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The Poverty of Academic Finance Research: Spread Trading Strategies in the Crude Oil Futures Market

Last Updated on 10 February, 2024 by Rejaul Karim

The paper “The Poverty of Academic Finance Research: Spread Trading Strategies in the Crude Oil Futures Market” by Chrilly Donninger delves into a thought-provoking discourse that challenges the integrity of academic finance research.

Drawing from the critical perspectives of scholars like Harvey, Liu, Zhu, and Lopez de Prado, the abstract confronts the prevalent issue of unreliable cross-sectional literature and the inherent lack of falsifiability in scientific results.

Through a compelling example of spread trading in the crude oil futures market, the paper unveils the limitations of academic methodologies by spotlighting the simplistic, yet erroneous, nature of the reported results.

This analysis opens a gateway for an intricate exploration of the potential discrepancies and deficiencies within academic finance research, offering deeper insight into the complexities of this niche.

Abstract Of Paper

Harvey, Liu and Zhu argue that probably most of the Cross-Section of Returns literature is garbage. One can always try an additional factor and will find a significant Cross-Sectional result with enough trial and error. Lopez de Prado argues in a series of articles in a similar vein.

Theoretically scientific results are falsifiable. Practically previous results and publications are checked only in rare occasions. Growth in a Time of Depth by Reinhart-Rogoff was the most influential economic paper in recent years. It was published in a top journal. Although the paper contained even trivial Excel-Bugs it took 3 years till the wrong results and the poor methodology was fully revealed. The reviewers did not check the simple spreadsheets.

This paper analyzes a less prominent example about spread trading in the crude oil futures market by Thorben Lubnau. The author reports for his very simple strategy a long term Sharpe-Ratios above 3. It is shown that – like for Reinhart-Rogoff – one needs no sophisticated test statistics to falsify the results. The explanation is much simpler: The author has no clue of trading. He used the wrong data.

Original paper – Download PDF

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Author

Chrilly Donninger
Nimzowerkstatt OEG

Conclusion

Chrilly Donninger’s paper “The Poverty of Academic Finance Research: Spread Trading Strategies in the Crude Oil Futures Market” delivers a thought-provoking and critical assessment of the underpinnings of academic finance research. By drawing upon the perspectives of influential scholars such as Harvey, Liu, Zhu, and Lopez de Prado, the paper highlights prevalent concerns about the credibility and reliability of cross-sectional literature in finance.

Through a trenchant examination of a specific instance of spread trading in the crude oil futures market, the paper echoes the recurring issue of misleading results, underpinned by inadequate expertise and erroneous data usage.

This conclusion resonates with a broader discourse around the need for more stringent review processes and a critical reevaluation of methodologies to ensure the integrity and validity of academic finance research.

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FAQ

What is the main challenge to the integrity of academic finance research discussed in the paper?

The main challenge discussed in the paper is the lack of integrity in academic finance research, particularly in the cross-sectional literature. The paper highlights concerns raised by scholars like Harvey, Liu, Zhu, and Lopez de Prado, who argue that much of the Cross-Section of Returns literature is unreliable and potentially flawed. The issue revolves around the ease with which additional factors can be introduced in models, leading to significant results through trial and error, without a robust theoretical or empirical basis.

What example does the paper use to illustrate the limitations of academic methodologies?

The paper uses an example of spread trading in the crude oil futures market, specifically discussing a strategy reported by Thorben Lubnau. The author of the example claims a long-term Sharpe ratio above 3 for a very simple strategy. However, the paper argues that the reported results are misleading due to the author’s lack of understanding of trading and the use of incorrect data.

How does the paper address the issue of falsifiability in scientific results?

The paper contends that while scientific results are theoretically falsifiable, in practice, previous results and publications are not rigorously checked. It cites the example of the influential economic paper “Growth in a Time of Debt” by Reinhart-Rogoff, which contained Excel bugs that went unnoticed for three years. The paper argues that the lack of thorough scrutiny and replication of results contributes to the persistence of erroneous findings in academic research.

You can find many more Research Papers here

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