by Tammer Kamel
Quandl's Founder
About 22 months ago I had the privilege of introducing Quandl to the world on this blog. At that time Quandl had about 2 million datasets and a few hundred users. (And we thought that was fabulous.) Now, at the end of 2014, we have some 12 million datasets on the site and tens of thousands of registered users. On most days we serve about 1 million API requests.
One thing that has not changed however, is the simplicity with which R users can access Quandl. Joseph’s post last year, and Ilya’s this year both demonstrated the ease of connecting to Quandl via R.
Adoption of Quandl in the R community was perhaps the biggest factor in our early success. Thus it is fitting that I am back guestblogging here at this moment in time because we are actually at the dawn of a new chapter at Quandl: We’re adding commercial data to the site. We are going to make hundreds of commercial databases from domain experts like Zacks, ORATS, OptionWorks, Corre Group, MP Maritime, DelphX, Benzinga and many others available via the same simple API.
What makes this new foray interesting is that we won't be playing by the rules that the incumbent oligarchy of data distributors have established. Their decadesold model has not served consumers well: it keeps data prices artificially high, it cripples innovation, and it is antithetical to modern patterns of data consumption and usage. In fact, the business models around commercial data predate the internet itself. They can and should be disrupted. So we're going to give that a go.
Our plan is nothing less than democratizing supply and demand of commercial data. Anyone will be able to buy data on Quandl. There will be no compulsory bundling, forcing you to pay for extra services you don’t need; no lockin to expensive longterm contracts; no opaque pricing; no usage monitoring or consumption limits; no artificial scarcity or degradation. Users will be able to buy just the datasets they need, a la carte, as and when they need them. They will get their data delivered precisely the way they want, with generous free previews, minimal usage restrictions and all the advantages of the Quandl platform. And of course, the data itself will be of the highest quality; professional grade data manufactured by the best curators in the world.
We will also democratize the supply of data. Anyone, from existing data vendors and primary data producers to individuals and entrepreneurs, will have equal access to the Quandl platform and the unmet demand of the Quandl user base. We want to create a situation where anyone capable of curating and maintaining a database can monetize their work. In time, we hope that competition among vendors will force prices to their economic minimum. This is the best possible way to deliver the lowest possible prices to our users.
At the same time this democratization should empower capable curators to realize the full value of their skills: If someone can build and maintain a database that commands $25 a month from 1000 people, then Quandl can be the vehicle that transforms that person from skilled analyst to successful data vendor.
If you were to characterize what we are doing as a marketplace for data you would be absolutely correct. We are convinced that fair and open competition will do great things, both for data consumers who are, frankly, being gouged, and for existing and aspirational data vendors who are disempowered. Open and fair competition is a panacea for both ills: it effects lower prices, wider distribution, better data quality, better documentation and better customer service.
Our foray into commercial data has already started with 6 pilot vendors. They range from entrepreneuriallyminded analysts who are building databases to rival what the incumbents currently sell for exorbitant fees, to longestablished data vendors progressive enough to embrace Quandl’s modern paradigm. We have no less than 25 vendors coming online in Q1 2015.
So, Quandl in 2015 should very quickly become everything an analyst needs: A free and unlimited API, dozens of package connections including to R, 12 million (and growing) free and open datasets, and access to commercial data from the best companies in the world at ever decreasing prices. Wish us luck!
by Don Boyd, Senior Fellow, Rockefeller Institute of Government
The Rockefeller Institute of Government is excited to be developing models to simulate the finances of public pension funds, using R.
Public pension funds invest contributions from governments and public sector workers in an effort to ensure that they can pay all promised benefits when due. State and local government pension funds in the United States currently have more than $3 trillion invested, more than $2 trillion of which is in equitylike investments. For example, NYC, has over $158 billion invested. Governments usually act as a backstop: if pension fund investment returns do better than expected, governments will be able to contribute less, but if investment returns fall short they will have to contribute more. When that happens, politicians must raise taxes or cut spending programs. These risks often are not well understood or widely discussed. (For a discussion of many of the most significant issues, see Strengthening the Security of Public Sector Defined Benefit Plans.)
We are building stochastic simulation models in R to help quantify the investment risks and their potential consequences. We are modeling the finances of specific pension plans, taking into account all of the main flows such as current and expected benefit payouts to workers, contributions from governments and from workers, and investment returns, and how they affect liabilities and investible assets. The models will take into account the changing demographics of the workforce and retiree populations. We are modeling investment returns stochastically, examining different return scenarios and different economic environments, as well as different governmental contribution policies. We will use these models to evaluate the risks currently being taken and to help provide policy advice to governments, pension funds, and others. (For a full description of our approach, see Modeling and Disclosing Public Pension Fund Risk, and Consequences for Pension Funding Security)
We have chosen R because:
All programming languages have weaknesses. R’s great flexibility means that it is easy to write illorganized programs that are hard to understand and debug. And poorly written programs that do not take advantage of R’s strengths can be extremely slow. We believe we can compensate for these weaknesses by making our programs modular, using a consistent programming style with appropriate documentation, and by using R features smartly and speedtesting where appropriate.
R analysts and programmers interested in learning about the opportunity to work on this project should examine the programmer/analyst position description and related materials at the Rockefeller Institute’s web site.
The latest in a series by Daniel Hanson
Introduction
Correlations between holdings in a portfolio are of course a key component in financial risk management. Borrowing a tool common in fields such as bioinformatics and genetics, we will look at how to use heat maps in R for visualizing correlations among financial returns, and examine behavior in both a stable and down market.
While base R contains its own heatmap(.) function, the reader will likely find the heatmap.2(.) function in the R package gplots to be a bit more user friendly. A very nicely written companion article entitled A short tutorial for decent heat maps in R (Sebastian Raschka, 2013), which covers more details and features, is available on the web; we will also refer to it in the discussion below.
We will present the topic in the form of an example.
Sample Data
As in previous articles, we will make use of R packages Quandl and xts to acquire and manage our market data. Here, in a simple example, we will use returns from the following global equity indices over the period 19980105 to the present, and then examine correlations between them:
S&P 500 (US)
RUSSELL 2000 (US Small Cap)
NIKKEI (Japan)
HANG SENG (Hong Kong)
DAX (Germany)
CAC (France)
KOSPI (Korea)
First, we gather the index values and convert to returns:
