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.

March 2019

DE Shaw: Inside Manhattan’s ‘Silicon Valley’ hedge fund

Financial Times (subscription)

The hedge fund founded by former computer science professor David Shaw was initially a ramshackle start-up. Today it’s one of the industry’s biggest players, managing over $50bn of assets, and is a leader in the “quantamental” investing that’s helping the industry realise the benefits of big data and artificial intelligence. Read More

The health of a country’s economy is hiding in plain tweets

Bloomberg (subscription)

Inspired by a comment from former Fed Chair Janet Yellen that labor-market conditions might be worse than official statistics indicated, a Microsoft researcher began looking for better data. Analyzing tweets and web-search queries, he has been able to predict revisions in one of the world’s most critical indicators: the Labor Department’s report on nonfarm payrolls. Read More

Alternative data is helping to close the information gap in emerging markets

Outside Insight

Governments and businesses both require sound data on the economy and current state of the markets in order to make informed, context-driven decisions. In emerging markets such data can be hard to come by. Alternative data can be part of the solution. Read More

PanAgora portfolio manager says many firms have flawed approach to alt data

Business Insider (subscription)

Mike Chen, a portfolio manager at PanAgora Asset Management, said firms are struggling to find value in alternative data because of a flawed approach. Instead of trying out a variety of data feeds, firms should first develop a specific investment question they’d like to solve, he advises. Read More

How big data can help save the world

Scientific American
Recent coverage of the data industry has focused on users’ privacy fears and other issues of concern. A Los Alamos National Laboratory data scientist reminds us that alternative data can help solve some of the biggest global challenges, from stopping infectious diseases to monitoring the Colombian peace process. Read More »

Using a company’s own words to assess its risks


A researcher used machine learning to read through the annual reports of all U.S. public companies to find out which risks they identified as the most serious ones they face. The results were often surprising. Read More

McDonald’s bites on big data with $300 million acquisition


McDonald’s has embraced machine learning in a super-sized way. The fast-food giant has reached an agreement to acquire Dynamic Yield, a Tel Aviv-based startup that provides retailers with algorithmically driven “decision logic” technology.  Read More

What you don’t know about your health data will make you sick

Fast Company

You can’t opt out of a shadowy system that’s hungry to know everything about your health. Healthcare providers can legally sell data to a vast spread of companies, who can use it to make decisions on insurance pricing, highly targeted advertising, investments, and more. Read More

Why not replace corporate directors with algorithms?


Before stepping down as Tesla Chairman, Elon Musk said “Robots will be able to do everything better than us … I mean all of us.” Could an algorithm take his current board seat? There are pros and cons. One plus being that an AI wouldn’t go on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Read More

Man Group CIO says managers being led ‘kicking and screaming’ into quant era

Bloomberg (subscription)

The asset management industry is “kicking and screaming” as it’s forced to adapt to quant trading, said Man Group CIO Sandy Rattray. Speaking at a conference, he compared money managers with taxi drivers who are facing the threat of Uber and automated vehicles. Read More

How Canada Pension Plan is tapping alternative data

Financial Post

Canada’s largest pension fund – with over US$750 billion AUM – has assembled a team to analyze alternative data for long-term investment decisions. The CPP Investment Board’s move shows how alt data is gaining acceptance among the world’s traditionally conservative state-linked pension funds. Read More

In alt-data gold rush, some investors find more dirt than nuggets

Business Insider (subscription)

Wall Street acceptance of alternative data is becoming mainstream, but some find the huge volume of new data difficult to integrate into the investment process. Part of the problem is on the supply side, as some data vendors lack an understanding of what investors are looking for with their data sets. Read More

Point72’s Granade discusses alt data and quant investment

Bloomberg Podcasts

In this podcast, Bloomberg’s Barry Ritholtz discusses quantitative investing, alternative data, and much more with Matthew Granade, Chief Market Intelligence Officer at Point72 Asset Management. For those preferring print, Ritholtz helpfully provides a partial transcript on his website. Listen Here

Thasos CPO John Collins on how data use is evolving


In one of the 2019 Quandl Data Conference’s best received presentations, the Thasos co-founder explores how the drive for alpha shapes the use of data for investment purposes – occasionally in inefficient ways – and ultimately requires consuming data at ever more granular levels. Watch here

Robots won’t kill the fundamental investor

Institutional Investor

Traditional asset managers are increasingly applying data analytics to decision-making — but they aren’t firing portfolio managers. Instead, they’re building capabilities to help them do a better job, particularly for active managers who feel cost-cutting pressures in a shrinking industry, McKinsey said in a new report (available in full here). Read More

A blueprint for alternative data in asset management (subscription)

UBS Asset Management’s data chief describes how alternative data can aid the investment process and how, if properly applied, such data can provide unique insights into economies and companies beyond mere earnings and market information. Read More

