Dr Alfonso Dufour
Dr Alfonso Dufour
- Associate Professor of Finance
- Programme Co-Director of MSc Finance and Financial Technology (FinTech)
Profile & Expertise
Alfonso holds a Laurea in Economia e Commercio (cum laude) from the University of Venice, Italy and an MA and a PhD in Economics, both from the University of California, San Diego.
His research interest spans issues in financial econometrics, market design and structure, empirical market microstructure. He has written articles about forecasting models for transaction prices; measures of market liquidity; and methods for comparing and contrasting alternative market structures. Currently, he is studying the effects of market fragmentation on the quality of European markets.
His paper ‘Time and the price impact of a Trade’ (with Robert F. Engle) was short-listed for the Smith-Breedon best paper prize in the Journal of Finance for 2001.
He is Course Convenor of the Derivative Securities – Pricing and Trading module on the BSc programme and of the Trading and Exchanges module on the MSc programme.
- Financial Econometrics
- Market Microstructure
Key publications, books, research & papers
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Modeling intraday volatility of European bond markets: A data filtering application
This paper studies the intraday volatility of European government bonds under the framework of the multiplicative component GARCH model (Engle and Sokalska, 2012). Intraday return volatility is specified as the product of daily volatility, intraday seasonality, and a unit GARCH process. The model is applied to 10-year European government bonds during the sovereign debt crisis. We observe large transitory intraday volatility often due to illiquidity effects and outliers. We suggest a flexible and effective procedure for jointly filtering mid-quote prices and estimating volatility models. Finally, we show that intraday data contain relevant information for daily volatility forecasts.
Explaining Repo Specialness
We study the dynamics of specialness for 1-day repo contracts on Italian government bonds over a 10-year sample period. As predicted by Duffie’s (1996) model, our results show that collateral supply is a significant factor for specialness. However, we enrich that finding by also showing a clear impact from repo liquidity, collateral riskiness, information uncertainty and short-selling proxies, revealing the importance of speculative bond demand for specialness. During crisis periods, bond fire sales and European Central Bank interventions also have a large impact on repo specialness. We identify recurrent patterns for specialness around bond auctions. Specialness increases steadily from the auction announcement date until a few days before the auction settlement date, which is consistent with overbidding behavior and a short selling of treasuries (via reverse repos) from primary dealers ahead of auctions.
The equity-like behaviour of sovereign bonds
Using a rich dataset of high frequency historical information from 2004 to 2013 we study the determinants of European sovereign bond returns over calm and crisis periods. We find that the sign of the equity beta crucially depends on country risk. In low risk countries, government bonds represent a natural hedge against equity risk as the equity beta is negative regardless of market conditions. On the other hand, government bonds of high risk countries lose their “safe-asset” status and exhibit more equity-like behaviour during the sovereign debt crisis, with positive and strongly significant co-movements relative to the stock market. Our estimates indicate that the equity beta switches from negative to positive when a sovereign’s credit spread rises above 2%. We find that the decoupling of the government bond market between high risk and low risk countries implies that indiscriminate portfolio diversification does not pay. Instead, “prudent diversification” appears to offer superior risk adjusted returns in periods of sovereign stress and through the economic cycle.
Information entropy and measures of market risk
Pele, D. T., Lazar, E.
In this paper we investigate the relationship between the information entropy of the distribution of intraday returns and intraday and daily measures of market risk. Using data on the EUR/JPY exchange rate, we find a negative relationship between entropy and intraday Value-at-Risk, and also between entropy and intraday Expected Shortfall. This relationship is then used to forecast daily Value-at-Risk, using the entropy of the distribution of intraday returns as a predictor.
Risk and trading on London's Alternative Investment Market: The stock market for smaller and growing companies
The determinants of a cross market arbitrage opportunity: theory and evidence for the European bond market
Perlin, M., Dufour, A.