library(xts) library(Quandl) my_start_date < "19980105" SP500.Q < Quandl("YAHOO/INDEX_GSPC", start_date = my_start_date, type = "xts") RUSS2000.Q < Quandl("YAHOO/INDEX_RUT", start_date = my_start_date, type = "xts") NIKKEI.Q < Quandl("NIKKEI/INDEX", start_date = my_start_date, type = "xts") HANG_SENG.Q < Quandl("YAHOO/INDEX_HSI", start_date = my_start_date, type = "xts") DAX.Q < Quandl("YAHOO/INDEX_GDAXI", start_date = my_start_date, type = "xts") CAC.Q < Quandl("YAHOO/INDEX_FCHI", start_date = my_start_date, type = "xts") KOSPI.Q < Quandl("YAHOO/INDEX_KS11", start_date = my_start_date, type = "xts") # Depending on the index, the final price for each day is either # "Adjusted Close" or "Close Price". Extract this single column for each: SP500 < SP500.Q[,"Adjusted Close"] RUSS2000 < RUSS2000.Q[,"Adjusted Close"] DAX < DAX.Q[,"Adjusted Close"] CAC < CAC.Q[,"Adjusted Close"] KOSPI < KOSPI.Q[,"Adjusted Close"] NIKKEI < NIKKEI.Q[,"Close Price"] HANG_SENG < HANG_SENG.Q[,"Adjusted Close"] # The xts merge(.) function will only accept two series at a time. # We can, however, merge multiple columns by downcasting to *zoo* objects. # Remark: "all = FALSE" uses an inner join to merge the data. z < merge(as.zoo(SP500), as.zoo(RUSS2000), as.zoo(DAX), as.zoo(CAC), as.zoo(KOSPI), as.zoo(NIKKEI), as.zoo(HANG_SENG), all = FALSE) # Set the column names; these will be used in the heat maps: myColnames < c("SP500","RUSS2000","DAX","CAC","KOSPI","NIKKEI","HANG_SENG") colnames(z) < myColnames # Cast back to an xts object: mktPrices < as.xts(z) # Next, calculate log returns: mktRtns < diff(log(mktPrices), lag = 1) head(mktRtns) mktRtns < mktRtns[1, ] # Remove resulting NA in the 1st row
Generate Heat Maps
As noted above, heatmap.2(.) is the function in the gplots package that we will use. For convenience, we’ll wrap this function inside our own generate_heat_map(.) function, as we will call this parameterization several times to compare market conditions.
As for the parameterization, the comments should be selfexplanatory, but we’re keeping things simple by eliminating the dendogram, and leaving out the trace lines inside the heat map and density plot inside the color legend. Note also the setting Rowv = FALSE, this ensures the ordering of the rows and columns remains consistent from plot to plot. We’re also just using the default color settings; for customized colors, see the Raschka tutorial linked above.
require(gplots) generate_heat_map < function(correlationMatrix, title) { heatmap.2(x = correlationMatrix, # the correlation matrix input cellnote = correlationMatrix # places correlation value in each cell main = title, # heat map title symm = TRUE, # configure diagram as standard correlation matrix dendrogram="none", # do not draw a row dendrogram Rowv = FALSE, # keep ordering consistent trace="none", # turns off trace lines inside the heat map density.info="none", # turns off density plot inside color legend notecol="black") # set font color of cell labels to black }
Next, let’s calculate three correlation matrices using the data we have obtained:
Now, let’s call our heat map function using the total market data set:
generate_heat_map(corr1, "Correlations of World Market Returns, Jan 1998  Present")
And then, examine the result:
As expected, we trivially have correlations of 100% down the main diagonal. Note that, as shown in the color key, the darker the color, the lower the correlation. By design, using the parameters of the heatmap.2(.) function, we set the title with the main = title parameter setting, and the correlations shown in black by using the notecol="black" setting.
Next, let’s look at a period of relative calm in the markets, namely the year 2004:
generate_heat_map(corr2, "Correlations of World Market Returns, Jan  Dec 2004")
This gives us:
generate_heat_map(corr2, "Correlations of World Market Returns, Jan  Dec 2004")
Note that in this case, at a glance of the darker colors in each of the cells, we can see that we have even lower correlations than those from our entire data set. This may of course be verified by comparing the numerical values.
Finally, let’s look at the opposite extreme, during the upheaval of the financial crisis in 20082009:
generate_heat_map(corr3, "Correlations of World Market Returns, Oct 2008  May 2009")
This yields the following heat map:
Note that in this case, again just at first glance, we can tell the correlations have increased compared to 2004, by the colors changing from dark to light nearly across the board. While there are some correlations that do not increase all that much, such as the SP500/Nikkei and the Russell 2000/Kospi values, there are others across international and capitalization categories that jump quite significantly, such as the SP500/Hang Seng correlation going from about 21% to 41%, and that of the Russell 2000/DAX moving from 43% to over 57%. So, in other words, portfolio diversification can take a hit in down markets.
Conclusion
In this example, we only looked at seven market indices, but for a closer look at how correlations were affected during 200809  and how heat maps among a greater number of market sectors compared  this article, entitled Diversification is Broken, is a recommended and interesting read.
by Joseph Rickert
If I had to pick just one application to be the “killer app” for the digital computer I would probably choose Agent Based Modeling (ABM). Imagine creating a world populated with hundreds, or even thousands of agents, interacting with each other and with the environment according to their own simple rules. What kinds of patterns and behaviors would emerge if you just let the simulation run? Could you guess a set of rules that would mimic some part of the real world? This dream is probably much older than the digital computer, but according to Jan Thiele’s brief account of the history of ABMs that begins his recent paper, R Marries NetLogo: Introduction to the RNetLogo Package in the Journal of Statistical Software, academic work with ABMs didn’t really take off until the late 1990s.
Now, people are using ABMs for serious studies in economics, sociology, ecology, sociopsychology, anthropology, marketing and many other fields. No less of a complexity scientist than Doyne Farmer (of Dynamic Systems and Prediction Company fame) has argued in Nature for using ABMs to model the complexity of the US economy, and has published on using ABMs to drive investment models. in the following clip of a 2006 interview, Doyne talks about building ABMs to explain the role of subprime mortgages on the Housing Crisis. (Note that when asked about how one would calibrate such a model Doyne explains the need to collect massive amounts of data on individuals.)
Fortunately, the tools for building ABMs seem to be keeping pace with the ambition of the modelers. There are now dozens of platforms for building ABMs, and it is somewhat surprising that NetLogo, a tool with some whimsical terminology (e.g. agents are called turtles) that was designed for teaching children, has apparently become a defacto standard. NetLogo is Java based, has an intuitive GUI, ships with dozens of useful sample models, is easy to program, and is available under the GPL 2 license.
As you might expect, R is a perfect complement for NetLogo. Doing serious simulation work requires a considerable amount of statistics for calibrating models, designing experiments, performing sensitivity analyses, reducing data, exploring the results of simulation runs and much more. The recent JASS paper Facilitating Parameter Estimation and Sensitivity Analysis of AgentBased Models: a Cookbook Using NetLogo and R by Thiele and his collaborators describe the R / NetLogo relationship in great detail and points to a decade’s worth of reading. But the real fun is that Thiele’s RNetLogo package lets you jump in and start analyzing NetLogo models in a matter of minutes.
Here is part of an extended example from Thiele's JSS paper that shows R interacting with the Fire model that ships with NetLogo. Using some very simple logic, Fire models the progress of a forest fire.
Snippet of NetLogo Code that drives the Fire model
to go if not any? turtles ;; either fires or embers [ stop ] ask fires [ ask neighbors4 with [pcolor = green] [ ignite ] set breed embers ] fadeembers tick end ;; creates the fire turtles to ignite ;; patch procedure sproutfires 1 [ set color red ] set pcolor black set burnedtrees burnedtrees + 1 end
The general idea is that turtles represent the frontier of the fire run through a grid of randomly placed trees. Not shown in the above snippet is the logic that shows that the entire model is controlled by a single parameter representing the density of the trees.
This next bit of R code shows how to launch the Fire model from R, set the density parameter, and run the model.
# Launch RNetLogo and control an initial run of the # NetLogo Fire Model library(RNetLogo) nlDir < "C:/Program Files (x86)/NetLogo 5.0.5" setwd(nlDir) nl.path < getwd() NLStart(nl.path) model.path < file.path("models", "Sample Models", "Earth Science","Fire.nlogo") NLLoadModel(file.path(nl.path, model.path)) NLCommand("set density 70") # set density value NLCommand("setup") # call the setup routine NLCommand("go") # launch the model from R
Here we see the Fire model running in the NetLogo GUI after it was launched from RStudio.
This next bit of code tracks the progression of the fire as a function of time (model "ticks"), returns results to R and plots them. The plot shows the nonlinear behavior of the system.
