time in 2012, I still hold BTC, though at these prices I'm ready to sell some (these prices allowed me to finally offload a few miners that were collecting dust in a closet). – quid May 5 '17 at 6:41
  • @quid Understood ! And in what would you advise to invest in ? – IggyPass May 5 '17 at 8:53
  • From what I have read, Bitcoin will end and fairly soon and there is word that the Euro will as well. The young are in a hurry to get to where they want to go - fast. Relax. There are better, safer ways to invest your money and receive returns. Do more research. PS Always, always resist greed - it can sneak up on you. Be aware of self, keep honest regarding motives and stay disciplined. Others have gone before you. Observe good leaders. Don't be in a rush to judgment and never follow the crowd. – Dee May 5 '17 at 20:00
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Any time you are optimizing a portfolio, the right horizon to use for computing the statistics you will use for optimization (expected return, covariance, etc.) will be the same as your rebalance/trading frequency. If you expect your trading strategy to trade once a day, you should use daily data for optimization. Ditto for monthly or quarterly. If at all possible you should use statistics across the board that are computed at the same frequency as your trading.

Regarding currency pricing, I see no reason you can't take the reported prices and convert them to whatever currency you want using that day's foriegn exchange rate. Foreign exchange rates are available for free at the Fed and elsewhere. Converting prices from one currency to another is not rocket science.

Since you are contemplating putting actual money behind this, note that using data to compute statistics is less reliable for lower statistical moments. The mean (expected return) is the first moment, so using historical returns is extremely unreliable at predicting future returns. The variances and covariances are second moments, they are better. Skewness and kurtosis, yet better. The fact that the expected return can't reliably be estimated from past returns is the major downfall of the Markowitz method (resulting portfolios are often very crazy and will depend critically on the data period you use to set them up). There are approaches to fixing this, such as Black-Litterman's (1992) method, but they get complicated fast.

  • Thank you for your answer ! I will let the answer open until tomorrow. Yet what are moments ? I use variance to optimize my solver. I read an article about skewness and kurtosis but I'm not sure to understand the concept well yet. – IggyPass May 6 '17 at 18:55
  • You don't need skewness or kurtosis for your work, they are just examples higher statistical moments. I only mention moments as a reason why using the mean as an estimate of expected return is not reliable. You don't necessarily need to study them beyond what I have written. – farnsy May 6 '17 at 19:05
  • (The result of) mean-variance optimization is very sensitive to the data. And it sounds like the data quality here is sub-par. It seems to me that OP's proposal is not a good idea. – xiaomy May 6 '17 at 23:47
  • @xiaomy I understand that subpar is "below an average", why is my data quality below an average ? Why is my proposal not a good idea ? Thank you for your future insights ! – IggyPass May 7 '17 at 0:05
  • @Marine1 I will expand in an answer. – xiaomy May 7 '17 at 0:17
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@farnsy has provided a good answer. I'm only addressing my comment about the data quality.

The portfolio optimization technique you employed is very sensitive to the inputs. In particular, it relies entirely on the mean and (co)variance assumptions (i.e. the first two moments) and the results could change drastically with very small amount of change in the inputs. To see that, you can make up some inputs for the solver you have, and try adjusting the inputs a little bit and see the results.

Therefore if you decide to take this approach, data quality is very crucial.

EDIT: What I meant by "data quality"

  1. Are the data source you are using (i.e. cryptocompare.com) reliable? Is its data consistent with what was observed in the market?

I have no experience with this website but this should be easy to spot check.

  1. Does the market data reflect the fair value of the assets?

The answer is usually "yes" for liquid assets. Illiquid assets can often be priced at a level with no volume, and the bid-ask spread could be huge.

Should I close my eyes on the fact that these cryptocurencies aren't perfectly priced in my currency and use another one (such as the dollar)

You seem to have concern about data quality in at least the price quoted in your currency and are thinking about using data quoted in USD, but would it be any better? The law of one price tells us that there shouldn't be any discrepancy between prices in different currencies (otherwise there would be arbitrage).

In addition, (when compared to traditional assets) cryptocurrency price data has a shorter data history, and with lower liquidity in the market. The short history means you have less data to infer the characteristics of the price behavior. Low liquidity means the volatility may well be underestimated.

So we have an input-sensitive technique combined with not-so-perfect data. I wouldn't allocate my money solely based on the result of this exercise.

EDIT: I have quite some reservation about doing portfolio optimization for cryptocurrency. Personally I'm not a fan of the technique as is. The optimization has an underlying assumption that returns follow a certain distribution, and correlation is fixed. I don't know if you can make such assumption for cryptocurrencies. From what I read about BTC for example, it seems to have a high risk exposure concerning Chinese monetary policy. For that kind of assets perhaps a fundamental analysis approach is a better one.

Also if you would like to learn more about portfolio optimization, try quant.SE

  • Thank you for this insight ! -- My first question is stupid but I want to better understand the truisms : what is the quality of the data ? In what does it consists in ? What are the properties ? I only used the market values provided in csv by cryptocompare.com. -- Second, you said that you wouldn't allocate my money solely based on the result of this exercise, therefore, what would you use ? Skewness and kurtosis ? How may I do that with my excel spreadsheet ? – IggyPass May 7 '17 at 22:25
  • @Marine1 Please see my updated answer. – xiaomy May 8 '17 at 3:56

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