Alternative Data Weekly Newsletter Archives


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A curated digest of must-read news from around the internet about alternative data. Join the buy-side professionals already reading the Alternative Data Weekly.

September 2016

Facebook, World Bank and OECD Link Up to Gather Data


The World Bank and the OECD are leveraging Facebook’s access to small businesses to create a new business sentiment index. The index will be derived from surveying small businesses through the Facebook platform. If it works, this could be a bottoms-up realtime view of the global small business economy (minus China). Read More

Two Sigma Says Artificial Intelligence Lacks Smarts


Quantitative hedge funds as a group have outperformed traditional managers over the last 5 years, partially thanks to good old-fashioned common sense. Two Sigma’s David Siegel cautions investors not to overvalue AI, stating that algorithms are limited by scant amounts of training data. So the robots haven’t taken over, yet. Read More

I Listened to 82 Finance Startup Pitches – Here’s What I Learned About Where Wall Street Is Heading

Business Insider

Tina Wadwha from Business Insider listened to fintech pitches at Finovate Fall 2016 and Techstars Barclays Accelerator. Her conclusion? Most of them aren’t trying to take the place of established players; they are looking to sell to them. See what she thinks of startups like MapD and Alpha Exchange. Read More

Bloomberg Subscribers Can Now Post To Twitter From The Terminal

PR Newswire

We’ve been wondering how Bloomberg would capitalize on the alternative data trend, and now we know: direct from the source. Bloomberg subscribers can now tweet directly from the terminal, giving Bloomberg, arguably, its own sentiment data to sell. Read More

Upstream Operational Risk Increases with Anadarko’s $2B Purchase

Quandl Blog

The Quandl data science team now publishes market insights based on analysis performed using Quandl alternative datasets. For this report we examined natural gas production trends for Anadarko (NYSE: APC) in the wake of its 2B purchase of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico assets of Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas. While the purchase seems sound, interruptions to gas flow throughout the year may be cause for concern. Read More

State Street Curates Unstructured Data for Investor Insights


State Street gets into the alternative data game with the launch of its own MediaInsights, a dataset derived from over 30,000 traditional, social, and corporate media sources. MediaInsights offers earnings prediction technology by distilling consumer sentiment about retail companies. Read More

Urthecast Founder Plots a New Course

Globe and Mail

North of the border, Vancouver-based Urthecast brought us the first high definition video of earth, captured via its cameras on the ISS. Now it’s on to the next big thing in Earth Observation: connecting remote IoT devices via satellite. Read More

The (Weak) Link Between Alternative Data and Inside Information

Quandl Blog

Quandl CEO Tammer Kamel ponders the ethics of alternative data and concludes: a) “alternative” is not synonomous with “inside” and b) targeted advertising is a lot more evil. Read More

China’s Official Economic Stats Reasonably Credible, Alternative Data Show

Financial Review

In today’s most surprising piece: a growing universe of big data offers an increasingly complete alternative view on China’s economy, and it’s not massively different from the official statistics. Read More

Is ‘New Data’ the Best Hope for Hedge Funds?

The Financial Revolutionist

In the aftermath of the end of the Golden Age for hedge funds, the Financial Revolutionist asks: what would Hyman Roth do? The answer is not: “cling to the hope that the same old same old will work again.” Read More

Wall Street’s 0.01%: The Guru Who Only Talks to Hedge-Fund Elite


“It’s Target vs. Hermes.” Jens Nordvig sells his advice to 6 elite hedge funds, and no one else. But like many before him, he understands the need to go downmarket. His first dataset on how the yuan exchange rate is influenced by China’s buying or selling of dollars is coming soon. Read More

Earth Observation Manufacturing, Data Markets Continue Expansion


Like the moons in Seveneves, is it only a matter of time before satellites start crashing into each other? We kid, we kid. But 163 50+ kilogram satellites were launched into the sky between 2006 and 2015, and another 419 are expected over the next decade, not including the hundreds of sub 50 kilo sats. This is a $40 billion manufacturing opportunity and a $3 billion commercial data services opportunity. Expanding, just like the universe. Read More

Has the Decline of Oil Affected The Home Depot?

Quandl Blog

One of our analysts used a Quandl alternative dataset of over 10 billion building permit data points to analyze the Houston home improvement market in the wake of oil’s crash. Her results suggest that things may not be as rosy as Home Depot CEO Craig Menear indicated in his Q1 earnings call. See what you think. Read More

New Dynamic In High Frequency Trading Wars: Intelligent Speed


With the advent of IEX speedbumps and an agreement that HFT has reached a plateau, the future industry wave is about speed in analyzing information about speed. This is meta at its best. A summary of Larry Tabb’s latest research. Read More

Quandl Announces Series B Financing Round of USD 12m


Not that we’ll get in the habit of writing about ourselves, but we figured this news would qualify. We raised $12 million in Series B funding and have welcomed Naren Gupta of Nexus Venture Partners to our board of directors. Read More

Wall Street’s Insatiable Lust: Data, Data, Data

The Wall Street Journal

Bradley Hope from the Wall Street Journal unveils a new species: The Data Hunter. He who roams the earth in search of alternative datasets to feed Wall Street’s lust for data, data, data. Read More

Fake Accounts and Artisanal Data


With algorithms and artifical intelligence seemingly poised to replace humans in the investment world, Matt Levine highlights the very human aspect of the hunt for data. The robot shouts “BRING ME MORE DATA” to the human. But at least the human is still involved. Read More

In Defence of Hedge-fund Data Mining

The Financial Times

Alexandra Scaggs from the Financial Times offers this thoughtful piece on the implications of alternative data: ethical, legal and otherwise. Though it’s easy to assume yet more loss of consumer privacy, she rightly asks if what hedge funds are doing is any different from targeted advertising or government surveillance. Read More