# Investigate percentage of forest burned as simulation proceeds and plot library(ggplot2) NLCommand("set density 60") NLCommand("setup") burned < NLDoReportWhile("any? turtles", "go", c("ticks", "(burnedtrees / initialtrees) * 100"), as.data.frame = TRUE, df.col.names = c("tick", "percent.burned")) # Plot with ggplot2 p < ggplot(burned,aes(x=tick,y=percent.burned)) p + geom_line() + ggtitle("Nonlinear forest fire progression with density = 60")
As with many dynamical systems, the Fire model displays a phase transition. Setting the density lower than 55 will not result in the complete destruction of the forest, while setting density above 75 will very likely result in complete destruction. The following plot shows this behavior.
RNetLogo makes it very easy to programatically run multiple simulations and capture the results for analysis in R. The following two lines of code runs the Fire model twenty times for each value of density between 55 and 65, the region surrounding the pahse transition.
d < seq(55, 65, 1) # vector of densities to examine res < rep.sim(d, 20) # Run the simulation
The plot below shows the variability of the percent of trees burned as a function of density in the transition region.
My code to generate plots is available in the file: Download NelLogo_blog while all of the code from Thiele's JSS paper is available from the journal website.
Finally, here are a few more interesting links related to ABMs.
by Daniel Hanson
Recap and Introduction
Last time in part 1 of this topic, we used the xts and lubridate packages to interpolate a zero rate for every date over the span of 30 years of market yield curve data. In this article, we will look at how we can implement the two essential functions of a term structure: the forward interest rate, and the forward discount factor.
Definitions and Notation
We will apply a mix of notation adopted in the lecture notes Interest Rate Models: Introduction, pp 34, from the New York University Courant Institute (2005), along with chapter 1 of the book Interest Rate Models — Theory and Practice (2nd edition, Brigo and Mercurio, 2006). A presentation by Damiano Brigo from 2007, which covers some of the essential background found in the book, is available here, from the Columbia University website.
First, t ≧ 0 and T ≧ 0 represent time values in years.
P(t, T) represents the forward discount factor at time t ≦ T, where T ≦ 30 years (in our case), as seen at time = 0 (ie, our anchor date). In other words, again in US Dollar parlance, this means the value at time t of one dollar to be received at time T, based on continuously compounded interest. Note then that, trivially, we must have P(T, T) = 1.
R(t, T) represents the continuously compounded forward interest rate, as seen at time = 0, paid over the period [t, T]. This is also sometimes written as F(0; t, T) to indicate that this is the forward rate as seen at the anchor date (time = 0), but to keep the notation lighter, we will use R(t, T) as is done in the NYU notes.
We then have the following relationships between P(t, T) and R(t, T), based on the properties of continuously compounded interest:
P(t, T) = exp(R(t, T)・(T  t)) (A)
R(t, T) = log(P(t, T)) / (T  t) (B)
Finally, the interpolated the market yield curve we constructed last time allows us to find the value of R(0, T) for any T ≦ 30. Then, since by properties of the exponential function we have
P(t, T) = P(0, T) / P(0, t) (C)
we can determine any discount factor P(t, T) for 0 ≦ t ≦ T ≦ 30, and therefore any R(t, T), as seen at time = 0.
Converting from Dates to Year Fractions
By now, one might be wondering  when we constructed our interpolated market yield curve, we used actual dates, but here, we’re talking about time in units of years  what’s up with that? The answer is that we need to convert from dates to year fractions. While this may seem like a rather trivial proposition  for example, why not just divide the number of days between the start date and maturity date by 365.25  it turns out that, with financial instruments such as bonds, options, and futures, in practice we need to be much more careful. Each of these comes with a specified day count convention, and if not followed properly, it can result in the loss of millions for a trading desk.
For example, consider the Actual / 365 Fixed day count convention:
Year Fraction (ie, T  t) = (Days between Date1 and Date2) / 365
This is one commonly used convention and is very simple to calculate; however, for certain bond calculations, it can become much more complicated, as leap years are considered, as well as local holidays in the country in which the bond is traded, plus more esoteric conditions that may be imposed. To get an idea, look up day count conventions used for government bonds in various countries.
In the book by Brigo and Mercurio noted above, the authors in fact replace the “T  t” expression with a function (tau) τ(t, T), which represents the difference in time based upon the day count convention in effect.
Equation (A) then becomes
P(t, T) = exp(R(t, T)・ τ(t, T))
where τ(t, T) might be, for example, the Actual / 365 Fixed day count convention.
For the remainder of this article, we will implement to the “T  t” above as a day count function, as demonstrated in the example to follow.
Implementation in R
We will first revisit the example from our previous article on interpolation of market zero rates, and then use this to demonstrate the implementation of term structure functions to calculate forward discount factors and forward interest rates.
a) The setup from part 1
Let’s first go back to the example from part 1 and construct our interpolated 30year market yield curve, using cubic spline interpolation. Both the xts and lubridate packages need to be loaded. The code is republished here for convenience:
require(xts)
require(lubridate)
ad < ymd(20140514, tz = "US/Pacific")
marketDates < c(ad, ad + days(1), ad + weeks(1), ad + months(1),
ad + months(2), ad + months(3), ad + months(6),
ad + months(9), ad + years(1), ad + years(2),
ad + years(3), ad + years(5), ad + years(7),
ad + years(10), ad + years(15), ad + years(20),
ad + years(25), ad + years(30))
# Use substring(.) to get rid of "UTC"/time zone after the dates
marketDates < as.Date(substring(marketDates, 1, 10))
# Convert percentage formats to decimal by multiplying by 0.01:
marketRates < c(0.0, 0.08, 0.125, 0.15, 0.20, 0.255, 0.35, 0.55, 1.65,
2.25, 2.85, 3.10, 3.35, 3.65, 3.95, 4.65, 5.15, 5.85) * 0.01
numRates < length(marketRates)
marketData.xts < as.xts(marketRates, order.by = marketDates)
createEmptyTermStructureXtsLub < function(anchorDate, plusYears)
{
# anchorDate is a lubridate here:
endDate < anchorDate + years(plusYears)
numDays < endDate  anchorDate
# We need to convert anchorDate to a standard R date to use
# the "+ 0:numDays" operation
# Also, note that we need a total of numDays + 1
# in order to capture both end points.
xts.termStruct < xts(rep(NA, numDays + 1),
as.Date(anchorDate) + 0:numDays)
return(xts.termStruct)
}
termStruct < createEmptyTermStructureXtsLub(ad, 30)
for(i in (1:numRates)) termStruct[marketDates[i]] <
marketData.xts[marketDates[i]]
termStruct.spline.interpolate < na.spline(termStruct, method = "hyman")
colnames(termStruct.spline.interpolate) < "ZeroRate"
b) Check the plot
plot(x = termStruct.spline.interpolate[, "ZeroRate"], xlab = "Time",
ylab = "Zero Rate",
main = "Interpolated Market Zero Rates 20140514 
Cubic Spline Interpolation",
ylim = c(0.0, 0.06), major.ticks= "years",
minor.ticks = FALSE, col = "darkblue")
This gives us a reasonably smooth curve, preserving the monotonicity of our data points:
c) Implement functions for discount factors and forward rates
We will now implement these functions, utilizing equations (A), (B), and (C) above. We will also take advantage of the functional programming feature in R, by incorporating the Actual / 365 Fixed day count as a functional argument, as an example. One could of course implement any other day count convention as a function of two lubridate dates, and pass it in as an argument.
First, let’s implement the Actual / 365 Fixed day count as a function:
# Simple example of a day count function: Actual / 365 Fixed
# date1 and date2 are assumed to be lubridate dates, so that we can
# easily carry out the subtraction of two dates.
dayCountFcn_Act365F < function(date1, date2)
{
yearFraction < as.numeric((date2  date1)/365)
return(yearFraction)
}
Next, since the forward rate R(t, T) depends on the forward discount factor P(t, T), let’s implement the latter first:
# date1 and date2 are again assumed to be lubridate dates.
fwdDiscountFactor < function(anchorDate, date1, date2, xtsMarketData, dayCountFunction)
{
# Convert lubridate dates to base R dates in order to use as xts indices.
xtsDate1 < as.Date(date1)
xtsDate2 < as.Date(date2)
if((xtsDate1 > xtsDate2)  xtsDate2 > max(index(xtsMarketData)) 
xtsDate1 < min(index(xtsMarketData)))
{
