Sunday, February 25, 2018

Some quantitative characteristics of Cryptocurrency

The source of this article is the Cryptassets book by Burniske and Tatar. I also draw a lot of quantitative isights from Cryptocurrency : A New Investment Opportunity by David Lee, Li Guo and Yu Wang that is published on Vol 20 Number 3 of the Journal of Alternative Investments, this article from David Lee is possibly the most objective source of information for serious crypto investors that I can think of so far.

Here are some of insights :

a) A cryptocurrency index exists in the form of the CRIX index.

The bulk of academic research is done on the CRIX index that SMU played a major role in its creation. The index is generally based on the market capitalisation and liquidity of the underlying coin and is also fairly dynamic with weights being revised on a quarterly basis.

Sadly, it would be a while before an ETF based on the CRIX index is launched in the markets. But I can imagine if that every happens, demand for such a product would be huge. For now, you may have to settle with buying the top 20 coins in market capitalization to approximate the performance of the CRIX index.

b) Superb market performance of crypto-assets is not really meaningful moving forward.

The performance of crypto-assets accounting for 2017 is ridiculously good.  The paper reports  possible annualised return with a Sharpe ratio of 11.64. Warren Buffet over his career can test around 0.76 and my own backtest REIT portfolios fare much worse.

Too much of current performance of crypto is based on mania and investor sentiment. This performance is not likely to be sustainable moving forward. In fact, my guess is  that 2018 is expected to be a bad year as a historical bull run on bitcoins has been followed by a year of tragedy for crypto investors.

c) If you hold too much crypto-currency, you will never get a good night's sleep.

Cryptocurrencies exhibit negative skewness and a high kurtosis. This means that a negative swing against an investor is drastic and happens with a much greater frequency than the normal distribution.

Bitcoin itself has a kurtosis of 8 which means that it has fat tails. The more obscure coins can have a kurtosis over 20. The normal distribution has a kurtosis value of 3.

d) Cryptoassets are uncorrelated with the markets.

Generally speaking the correlation of cryptoassets against traditional instruments is low so they are fairly effective as a portfolio diversifier. Correlation of CRIX with S&P500 is 0036, treasury notes is -0.02. Highest correlation is with Gold at 0.036.

Do note that these correlation numbers break down when the markets turn south.

e) Conclusion : Limit Cryptoassets to 1% of your total net worth. It can replace your Gold holdings.

I have chosen to follow the Cryptoassets book rather than the David Lee article and err on the conservative side to suggest an asset allocation for cryptoassets. For folks who are willing to take more risk, it may be useful to read the academic paper that has a different prescription.

Investments into cryptoassets make a lot of sense if you limit it to 1% of your entire portfolio, this 1%  should also replace your Gold holdings.

Right now, I have way less than 1% of my assets devoted to crypto-assets. This may change when I start getting a full salary in the middle of year.

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