The Virtue of Complexity Everywhere

43 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2022

See all articles by Bryan T. Kelly

Bryan T. Kelly

Yale SOM; AQR Capital Management, LLC; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Semyon Malamud

Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Swiss Finance Institute

Kangying Zhou

Yale School of Management

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 18, 2022

Abstract

We investigate the performance of non-linear return prediction models in the high complexity regime, i.e., when the number of model parameters exceeds the number of observations. We document a "virtue of complexity" in all asset classes that we study (US equities, international equities, bonds, commodities, currencies, and interest rates). Specifically, return prediction R-squared and optimal portfolio Sharpe ratio generally increase with model parameterization for every asset class. The virtue of complexity is present even in extremely data-scarce environments, e.g., for predictive models with less than twenty observations and tens of thousands of predictors. The empirical association between model complexity and out-of-sample model performance exhibits a striking consistency with theoretical predictions.

Keywords: Portfolio choice, machine learning, random matrix theory, benign overfit, overparameterization

JEL Classification: C3, C58, C61, G11, G12, G14

Suggested Citation

Kelly, Bryan T. and Malamud, Semyon and Zhou, Kangying, The Virtue of Complexity Everywhere (July 18, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4166368 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4166368

Bryan T. Kelly (Contact Author)

Yale SOM ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

AQR Capital Management, LLC ( email )

Greenwich, CT
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Semyon Malamud

Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne ( email )

Lausanne, 1015
Switzerland

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Swiss Finance Institute

c/o University of Geneva
40, Bd du Pont-d'Arve
CH-1211 Geneva 4
Switzerland

Kangying Zhou

Yale School of Management ( email )

165 Whitney Ave
New Haven, CT 06511

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