stop("Error in date order or range")
}
# 1st, get the corresponding market zero rates from our
# interpolated market rate curve:
rate1 < as.numeric(xtsMarketData[xtsDate1]) # R(0, T1)
rate2 < as.numeric(xtsMarketData[xtsDate2]) # R(0, T2)
# P(0, T) = exp(R(0, T) * (T  0)) (A), with t = 0 <=> anchorDate
discFactor1 < exp(rate1 * dayCountFunction(anchorDate, date1))
discFactor2 < exp(rate2 * dayCountFunction(anchorDate, date2))
# P(t, T) = P(0, T) / P(0, t) (C), with t <=> date1 and T <=> date2
fwdDF < discFactor2/discFactor1
return(fwdDF)
}
Finally, we can then write a function to compute the forward interest rate:
# date1 and date2 are assumed to be lubridate dates here as well.
fwdInterestRate < function(anchorDate, date1, date2, xtsMarketData, dayCountFunction)
{
if(date1 == date2) {
fwdRate = 0.0 # the trivial case
} else {
fwdDF < fwdDiscountFactor(anchorDate, date1, date2,
xtsMarketData, dayCountFunction)
# R(t, T) = log(P(t, T)) / (T  t) (B)
fwdRate < log(fwdDF)/dayCountFunction(date1, date2)
}
return(fwdRate)
}
d) Calculate discount factors and forward interest rates
As an example, suppose we want to get the five year forward threemonth discount factor and interest rates:
# Five year forward 3month discount factor and forward rate:
date1 < anchorDate + years(5)
date2 < date1 + months(3)
fwdDiscountFactor(anchorDate, date1, date2, termStruct.spline.interpolate,
dayCountFcn_Act365F)
fwdInterestRate(anchorDate, date1, date2, termStruct.spline.interpolate,
dayCountFcn_Act365F)
# Results are:
# [1] 0.9919104
# [1] 0.03222516
We can also check the trivial case for P(T, T) and R(T, T), where we get 1.0 and 0.0 respectively, as expected:
# Trivial case:
fwdDiscountFactor(anchorDate, date1, date1, termStruct.spline.interpolate,
dayCountFcn_Act365F) # returns 1.0
fwdInterestRate(anchorDate, date1, date1, termStruct.spline.interpolate,
dayCountFcn_Act365F) # returns 0.0
Finally, we can verify that we can recover the market rates at various points along the curve; here, we look at 1Y and 30Y, and can check that we get 0.0165 and 0.0585, respectively:
# Check that we recover market data points:
oneYear < anchorDate + years(1)
thirtyYears < anchorDate + years(30)
fwdInterestRate(anchorDate, anchorDate, oneYear,
termStruct.spline.interpolate,
dayCountFcn_Act365F) # returns 1.65%
fwdInterestRate(anchorDate, anchorDate, thirtyYears,
termStruct.spline.interpolate,
dayCountFcn_Act365F) # returns 5.85%
Concluding Remarks
We have shown how one can implement a term structure of interest rates utilizing tools available in the R packages lubridate and xts. We have, however, limited the example to interpolation within the 30 year range of given market data without discussing extrapolation in cases where forward rates are needed beyond the endpoint. This case does arise in risk management for longer term financial instruments such as variable annuity and life insurance products, for example. One simpleminded  but sometimes used  method is to fix the zero rate that is given at the endpoint for all dates beyond that point. A more sophisticated approach is to use the financial cubic spline method as described in the paper by Adams (2001), cited in part 1 of the current discussion. However, xts unfortunately does not provide this interpolation method for us out of the box. Writing our own implementation might make for an interesting topic for discussion down the road  something to keep in mind. For now, however, we have a working term structure implementation in R that we can use to demonstrate derivatives pricing and risk management models in upcoming articles.
by Ilya Kipnis
In this post, I will demonstrate how to obtain, stitch together, and clean data for backtesting using futures data from Quandl. Quandl was previously introduced in the Revolutions Blog. Functions I will be using can be found in my IK Trading package available on my github page.
With backtesting, it’s often times easy to get data for equities and ETFs. However, ETFs are fairly recent financial instruments, making it difficult to conduct longrunning backtests (most of the ETFs in inception before 2003 are equity ETFs), and with equities, they are all correlated in some way, shape, or form to their respective index (S&P 500, Russell, etc.), and their correlations generally go to 1 right as you want to be diversified.
An excellent source of diversification is the futures markets, which contain contracts on instruments ranging as far and wide as metals, forex, energies, and more. Unfortunately, futures are not continuous in nature, and data for futures are harder to find.
Thanks to Quandl, however, there is some freely available futures data. The link can be found here.
The way Quandl structures its futures is that it uses two separate time series: the first is the front month, which is the contract nearest expiry, and the second is the back month, which is the next contract. Quandl’s rolling algorithm can be found here.
In short, Quandl rolls in a very simple manner; however, it is also incorrect, for all practical purposes. The reason being is that no practical trader holds a contract to expiry. Instead, they roll said contracts sometime before the expiry of the front month, based on some metric.
This algorithm uses the open interest cross to roll from front to back month and then lags that by a day (since open interest is observed at the end of trading days), and then “rolls” back when the front month open interest overtakes back month open interest (in reality, this is the back month contract becoming the new front month contract). Furthermore, the algorithm does absolutely no adjusting to contract prices. That is, if the front month is more expensive than the back month, a long position would lose the roll premium and a short position would gain it. This is in order to prevent the introduction of a dominating trend bias. The reason that the open interest is chosen is displayed in the following graph:
This is the graph of the open interest of the front month of oil in 2000 (black time series), and the open interest of the back month contract in red. They cross under and over in repeatable fashion, making a good choice on when to roll the contract.
Let’s look at the code:
quandClean < function(stemCode, start_date=NULL, verbose=FALSE, ...) {
The arguments to the function are a stem code, a start date, end date, and two print arguments (for debugging purposes). The stem code takes the form of CHRIS/<<EXCHANGE>>_<<CONTRACT STEM>>, such as “CHRIS/CME_CL” for oil.
Require(Quandl)
if(is.null(start_date)) {start_date < Sys.Date()365*1000}
if(is.null(end_date)) {end_date < Sys.Date()+365*1000}
frontCode < paste0(stemCode, 1)
backCode < paste0(stemCode, 2)
front < Quandl(frontCode, type="xts", start_date=start_date, end_date=end_date, ...)
interestColname < colnames(front)[grep(pattern="Interest", colnames(front))]
front < front[,c("Open","High","Low","Settle","Volume",interestColname)]
colnames(front) < c("O","H","L","C","V","OI")
back < Quandl(backCode, type="xts", start_date=start_date, end_date=end_date, ...)
back < back[,c("Open","High","Low","Settle","Volume",interestColname)]
colnames(back) < c("BO","BH","BL","BS","BV","BI") #B for Back
#combine front and back for comparison
both < cbind(front,back)
This code simply fetches both futures contracts from Quandl and combines them into one xts. Although Quandl takes a type argument, I have programmed this function specifically for xts types of objects, since I will use xtsdependent functionality later.
Let's move along.
#impute NAs in open interest with 1
both$BI[is.na(both$BI)] < 1
both$OI[is.na(both$OI)] < 1
both$lagBI < lag(both$BI)
both$lagOI < lag(both$OI)
#impute bad back month openinterest prints 
#if it is truly a low quantity, it won't make a
#difference in the computation.
both$OI[both$OI==1] < both$lagOI[both$OI==1]
both$BI[both$BI==1] < both$lagBI[both$BI==1]
This is the first instance of countermeasures in the function taken to counteract messy data. This imputes any open interest NAs with the value 1, and then imputing the first NA after a non NA day with the previous day's open interest. Usually, days on which open interest is not available are days after which the contract is lightly traded, so the values that will be imputed in cases during which the contract was not traded will be negligible. However, imputing an NA value with a zero during the midst of heavy trading has the potential to display the wrong contract as the one with the higher open interest.
both$OIdiff < both$OI  both$BI
both$tracker < NA
#the formal open interest cross from front to back
both$tracker[both$OIdiff < 0] < 1
both$tracker < lag(both$tracker)
#since we have to observe OI cross, we roll next day
#any time we're not on the back contract, we're on the front contract
both$tracker[both$OIdiff > 0] < 1
both$tracker < na.locf(both$tracker)