Automated Earnings Estimates From Retail Transactions


Do you eagerly wait for analyst estimates each quarter? Tokyo-based Nowcast Inc. is aiming to crunch millions of retail transactions to automate earnings’ predictions for some 200 Japanese companies later this year. In 2017, they hope to include another 1,000 companies in China and the US. And so begins the end of analyst estimates… Read More

The Eternal Quest for Unique Investment Insights

Investment Magazine

Have you heard this one before? Mining alpha from academic research papers. A small group of investors believe investment insights await deep within tens of thousands of research papers produced each year from universities worldwide. It’s no small feat to sift through academic research from the present and the past. Will such an effort literally pay off? Read More

The Next Platform for Innovation is Wi-Fi


Surprisingly, Wi-Fi is a word hardly mentioned when ruminating on the Inernet of Things and the explosion of data, but is it not the powerful catalyst that makes the transfer of all this data possible? In an ode to wi-fi, read on to see the gold in them there hills. Read More

Hedge Fund Mining Draws Ire; Is The ‘Alternative-Data’ Playing Field Rigged?


And now for the contrarian view: Benzinga likens alternative data to insider trading and argues that expensive alternative data isn’t truly public information. What do you think? Read More

7Park Data Now Mines TV Viewing Habits of Over 1 Million OTT Subscribers


For investors in entertainment and media, the granular and never-before-seen nature of this TV data is enticing. Our friends at 7Park have just launched the first “TV Intelligence” dataset. Get up close and personal with the likes of Netflix and Hulu. Read More

Superstition ain’t the way

The Economist

For a long time, China’s officially-reported data was so unreliable that an index based on alternative sources, including electricity and rail use, became the gold standard. Now it appears that even the index is limited. Analysts are turning to ever-more alternative sources, from satellite images of city lights to Baidu’s search history, for what they hope is a clearer look. Read More

Low-hanging fruit from tweet sentiment investing plucked: James Saft


The bloom is off the rose, so to speak, for sentiment data from Twitter. As with so many data sources before, the alpha is gone; the edge is diffused. What will sentiment analysts and academics turn to next? Read More

Wall Street’s Next Frontier Is Hacking Into Emotions of Traders


As it turns out, exhaust data is not the final frontier. Humanyze and MIT’s Andrew Lo are experimenting with monitoring the emotional state of bank employees to drive performance. Emotional surveillance raises all kinds of privacy issues, of course, but it might also prevent $100 million lossess from bad trades. Bloomberg investigates. Read More

Five lessons learned about data exhaust

Thomson Reuters

For quants, data exhaust – the mere byproduct of doing business – is ripe with alpha potential. But this goldmine doesn’t come without its challenges. Beware limited history, structure problems, and other pitfalls, as described in this article. Read More

Unlocking the Data Treasure Chest

Engineering News Record

The explosion of data is rampant in every industry and construction is no exception. “In the next five years, the industry is going to be transformed through data. It’s an unprecedented, perfect storm of cloud, mobility and an incredible amount of collectors and data science converging together.” In real-time we can see on a map where construction is booming and we bet this will get investors excited. Read More

Companies are making money from our personal data – but at what cost?

The Guardian

Lots of data comes with lots of responsibility. Powerful companies like Google and Amazon view data as an asset and with so much of it in the world, ethics come in to play. Companies commoditize and monetize data that could not exist without the public, but does the public benefit at all in return? Read More

Looking for an Edge on China Stocks? Try Weibo


Weibo, China’s premier microblogging platform, has over 125 million users. Yes, investors can scrape data from Chinese social media sites, but beware: millions of posts on these sites may have been constructed to intentionally mislead and distract the public, making analysis all the more difficult. Read More

No Sailors Needed: Robot Sailboats Scour the Oceans for Data

The New York Times

In last week’s newsletter, we wondered whether data from the AgTech space was ready to be pledged into the alternative data space. We ask the same question this week about data from saildrones. You heard that right – saildrones – unmanned robot sailboats that gather data from the ocean for oil and gas production, weather points, and commercial fishing. Read More

Hedge funds head for the final frontier


Identifying signals from mountains of data is hard and expensive, so is it really worthwhile to seek alpha through alternative datasets? Orbital Insights and Matt Levine from share their approach. Read More

Crop Forecasters Take Matters Into Their Own Hands — Literally

The Wall Street Journal

Some swear by touch and feel, while others think computers and drones can do the job. As agriculture uses new technology, corn and soybean investors have to decide which method of forecasting is most reliable in this multi-billion dollar industry. Read More

Agtech Funding Sheet: FarmShots Raises Seed Round


Further proof that the young agtech sector continues to bloom. The data and technology are there, but will they be available to the financial industry? Read More

Calling all stock trading geeks: Quantopian wants your trading ideas


We can’t let the explosion of new data go to waste. That’s why Quantopian wants talented data scientists from all over the world to submit their trading algorithms to its platform. Read More

A Vancouver ‘alternative data’ startup raised $2.7 million to corner the market on Big Data financial analysis


A new company is hoping to join the ranks of Thinknum, Eagle Alpha and Discern. Welcome Canalyst – the latest startup to enter the ever-growing list of alternative data players. Read More

Unexpected Risk Meets Unexpected Data

Institutional Investor

Media outliers, the weather and online retail. These are all sources of information that investors can use to predict outcomes from black swan events and protect their portfolios. Read More

Next Economics: Interview with Jimi Crawford

Fast Forward Labs

For Orbital Insights, hedge funds are just the beginning. The satellite company wants to understand the Earth and reduce economists’ reliance on government reports by quantifying observations about the physical world instead. Read More

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