Theses Doctoral

Stochastic Models of Limit Order Markets

Kukanov, Arseniy

During the last two decades most stock and derivatives exchanges in the world transitioned to electronic trading in limit order books, creating a need for a new set of quantitative models to describe these order-driven markets. This dissertation offers a collection of models that provide insight into the structure of modern financial markets, and can help to optimize trading decisions in practical applications. In the first part of the thesis we study the dynamics of prices, order flows and liquidity in limit order markets over short timescales. We propose a stylized order book model that predicts a particularly simple linear relation between price changes and order flow imbalance, defined as a difference between net changes in supply and demand. The slope in this linear relation, called a price impact coefficient, is inversely proportional in our model to market depth - a measure of liquidity. Our empirical results confirm both of these predictions. The linear relation between order flow imbalance and price changes holds for time intervals between 50 milliseconds and 5 minutes. The inverse relation between the price impact coefficient and market depth holds on longer timescales. These findings shed a new light on intraday variations in market volatility. According to our model volatility fluctuates due to changes in market depth or in order flow variance. Previous studies also found a positive correlation between volatility and trading volume, but in order-driven markets prices are determined by the limit order book activity, so the association between trading volume and volatility is unclear. We show how a spurious correlation between these variables can indeed emerge in our linear model due to time aggregation of high-frequency data. Finally, we observe short-term positive autocorrelation in order flow imbalance and discuss an application of this variable as a measure of adverse selection in limit order executions. Our results suggest that monitoring recent order flow can improve the quality of order executions in practice. In the second part of the thesis we study the problem of optimal order placement in a fragmented limit order market. To execute a trade, market participants can submit limit orders or market orders across various exchanges where a stock is traded. In practice these decisions are influenced by sizes of order queues and by statistical properties of order flows in each limit order book, and also by rebates that exchanges pay for limit order submissions. We present a realistic model of limit order executions and formalize the search for an optimal order placement policy as a convex optimization problem. Based on this formulation we study how various factors determine investor's order placement decisions. In a case when a single exchange is used for order execution, we derive an explicit formula for the optimal limit and market order quantities. Our solution shows that the optimal split between market and limit orders largely depends on one's tolerance to execution risk. Market orders help to alleviate this risk because they execute with certainty. Correspondingly, we find that an optimal order allocation shifts to these more expensive orders when the execution risk is of primary concern, for example when the intended trade quantity is large or when it is costly to catch up on the quantity after limit order execution fails. We also characterize the optimal solution in the general case of simultaneous order placement on multiple exchanges, and show that it sets execution shortfall probabilities to specific threshold values computed with model parameters. Finally, we propose a non-parametric stochastic algorithm that computes an optimal solution by resampling historical data and does not require specifying order flow distributions. A numerical implementation of this algorithm is used to study the sensitivity of an optimal solution to changes in model parameters. Our numerical results show that order placement optimization can bring a substantial reduction in trading costs, especially for small orders and in cases when order flows are relatively uncorrelated across trading venues. The order placement optimization framework developed in this thesis can also be used to quantify the costs and benefits of financial market fragmentation from the point of view of an individual investor. For instance, we find that a positive correlation between order flows, which is empirically observed in a fragmented U.S. equity market, increases the costs of trading. As the correlation increases it may become more expensive to trade in a fragmented market than it is in a consolidated market. In the third part of the thesis we analyze the dynamics of limit order queues at the best bid or ask of an exchange. These queues consist of orders submitted by a variety of market participants, yet existing order book models commonly assume that all orders have similar dynamics. In practice, some orders are submitted by trade execution algorithms in an attempt to buy or sell a certain quantity of assets under time constraints, and these orders are canceled if their realized waiting time exceeds a patience threshold. In contrast, high-frequency traders submit and cancel orders depending on the order book state and their orders are not driven by patience. The interaction between these two order types within a single FIFO queue leads bursts of order cancelations for small queues and anomalously long waiting times in large queues. We analyze a fluid model that describes the evolution of large order queues in liquid markets, taking into account the heterogeneity between order submission and cancelation strategies of different traders. Our results show that after a finite initial time interval, the queue reaches a specific structure where all orders from high-frequency traders stay in the queue until execution but most orders from execution algorithms exceed their patience thresholds and are canceled. This "order crowding" effect has been previously noted by participants in highly liquid stock and futures markets and was attributed to a large participation of high-frequency traders. In our model, their presence creates an additional workload, which increases queue waiting times for new orders. Our analysis of the fluid model leads to waiting time estimates that take into account the distribution of order types in a queue. These estimates are tested against a large dataset of realized limit order waiting times collected by a U.S. equity brokerage firm. The queue composition at a moment of order submission noticeably affects its waiting time and we find that assuming a single order type for all orders in the queue leads to unrealistic results. Estimates that assume instead a mix of heterogeneous orders in the queue are closer to empirical data. Our model for a limit order queue with heterogeneous order types also appears to be interesting from a methodological point of view. It introduces a new type of behavior in a queueing system where one class of jobs has state-dependent dynamics, while others are driven by patience. Although this model is motivated by the analysis of limit order books, it may find applications in studying other service systems with state-dependent abandonments.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
Thesis Advisors
Cont, Rama
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 30, 2013