This code sets up the system for keeping track of which contract is in use. When the difference in open interest crosses under zero, that's the formal open interest cross, and we roll a day later. On the other hand, when the open interest difference crosses back over zero, that isn't a cross. That is the back month contract becoming the front month contract. For instance, assume that you rolled to the June contract in the third week of May. Quandl would display the June contract as the back contract in May, but come June, that June contract is now the front contract instead. So therefore, there is no lag on the computation in the second instance.
frontRelevant < both[both$tracker==1, c(1:6)]
backRelevant < both[both$tracker==1, c(7:12)]
colnames(frontRelevant) < colnames(backRelevant) < c("Open","High","Low","Close","Volume","OpenInterest")
relevant < rbind(frontRelevant, backRelevant)
relevant[relevant==0] < NA
# remove any incomplete days, print a message saying
# how many removed days
# print them if desired
instrument < gsub("CHRIS/", "", stemCode)
relevant$Open[is.na(relevant$Open)] < relevant$Close[(which(is.na(relevant$Open))1)]
NAs < which(is.na(relevant$Open)  is.na(relevant$High)  is.na(relevant$Low)  is.na(relevant$Close))
if(verbose) {
if(verbose) { message(paste(instrument, "had", length(NAs), "incomplete days removed from data.")) }
print(relevant[NAs,])
}
if(length(NAs) > 0) {
relevant < relevant[NAs,]
}
Using the previous tracker variable, the code is then able to compile the relevant data for the futures contract. That is, front contract when the front contract is more heavily traded, and vice versa.
This code uses xtsdependent functionality with the rbind call. In this instance, there are two separate streams: the front month stream, and the back month stream. Through the use of xts functionality, it's possible to merge the two streams indexed by time.
Next, the code imputes all NA open values with the close (settle) from the previous trading day. In the case that opens are the only missing field, I opted for this over removing the observation entirely. Next, any observation with a missing open, high, low, or close value gets removed. This is simply my personal preference, rather than attempting to take some form of liberty with imputing data to the highs, lows, and closes based on the previous day, or some other pattern thereof.
If verbose is enabled, the function will print the actual data removed.
ATR < ATR(HLC=HLC(relevant))
#Technically somewhat cheating, but could be stated in terms of
#lag 2, 1,and 0.
#A spike is defined as a data point on Close that's more than
#5 ATRs away from both the preceding and following day.
spikes < which(abs((relevant$Closelag(relevant$Close))/ATR$atr) > 5
& abs((relevant$Closelag(relevant$Close, 1))/ATR$atr) > 5)
if(verbose) {
message(paste(instrument, "had", length(spikes),"spike days removed from data."))
print(relevant[spikes,])
}
if(length(spikes) > 0){
relevant < relevant[spikes,]
}
out < relevant
return(out)
}
Finally, some countermeasures against spiky types of data. I define a spike as a price move in the closing price which is 5 ATRs (in this case, n=14) away in either direction from both the previous and next day. Spikes are removed. After this, the code is complete.
To put this into perspective visually, here is a plot of the 30day Federal Funds rate (CHRIS/CME_FF), from 2008, demonstrating all the improvements my process makes to Quandl’s raw data in comparison to the front month continuous (current) contract.
The raw, frontmonth data is displayed in black (the long lines are missing data from quandl, displayed as zeroes, but modified in scale for the sake of the plot). The results of the algorithm are presented in blue.
At the very beginning, it’s apparent that the more intelligent rolling algorithm adapts to what would be the new contract prices sooner. Secondly, all of those long bars on which Quandl had missing data have been removed so as not to interfere with calculations. Lastly, at the very end, that downward “spike” in prices has also been dealt with, making for what appears to be a significantly more correct pricing series.
To summarize, here's what the code does:
1) Downloads the two data streams
2) Keeps track of the proper contract at all time periods
3) Imputes or removes bad data, bad data being defined as incomplete observations or spikes in the data.
The result is an xts object practically identical to one downloaded with more common to find data, such as equities or ETFs, which allows for a greater array of diversification in terms of the instruments on which to backtest trading strategies, such as with the quantstrat package.
The results of such backtests can be found on my blog, and my two R packages (this functionality will be available in my IKTrading package) can be found on my Github page.
by Daniel Hanson
Introduction
Last time, we used the discretization of a Brownian Motion process with a Monte Carlo method to simulate the returns of a single security, with the (rather strong) assumption of a fixed drift term and fixed volatility. We will return to this topic in a future article, as it relates to basic option pricing methods, which we will then expand upon.
For more advanced derivatives pricing methods, however, as well as an important topic in its own right, we will talk about implementing a term structure of interest rates using R. This will be broken up into two parts: 1) working with dates and interpolation (the subject of today’s article), and 2) calculating forward interest rates and discount factors (the topic of our next article), using the results presented below.
Working with Dates in R
The standard date objects in base R, to be honest, are not the most userfriendly when it comes to basic date calculations such as adding days, months, or years. For example, just to add, say, five years to a given date, we would need to do the following:
startDate < as.Date('20140527')
pDate < as.POSIXlt(startDate)
endDate < as.Date(paste(pDate$year + 1900 + 5, "", pDate$mon + 1, "", pDate$mday, sep = ""))
So, you’re probably asking yourself, “wouldn’t it be great if we could just add the years like this?”:
endDate < startDate + years(5) # ?
Well, the good news is that we can, by using the lubridate package. In addition, instantiating a date is also easier, simply by indicating the date format (eg ymd(.) for yearmoday) as the function. Below are some examples:
require(lubridate)
startDate < ymd(20140527)
startDate # Result is: "20140527 UTC"
anotherDate < dmy(26102013)
anotherDate # Result is: "20131026 UTC"
startDate + years(5) # Result is: "20190527 UTC"
anotherDate  years(40) # Result is: "19731026 UTC"
startDate + days(2) # Result is: "20140529 UTC"
anotherDate  months(5) # Result is: "20130526 UTC"
Remark: Note that “UTC” is appended to the end of each date, which indicates the Coordinated Universal Time time zone (the default). While it is not an issue in these examples, it will be important to specify a particular time zone when we set up our interpolated yield curve, as we shall see shortly.
Interpolation with Dates in R
When interpolating values in a time series in R, we revisit with our old friend, the xts package, which provides both linear and cubic spline interpolation. We will demonstrate this with a somewhat realistic example.
Suppose the market yield curve data on 20140514 appears on a trader’s desk as follows:
Overnight ON 0.08%
One week 1W 0.125%
One month 1M 0.15%
Two months 2M 0.20%
Three months 3M 0.255%
Six months 6M 0.35%
Nine months 9M 0.55%
One year 1Y 1.65%
Two years 2Y 2.25%
Three years 3Y 2.85%
Five years 5Y 3.10%
Seven years 7Y 3.35%
Ten years 10Y 3.65%
Fifteen years 15Y 3.95%
Twenty years 20Y 4.65%
Twentyfive years 25Y 5.15%
Thirty years 30Y 5.85%
This is typical of yield curve data, where the dates get spread out farther over time. Each rate is a zero (coupon) rate, meaning that, in US Dollar parlance, the rate paid on $1 of debt today at a given point in the future, with no intermediate coupon payments; principal is returned and interest is paid in full at the end date. In order to have a fully functional term structure  that is, to be able to calculate forward interest rates and forward discount factors off of the yield curve for any two dates  we will need to interpolate the zero rates. The date from which the time periods are measured is often referred to as the “anchor date”, and we will adopt this terminology.
To start, we will use dates generated with lubridate operations to replicate the above yield curve data schedule. We will then match the dates up with the corresponding rates and put them into an xts object. We will use 20140514 as our anchor date.
# ad = anchor date, tz = time zone
# (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tz_database_time_zones)
ad < ymd(20140514, tz = "US/Pacific")
marketDates < c(ad, ad + days(1), ad + weeks(1), ad + months(1), ad + months(2),