This paper examines the determinants of cross-platform arbitrage profits. We develop a structural model that enables us to decompose the likelihood of an arbitrage opportunity into three distinct factors: the fixed cost to trade the opportunity, the level at which one of the platforms delays a price update and the impact of the order flow on the quoted prices (inventory and asymmetric information effects). We then investigate the predictions from the theoretical model for the European Bond market with the estimation of a probit model. Our main finding is that the results found in the empirical part corroborate strongly the predictions from the structural model. The event of a cross market arbitrage opportunity has a certain degree of predictability where an optimal ex ante scenario is represented by a low level of spreads on both platforms, a time of the day close to the end of trading hours and a high volume of trade.
On the performance of the tick test
Perlin, M., Brooks, C.
In financial research, the sign of a trade (or identity of trade aggressor) is not always available in the transaction dataset and it can be estimated using a simple set of rules called the tick test. In this paper we investigate the accuracy of the tick test from an analytical perspective by providing a closed formula for the performance of the prediction algorithm. By analyzing the derived equation, we provide formal arguments for the use of the tick test by proving that it is bounded to perform better than chance (50/50) and that the set of rules from the tick test provides an unbiased estimator of the trade signs. On the empirical side of the research, we compare the values from the analytical formula against the empirical performance of the tick test for fifteen heavily traded stocks in the Brazilian equity market. The results show that the formula is quite realistic in assessing the accuracy of the prediction algorithm in a real data situation.
Microstructure of the Euro-area government bond market
Darbha, M. and Dufour, A.
This chapter highlights similarities and differences of equity and fixed- income markets and provides an overview of the characteristics of European government bond market trading and liquidity. Most existing studies focus on the U.S. market. This chapter presents the institutional details of the MTS market, which is the largest European electronic platform for trading government, quasi-government, asset- backed, and corporate fixed- income securities. It reviews the main features of high- frequency fixed- income data and the methods for measuring market liquidity. Finally, the chapter shows how liquidity differs across European countries, how liquidity varies with the structure of the market, and how liquidity has changed during the recent liquidity and sovereign crises.
Credit and liquidity components of corporate CDS spreads
Coro, F., Dufour, A.
This paper investigates the role of credit and liquidity factors in explaining corporate CDS price changes during normal and crisis periods. We find that liquidity risk is more important than firm-specific credit risk regardless of market conditions. Moreover, in the period prior to the recent “Great Recession” credit risk plays no role in explaining CDS price changes. The dominance of liquidity effects casts serious doubts on the relevance of CDS price changes as an indicator of default risk dynamics. Our results show how multiple liquidity factors including firm specific and aggregate liquidity proxies as well as an asymmetric information measure are critical determinants of CDS price variations. In particular, the impact of informed traders on the CDS price increases when markets are characterised by higher uncertainty, which supports concerns of insider trading during the crisis.
Permanent trading impacts and bond yields
We analyze four years of transaction data for euro-area sovereign bonds traded on the MTS electronic platforms. In order to measure the informational content of trading activity, we estimate the permanent price response to trades. We find not only strong evidence of information asymmetry in sovereign bond markets, but we also show the relevance of information asymmetry in explaining the cross-sectional variations of bond yields across a wide range of bond maturities and countries. Our results confirm that trades of more recently issued bonds and longer maturity bonds have a greater permanent effect on prices. We compare the price impact of trades for bonds across different maturity categories and find that trades of French and German bonds have the highest long-term price impact in the short maturity class whereas trades of German bonds have the highest permanent price impacts in the long maturity class. More importantly, we study the cross-section of bond yields and find that after controlling for conventional factors, investors demand higher yields for bonds with larger permanent trading impact. Interestingly, when investors face increased market uncertainty, they require even higher compensation for information asymmetry.
The LSE’s AIM market: effect on returns and trading of Canadian stocks
The MiFID: competition in a new European equity market regulatory structure
Davies, R., Dufour, A.
A false perception? The relative riskiness of AIM and listed stocks
Building a competitive and efficient European financial market
Davies, R., Dufour, A.
Time and the price impact of a trade
We use Hasbrouck’s (1991) vector autoregressive model for prices and trades to empirically test and assess the role played by the waiting time between consecutive transactions in the process of price formation. We find that as the time duration between transactions decreases, the price impact of trades, the speed of price adjustment to trade‐related information, and the positive autocorrelation of signed trades all increase. This suggests that times when markets are most active are times when there is an increased presence of informed traders; we interpret such markets as having reduced liquidity.