Legal considerations for use of alt data in investment


Multinational law firm Shearman & Sterling offers a primer on the legal aspects of alternative data, including issues such as data lineage, material nonpublic information risk, and why firms need to perform due diligence on data vendors. Read More

Why Excel no longer works for picking stocks

Business Insider

Microsoft Excel, which has been used by the investment community for years, can no longer be the only tool used for stock-picking. The explosion of alternative data in particular has pushed stock analysis beyond the software‘s capabilities. Read More

What job listings tell us about the future of Ford


As a large-cap with a high dividend, Ford Motor Co is one of the most widely traded securities in the world. Unsurprisingly, investors are hungry for more information than the guidance offered in official results. Increasingly, they are turning to alternative data. Read More

Alternative data providers cash in on US shutdown

Financial Times (subscription)

The longest government shutdown in US history was a bonanza for the alternative data industry, particularly for those with agricultural market data, as the month-long closure halted a stream of important reports. Read More

Satellites and shoe-leather: How investors get beyond China’s dubious data


Institutional investors are looking for alternative data in China as proxies for economic growth, corporate and sector performance – building models with inputs such as auto sales, air traffic and even commentary from beauty firms. In a related new paper reviewed by The Economist, researchers used alt data to show that official industrial output and investment numbers have been consistently embellished. Read More

BlackRock exec says Wall St. struggling to crack the data conundrum

Business Insider (subscription)

Many firms eager to integrate traditional and alternative data in their investment processes are struggling with data intake and processing. A senior BlackRock exec says the process is full of “headache and heartache.” Read More

Bloomberg’s take on the state of factor investing

Bloomberg (subscription)

Bloomberg Media gathers evidence to suggest that factor investing is “exhibiting signs of sickness” but don’t rule it – or other quant models – out just yet. Read More

LinkedIn seeks to overturn ruling on web-scraped data

Business Insider (subscription)

LinkedIn is seeking to overturn a California court decision that allows the scraping of data from the site’s public web pages. The case, which is currently in the appeals process, could impact an increasingly important part of hedge funds’ investment processes. Read More

Goldman enters thematic ETF fray with five new funds

Yahoo Finance

The new ETFs span themes, such as big data, fintech, and evolving consumer trends. To construct each index, the developer used rules-based methodologies to analyze both traditional and alternative data in order to calculate a company’s ‘thematic beta’ and quantify its exposure to specific transformational changes. Read More

What’s driving the demand for data scientists?


Data analytics is becoming mission-critical for a wide variety of businesses. One of the mounting challenges they face is recruiting data scientists. “There are very few data scientists out there passing out their resumes,” says LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue, “[they] are almost all already employed, because they’re so much in demand.” Read More

Alt data makes it harder for execs to mislead investors

Economist (subscription)

Investors have long clamoured for insight into Tesla’s operations. Happily, with alternative data they no longer need to ask Mr. Musk how many cars he sells. The magazine expands on the article in its Intelligence podcast, touching on insurance, private jet tracking, job listings, and other non-traditional data. Read More

Nasdaq CEO says US needs clear data protection regulations

Business Insider (subscription)

Alt-data is booming, but concerns about privacy, nonpublic information, and other factors are giving some potential users pause. Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman says better regulation could benefit individuals looking to protect their data and provide guidance to firms trying to grasp what data they can use. Read More

Quandl sees non-quant funds piling into data

machineByte (subscription)

As investing becomes more data-driven, there is a Darwinian struggle to evolve or perish. While some discretionary managers are skeptical of data-driven investing, others are incorporating new data into their strategies with demonstrable success, says Quandl CDO Abraham Thomas. Read More

Trade Talks at Quandl Data Conference

Nasdaq Trade Talks

For those unable to attend last week’s Quandl Data Conference, Nasdaq Global Markets Reporter Jill Malandrino had brief and insightful sideline conversations with several of the industry’s top innovators including:

Here are the data brokers buying and selling your personal information

Thanks to a new Vermont law requiring companies that buy and sell third-party personal data to register with the state, Fast Company has been able to assemble a list of 121 data brokers operating in the US. Read More

On sector-based research, machine learning, and economic slowdown

Seeking Alpha

Alternative data is improving quant strategies, particularly for sector-based work. Meanwhile, more traditional ways of analyzing data – like trading metrics such as price and volume – have become a less reliable form of seeking alpha. Read More

The golden age of the quant is now

Traders Magazine

In a counterpoint to last week’s “The age of the quant is coming to an end,” the author argues that new technology and the explosion of alternative data mean that demand for skills in modeling, predictive analytics, machine learning, and more, is growing. And so is demand for high-skilled quants. Read More

What alt data might be telling us about Trump, Venezuela, Cuba, and Marco Rubio

Towards Data Science

In this long and personal essay, data scientist and former quant Luis Miguel Sánchez looks at what online postings and petitions can tell us about the crisis in Venezuela. Read More

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