ad + months(3), ad + months(6), ad + months(9), ad + years(1), ad + years(2), ad + years(3), ad + years(5), ad + years(7), ad + years(10), ad + years(15),
ad + years(20), ad + years(25), ad + years(30))
# Use substring(.) to get rid of "UTC"/time zone after the dates
marketDates < as.Date(substring(marketDates, 1, 10))
# Convert percentage formats to decimal by multiplying by 0.01:
marketRates < c(0.0, 0.08, 0.125, 0.15, 0.20, 0.255, 0.35, 0.55, 1.65,
2.25, 2.85, 3.10, 3.35, 3.65, 3.95, 4.65, 5.15, 5.85) * 0.01
numRates < length(marketRates)
marketData.xts < as.xts(marketRates, order.by = marketDates)
head(marketData.xts)
# Gives us the result:
# [,1]
# 20140514 0.00000
# 20140515 0.00080
# 20140521 0.00125
# 20140614 0.00150
# 20140714 0.00200
# 20140814 0.00255
Note that in this example, we specified the time zone. This is important, as lubridate will automatically convert to your local time zone from UTC. If we hadn’t specified the time zone, then out here on the US west coast, depending on the time of day, we could get this result from the head(.) command; where the dates get converted to Pacific time; note how the dates end up shifted back one day:
[,1]
20140513 0.00000
20140514 0.00080
20140520 0.00125
20140613 0.00150
20140713 0.00200
20140813 0.00255
Some might call this a feature, and others may call it a quirk, but in any case, it is better to specify the time zone in order to get consistent results.
If we take a little trip back to our earlier post on plotting xts data (see section Using plot(.) in the xts package) a few months ago, we can have a look at a plot of our market data:
colnames(marketData.xts) < "ZeroRate"
plot(x = marketData.xts[, "ZeroRate"], xlab = "Time", ylab = "Zero Rate",
main = "Market Zero Rates 20140514", ylim = c(0.0, 0.06),
major.ticks= "years", minor.ticks = FALSE, col = "red")
From here, the next steps will be:
To create an empty xts object, we borrow an idea from the xts vignette, (Section 3.1, “Creating new data: the xts constructor”), and come up with the following function:
createEmptyTermStructureXtsLub < function(anchorDate, plusYears)
{
# anchorDate is a lubridate here:
endDate < anchorDate + years(plusYears)
numDays < endDate  anchorDate
# We need to convert anchorDate to a standard R date to use
# the "+ 0:numDays" operation.
# Also, note that we need a total of numDays + 1 in order to capture both end points.
xts.termStruct < xts(rep(NA, numDays + 1), as.Date(anchorDate) + 0:numDays)
return(xts.termStruct)
}
Then, using our anchor date ad (20140514), we generate an empty xts object going out daily for 30 years:
termStruct < createEmptyTermStructureXtsLub(ad, 30)
head(termStruct)
tail(termStruct)
# Results are (as desired):
# > head(termStruct)
# [,1]
# 20140514 NA
# 20140515 NA
# 20140516 NA
# 20140517 NA
# 20140518 NA
# 20140519 NA
# > tail(termStruct)
# [,1]
# 20440509 NA
# 20440510 NA
# 20440511 NA
# 20440512 NA
# 20440513 NA
# 20440514 NA
Next, substitute in the known rates from our market yield curve. While there is likely a slicker way to do this, a loop is transparent, easy to write, and doesn’t take all that long to execute in this case:
for(i in (1:numRates)) termStruct[marketDates[i]] < marketData.xts[marketDates[i]]
head(termStruct, 8)
tail(termStruct)
# # Results are as follows. Note that we capture the market rates
# at ON, 1W, and 30Y:
# > head(termStruct, 8)
# [,1]
# 20140514 0.00000
# 20140515 0.00080
# 20140516 NA
# 20140517 NA
# 20140518 NA
# 20140519 NA
# 20140520 NA
# 20140521 0.00125
# > tail(termStruct)
# [,1]
# 20440509 NA
# 20440510 NA
# 20440511 NA
# 20440512 NA
# 20440513 NA
# 20440514 0.0585
Finally, we use interpolation methods provided in xts to fill in the rates in between. We have two choices, either linear interpolation, using the xts function na.approx(.), or cubic spline interpolation, using the function na.spline(.). As the names suggest, these functions will replace NA values in the xts object with interpolated values. Below, we show both options:
termStruct.lin.interpolate < na.approx(termStruct)
termStruct.spline.interpolate < na.spline(termStruct, method = "hyman")
head(termStruct.lin.interpolate, 8)
head(termStruct.spline.interpolate, 8)
tail(termStruct.lin.interpolate)
tail(termStruct.spline.interpolate)
# Results are as follows. Note again that we capture the market rates
# at ON, 1W, and 30Y:
# > head(termStruct.lin.interpolate, 8)
# ZeroRate
# 20140514 0.000000
# 20140515 0.000800
# 20140516 0.000875
# 20140518 0.001025
# 20140519 0.001100
# 20140520 0.001175
# 20140521 0.001250
# > head(termStruct.spline.interpolate, 8)
# ZeroRate
# 20140514 0.0000000000
# 20140515 0.0008000000
# 20140516 0.0009895833
# 20140517 0.0011166667
# 20140518 0.0011937500
# 20140519 0.0012333333
# 20140520 0.0012479167
# 20140521 0.0012500000
# > tail(termStruct.lin.interpolate)
# ZeroRate
# 20440509 0.05848084
# 20440510 0.05848467
# 20440511 0.05848851
# 20440512 0.05849234
# 20440513 0.05849617
# 20440514 0.05850000
# > tail(termStruct.spline.interpolate)
# ZeroRate
# 20440509 0.05847347
# 20440510 0.05847877
# 20440511 0.05848407
# 20440512 0.05848938
# 20440513 0.05849469
# 20440514 0.05850000
We can also have a look at the plots of the interpolated curves. Note that the linearly interpolated curve (in green) is the same as what we saw when we did a line plot of the market rates above:
plot(x = termStruct.lin.interpolate[, "ZeroRate"], xlab = "Time", ylab = "Zero Rate", main = "Interpolated Market Zero Rates 20140514",
ylim = c(0.0, 0.06), major.ticks= "years", minor.ticks = FALSE,
col = "darkgreen")
lines(x = termStruct.spline.interpolate[, "ZeroRate"],
col = "darkblue")
legend(x = 'topleft', legend = c("Lin Interp", "Spline Interp"),
lty = 1, col = c("darkgreen", "darkblue"))
One final note: When we calculated the interpolated values using cubic splines earlier, we set method = "hyman" in the xts function na.spline(.). By doing this, we are able to preserve the monotonicity in the data points. Without it, using the default, we get dips in the curve between some of the data points, as shown here:
# Using the default method for cubic spline interpolation:
termStruct.spline.interpolate.default < na.spline(termStruct)
colnames(termStruct.spline.interpolate.default) < "ZeroRate"
plot(x = termStruct.spline.interpolate.default[, "ZeroRate"], xlab = "Time",
ylab = "Zero Rate",
main = "Interpolated Market Zero Rates 20140514 
Default Cubic Spline",
ylim = c(0.0, 0.06), major.ticks= "years",
minor.ticks = FALSE, col = "darkblue")
Summary
In this article, we have demonstrated how one can take market zero rates, place them into an xts object, and then interpolate the rates in between the data points using the xts functions for linear and cubic spline interpolation. In an upcoming post  part 2  we will discuss the essential term structure functions for calculating forward rates and forward discount factors.
For further and mathematically more detailed reading on the subject, the paper Smooth Interpolation of Zero Curves (Ken Adams, 2001) is highly recommended. A “financial cubic spline” as described in the paper would in fact be a useful option to have as a method in xts cubic spline interpolation.
by Joseph Rickert
I was very happy to have been able to attend R / Finance 2014 which wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. In general, the talks were at a very high level of play, some dealing with brand new ideas and many presented at a significant level of technical or mathematical sophistication. Fortunately, most of the slides from the presentations are quite detailed and available at the conference site. Collectively, these presentations provide a view of the boundaries of the conceptual space imagined by the leaders in quantitative finance. Some of this space covers infrastructure issues involving ideas for pushing the limits of R (Some Performance Improvements for the R Engine) or building a new infrasturcture (New Ideas for Large Network Analysis) or (Building Simple Data Caches) for example. Others are involved with new computational tools (Solving Cone Constrained Convex Programs) or attempt to push the limits on getting some actionable insight from the mathematical abstrations: (Portfolio Inference withthei One Wierd Trick) or (Twinkle twinkle litle STAR: Smooth Transition AR Models in R) for example.
But while the talks may be illuminating, the real takeaways from the conference are the R packages. These tools embody the work of the thought leaders in the field of computational finance and are the means for anyone sufficiently motivated to understand this cutting edge work. By my count, 20 of the 44 tutorials and talks given at the conference were based on a particular R package. Some of the packages listed in the following table are wellestablished and others are workinprogress sitting out on RForge or GitHub, providing opportunities for the interested to get involved.
R Finance 2014 Talk 
Package 
Description 
Introduction to data.table 
Extension of the data frame 

