A Reinforcement Learning Application for Portfolio Optimization in the Stock Market

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Title: A Reinforcement Learning Application for Portfolio Optimization in the Stock Market
Author: Huertas, Andres
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202006243438
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: Investment funds are continuously looking for new technologies and ideas to enhance their results. Lately, with the success observed in other fields, wealth managers are taking a closes look at machine learning methods. Even if the use of ML is not entirely new in finance, leveraging new techniques has proved to be challenging and few funds succeed in doing so. The present work explores de usage of reinforcement learning algorithms for portfolio management for the stock market. It is well known the stochastic nature of stock and aiming to predict the market is unrealistic; nevertheless, the question of how to use machine learning to find useful patterns in the data that enable small market edges, remains open. Based on the ideas of reinforcement learning, a portfolio optimization approach is proposed. RL agents are trained to trade in a stock exchange, using portfolio returns as rewards for their RL optimization problem, thus seeking optimal resource allocation. For this purpose, a set of 68 stock tickers in the Frankfurt exchange market was selected, and two RL methods applied, namely Advantage Actor-Critic(A2C) and Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO). Their performance was compared against three commonly traded ETFs (exchange-traded funds) to asses the algorithm's ability to generate returns compared to real-life investments. Both algorithms were able to achieve positive returns in a year of testing( 5.4\% and 9.3\% for A2C and PPO respectively, a European ETF (VGK, Vanguard FTSE Europe Index Fund) for the same period, reported 9.0\% returns) as well as healthy risk-to-returns ratios. The results do not aim to be financial advice or trading strategies, but rather explore the potential of RL for studying small to medium size stock portfolios.
Subject: reinforcement learning
machine learning
stock market
Discipline: none

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