Multi-Period Trading via Convex Optimization

Stephen Boyd, Enzo Busseti, Steve Diamond, Ronald N. Kahn, Peter Nystrup, Jan Speth

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We consider a basic model of multi-period trading, which can be used to evaluate the performance of a trading strategy. We describe a framework for single-period optimization, where the trades in each period are found by solving a convex optimization problem that trades off expected return, risk, transaction cost and holding cost such as the borrowing cost for shorting assets. We then describe a multi-period version of the trading method, where optimization is used to plan a sequence of trades, with only the first one executed, using estimates of future quantities that are unknown when the trades are chosen. The single period method traces back to Markowitz; the multi-period methods trace back to model predictive control. Our contribution is to describe the single-period and multi-period methods in one simple framework, giving a clear description of the development and the approximations made. In this paper, we do not address a critical component in a trading algorithm, the predictions or forecasts of future quantities. The methods we describe in this paper can be thought of as good ways to exploit predictions, no matter how they are made. We have also developed a companion open-source software library that implements many of the ideas and methods described in the paper.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFoundations and Trends in Optimization
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-76
Number of pages76
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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