An ExampleDriven Handson introduction to Rcpp 
Functions to facilitate integrating R with C++ 

Portfolio Optimization: Utility, Computation, Equities Applications 
Environment for reaching Financial Engineering and Computational Finance 

ReEvaluation of the Low Risk Anomaly via Matching 
Implementation of the Coarsened Exact matching Algorithm 

BCP Stability Analytics: New Directions in Tactical Asset Management 
Bayesian Analysis of Change Point Problems 

On the Persistence of Cointegration in Pairs Trading 
EngleGranger Cointegration Models 

Tests for Robust Versus Least Squares Factor Model Fits 
robust methods 

The R Package cccp: Solving Cone Constrained Convex Programs 
Solver for convex problems for cone constraints 

Twinkle, twinkle little STAR: Smooth Transition AR Models in R 
Modeling smooth transition models 

Asset Allocaton with Higher Order Moments and Factor Models 
Global optimization by differential evolution / Numerical methods for portfolio optimization 

Event Studies in R 
Event study and extreme event analysis 

An R package on Credit Default Swaps 
Provides tools for pricing credit default swaps 

New Ideas for Large Network Analysis, Implemented in R 
Implicitly restarted Lanczos methods for R 

Package “Intermediate and Long Memory Time Series 

Simulate & Detect Intermediate and Long Memory Processes / in development 
Stochvol: Dealing with Stochastic Volatility in Time Series 
Efficient Bayesian Inference for Stochastic Volatility (SV) Models 

Divide and Recombine for the Analysis of Large Complex Data with R 
Package for using R with Hadoop 

gpusvcalibration: Fast Stochastic Volatility Model Calibration using GPUs 
Fast calibration of stochastic volatility models for option pricing models 

The FlexBayes Package 
Provides an MCMC engine for the class of hierarchical feneralized linear models and connections to WinBUGS and OpenBUGS 

Building Simple Redis Data Caches 
Rcpp bindings for Redis that connects R to the Redis key/value store 

