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Alternative Market Briefing

Other Voices: A new approach for measuring crowded trades in financial markets

Monday, February 01, 2010

This article was written by Dr. Momtchil Pojarliev, new senior portfolio manager at U.S.-based asset manager Hathersage, and by Richard M. Levich, professor of finance at New York’s Stern School of business – it was also published on Voyeu.org.

Regulators understand the potential threat of crowded trades, but they also recognise the difficulty of tracking them. This column suggests a new approach for regulators to monitor crowdedness of selected trades. Fund managers and financial regulators could use data on crowdedness to assess the risk that a financial market may enter an asset bubble.

Whether crowded trades pose a threat to financial institutions has been on regulators’ minds for several years. In 2004, Timothy Geithner, then President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, put it this way: “While there may well be more diversity in the types of strategies hedge funds follow, there is also considerable clustering, which raises the prospect of larger moves in some markets if conditions lead to a general withdrawal from these ‘crowded’ trades.” The underlying logic of Geithner’s remarks is simple enough. Market participants may face additional risks if many players want to exit similar positions at the same time. Lasse Heje Pederson (2009) has modelled this behaviour in financial markets. When shouts of “fire” are heard in a crowded theatre, patrons face ......................

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