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Optimization Methods in Finance
ASSIGNMENT 2: Scenario Generation and Stochastic Programming
DEADLINE: Monday, 16 March 2020 @ 5pm
electronically via Learn
1. Download the file retm.mat from Learn. This defines a 100, 000×8 matrix retm of random returns for 8 assets
(each row representing one random value – you can load this in Matlab with the command load retm.mat):
(a) Convince yourself that the assets geometric means and co-variances are the same as for Assignment 1.
(b) Plot the return of the first asset again the second asset (i.e. first against second column of the retm
matrix) to see that the joint distribution is evidently not multivariate normal. [no marks]
2. Assume you would like to invest your budget of B =£10, 000 into the 8 assets. After one time period (month)
you are required to pay a liability of L =£10, 100. That is, you are required to get a 1% return on your
investment to cover the liability. Let x ∈ IRn (x ≥ 0,
P
i
xi = 1) be your investment decisions (which fraction
of your budget to invest in each asset). That is your total investmemnt into asset i is B · xi
.
Let rs be the s-th row of the retm-matrix. Treat this as one possible scenario s of asset returns. That is the
value of your investment in scenario s is B · r
>
s x and the shortfall (difference to meeting your liability) is
sfs = max{L − Br>
s x, 0} (1)
(a) Show how to formulate the problem of minimizing the expected shortfall Es[sfs]. Show that this fits
into the stochastic programming framework. [10]
(b) Write a CVX model minesf.m that finds the investment decision x that minimizes the expected shortfall
over a given set of scenarios. Test this model with the first 10 rows in the matrix.
NOTE: do not try to solve the model with all 100,000 scenarios: this will likely exceed the
capabilities of Matlab and CVX [20]
(c) With the investment decisions that you get from part (2b) calculate the expected shortfall over all
100,000 scenarios. Note the difference from the expected shortfall that has been predicted by the model.
This is the difference between in-sample and out-of-sample:1 The in-sample expected shortfall (ie. over
the sample of scenarios that you have used as input to your optimization model) is significantly lower
than the out-of-sample shortfall (ie. evaluated over data that comes from the same distribution, but
was not seen by the model).
Report in-sample and out-of-sample expected shortfall [5]
(d) Try again by optimizing over the first 1000 scenarios. Again report in-sample and out-of-sample expected
shortfall. [5]
3. The setup for the remainder of this section is that you would like to come up with an investment decision that
gives as low an out-of-sample expected shortfall as possible. However you are assuming that you cannot
solve the above CVX problem for more than 10 scenarios.
The solution to 2(b/c) would count but not the solution to 2(d) – more than the allowed number of scenarios.
The solution to 2(d) however can be used as a benchmark to show what is achievable. [Total 60]
You can explore various avenues:
(a) Attempt to find an optimal/good 10-scenario discretization, ie. 10 scenarios which to use an
input to the above CVX model minesf.m that result in an as-low-as-possible out-of-sample expected
shortfall. You may for example try clustering (using the kmeans2.m Matlab script from Lab Session 6),
or some other way of finding the scenarios (eg. trial and error)). Note that CVX is not able to solve the
moment-matching problem since that is not convex.
You should describe what you have done and the reasoning for doing so. You should also comment on
the effort required in coming up with the scenarios (ie. how much work would it be in general to apply
your method). [30]
(b) Solve the problem by stochastic gradients: ie. choose a trial investment decision x0, calculate
the shortfall Q(x0, rs) for this trial decision and a specific return scenario rs, calculate the gradient

∂x0
Q(x0, rs) for the specific scenario and adjust your trial decision accordingly. The following steps
should help you
1The terminology is slightly mis-applied here. in-sample is the performance predicted by the model ie. over the data that was seen
by the model. Out-of-sample refers to the performance over unseen data from the same distribution, usually this is the performance of
the investment decision if implemented in real life (or over a larger unseen data set). In the remainder of the assignment sheet I will
refer to the out-of-sample performance as the exepcted shortfall when evaluated over the complete 100000 scenario data set, although
some of that (for 3(b) even all of that) has been seen by the model.
1
• You can adjust the Matlab scripts RecCost.m and StochasticGradient.m from Lab Session 5.
• In RecCost.m you need to evaluate sfs in (1) as a function of x and rs and its derivative with respect
to x.
• In StochasticGradient.m you need to do a projection onto the set {x :
P
i
xi = 1, xi ≥ 0} (the
unit simplex). Since now x ∈ IR8 you cannot use the formula from Lab Session 5 (which was only
valid in IR2
). However on Learn you can download the Matlab function proj unit simplex(x).m
that does the projection.
In principle you can do the projection by setting up an optimization problem in CVX. For the purpose
of this question, however, this takes too long – not because of the optimization itself, this should be
very fast, but because of CVX’s overhead which takes some time to get started.
• For the random scenarios to be used for the stochastic gradient method, you can either sample from
the 100000 scenarios or do a complete sweep (ie. use all scenarios in order). You can even do two
or three sweeps. This should take very little time (well under 1 min).
Again report on the best investmemt decision obtained in this way and the expected shortfall this
achieves over the 100,000 scenarios in retm.mat. Also comment on the computational effort compared
to the scenario based approaches under 3(a). [30]
Submission
You should hand in (electronically on Learn):
• The Matlab file minesf.m that solves part 2(b).
• Any Matlab files that you have used for 3)
• A document that contains
1. The optimization model in 2(a)
2. The in-sample and out-of-sample expected shortfall for 2(c)/2(d).
3. A description of what you have done for 3).
In addition the document should also be submitted in on Turnitin.
The answer to 2(a) requires to write mathematics. If you don’t know how to use Latex and find it too cumbersome
with a word processor, you can write the answer out by hand. In that case please hand-in the sheet of paper
(containing 2(a) and only 2(a)) marking clearly your name and matriculation number to MTO (JCMB room
5211). You can also submit a scan of the sheet on Learn as long as it is less than 1MB in size.
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