Package pbo: Probability of Backtest Overfitting 
Uses Combinatorial Symmetric Cross Validation to implement performance tests. 
Many of these packages / projects also have supplementary material that is worth chasing down. Be sure to take a look at Alexios Ghalanos recent post that provides an accessible introduction to his stellar keynote address.
Many thanks to the organizers of the conference who, once again, did a superb job, and to the many professionals attending who graciously attempted to explain their ideas to a dilletante. My impression was that most of the attendies thoroughly enjoyed themselves and that the general sentiment was expressed by the last slide of Stephen Rush's presentation:
by Joseph Rickert
R/Finance 2014 is just about a week away. Over the past four or five years this has become my favorite conference. It is small (300 people this year), exceptionally wellrun, and always offers an eclectic mix of theoretical mathematics, efficient, practical computing, industry best practices and trading “street smarts”. This clip of Blair Hull delivering a keynote speech at R/Finance 2012 is an example of the latter. It ought to resonate with anyone who has followed some of the hype surrounding Michael Lewis recent book Flash Boys.
In any event, I thought it would be a good time to look at the relationship between R and Finance and to highlight some resources that are available to students, quants and data scientists looking to do computational finance with R.
First off, consider what computational finance has done for R. From the point of view of the development and growth of the R language, I think it is pretty clear that computational finance has played the role of the ultimate “Killer App” for R. This high stakes, competitive environment where a theoretical edge or a marginal computational advantage can mean big rewards has led to R package development in several areas including time series, optimization, portfolio analysis, risk management, high performance computing and big data. Additionally, challenges and crisis in the financial markets have helped accelerate R’s growth into big data. In this podcast, Michael Kane talks about the analysis of the 2010 Flash Crash he did with Casey King and Richard Holowczak and describes using R with large financial datasets.
Conversely, I think that it is also clear that R has done quite a bit to further computational finance. R’s ability to facilitate rapid data analysis and visualization, its great number of available functions and algorithms and the ease with which it can interface to new data sources and other computing environments has made it a flexible tool that evolves and adapts at a pace that matches developments in the financial industry. The list of packages in the Finance Task View on CRAN indicates the symbiotic relationship between the development of R and the needs of those working in computational finance. On the one hand, there are over 70 packages under the headings Finance and Risk Management that were presumably developed to directly respond to a problem in computational finance. But, the task view also mentions that packages in the Econometrics, Multivariate, Optimization, Robust, SocialSciences and TimeSeries task views may also be useful to anyone working in computational finance. (The High Performance Computing and Machine Learning task views should probably also be mentioned.) The point is that while a good bit of R is useful to problems in computational finance, R has greatly benefited from the contributions of the computational finance community.
If you are just getting started with R and computational finance have a look at John Nolan’s R as a Tool in Computational Finance. Other resources for R and computational finance that you may find helpful are::
Package Vignettes
Several of the Finance related packages have very informative vignettes or associated websites. For example have a look at those for the packages portfolio, rugarch, rquantlib (check out the cool rotating distributions), PerformanceAnalytics, and MarkowitzR.
Data
Quandl has become a major source for financial data, which can be easily accessed from R.
Websites
Relevant websites include the RMetrics site, The R Trader, Burns Statistics and Guy Yollin’s repository of presentations
YouTube
Three videos that.I found to be particularly interesting are recordings of the presentations “Finance with R” by Ronald Hochreiter, “Using R in Academic Finance” by Sanjiv Das and Portfolio Construction in R by Elliot Norma.
Blogs
Over the past couple of years, RBloggers has posted quite a few finance related applications. Prominent among these is the series on Quantitative Finance Applications in R by Daniel Harrison on the Revolutions Blog.
Books
Books on R and Finance include the excellent RMetrics series of ebooks, Statistics and Data Analysis for Financial Engineering by David Ruppert, Financial Risk Modeling and Portfolio Optimization with R by Bernard Pfaff, Introduction to R for Quantitative Finance by Daróczi et al. and a brand new title Computational Finance: An Introductory Course with R by Agrimiro Arratia.
Coursera
This August, Eric Zivot will teach the course Introduction to Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics which will emphasize R.
The R Journal
The R Journal frequently publishes finance related papers. The present issue: Volume 5/2, December 2013 contains three relevant papers. Performance Attribution for Equity Portfolios by Yang Lu, David Kane, Temporal Disaggregation of Time Series by Christoph Sax, Peter Steiner, and betategarch: Simulation, Estimation and Forecasting of BetaSkewtEGARCH Models by Genaro Sucarrat.
Conferences
in addition to R/Finance (Chicago) and useR!2014 (Los Angeles) look for R based, computational finance expertise at the 8th R/RMetrics Workshop (Paris).
Community
RSigFinance is one of R’s most active special interest groups.
by Daniel Hanson
Last time, we looked at the fourparameter Generalized Lambda Distribution, as a method of incorporating skew and kurtosis into an estimated distribution of market returns, and capturing the typical fat tails that the normal distribution cannot. Having said that, however, the Normal distribution can be useful in constructing Monte Carlo simulations, and it is still commonly found in applications such as calculating the Value at Risk (VaR) of a portfolio, pricing options, and estimating the liabilities in variable annuity contracts.
We will start here with a simple example using R, focusing on a single security. Although perhaps seemingly trivial, this lays the foundation for in more complexities such as multiple correlated securities and stochastic interest rates. Discussion of these topics is planned for articles to come, as well as topics in option pricing.
Single Security Example
Under the oftused assumption of Brownian Motion dynamics, the return of a single security (eg, an equity) over a period of time Δt is approximately [See Pelsser for example.]
μΔt + σZ・sqrt(Δt) (*)
where μ is the mean annual return of the equity (also called the drift), and σ is its annualized volatility (i.e., standard deviation). Z is a standard Normal random variable, which makes the second term in the expression stochastic. The time t is measured in units of years, so for quarterly returns, for example, Δt = 0.25.
As μ, σ, and Δt are all known values, generating a simulated distribution of returns is a simple task. As an example, suppose we are interested in constructing a distribution of quarterly returns, where μ = 10% and σ= 15%. In order to get a reasonable approximation of the distribution, we will generate n = 10,000 returns.
n < 10000
# Fixing the seed gives us a consistent set of simulated returns
set.seed(106)
z < rnorm(n) # mean = 0 and sd = 1 are defaults
mu < 0.10
sd < 0.15
delta_t < 0.25
# apply to expression (*) above
qtr_returns < mu*delta_t + sd*z*sqrt(delta_t)
Note that R is “smart enough” here by adding the scalar mu*delta_t to each element of the vector in the second term, thus giving us a set of 10,000 simulated returns. Finally, let’s check out results. First, we plot a histogram:
hist(qtr_returns, breaks = 100, col = "green")
This gives us the following:
The symmetric bell shape of the histogram is consistent with the Normal assumption. Checking the annualized mean and variance of the simulated returns,
stats < c(mean(qtr_returns) * 4, sd(qtr_returns) * 2) # sqrt(4)
names(stats) < c("mean", "volatility")
stats
We get:
mean volatility
0.09901252 0.14975805
which is very close to our original parameter settings of μ = 10% and σ= 15%.
Again, this is rather simple example, but in future discussions, we will see how it extends to using Monte Carlo simulation for option pricing and risk management models.