Deep Learning and the Cross-Section of Expected Returns
56 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2017 Last revised: 11 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 2, 2017
Deep learning is an active area of research in machine learning. I train deep feedforward neural networks (DFN) based on a set of 68 firm characteristics (FC) to predict the US cross-section of stock returns. After applying a network optimization strategy, I find that DFN long-short portfolios can generate attractive risk-adjusted returns compared to a linear benchmark. These findings underscore the importance of non-linear relationships among FC and expected returns. The results are robust to size, weighting schemes and portfolio cutoff points. Moreover, I show that price related FC, namely, short-term reversal and the twelve-months momentum, are among the main drivers of the return predictions. The majority of FC play a minor role in the variation of these predictions.
Keywords: Cross Section of Returns, Deep Learning, Asset Pricing, Factor Models, Machine Learning
JEL Classification: G11, G12, G17
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