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Trading with the Momentum Transformer: An Intelligent and Interpretable Architecture

by   Kieran Wood, et al.
University of Oxford

Deep learning architectures, specifically Deep Momentum Networks (DMNs) [1904.04912], have been found to be an effective approach to momentum and mean-reversion trading. However, some of the key challenges in recent years involve learning long-term dependencies, degradation of performance when considering returns net of transaction costs and adapting to new market regimes, notably during the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. Attention mechanisms, or Transformer-based architectures, are a solution to such challenges because they allow the network to focus on significant time steps in the past and longer-term patterns. We introduce the Momentum Transformer, an attention-based architecture which outperforms the benchmarks, and is inherently interpretable, providing us with greater insights into our deep learning trading strategy. Our model is an extension to the LSTM-based DMN, which directly outputs position sizing by optimising the network on a risk-adjusted performance metric, such as Sharpe ratio. We find an attention-LSTM hybrid Decoder-Only Temporal Fusion Transformer (TFT) style architecture is the best performing model. In terms of interpretability, we observe remarkable structure in the attention patterns, with significant peaks of importance at momentum turning points. The time series is thus segmented into regimes and the model tends to focus on previous time-steps in alike regimes. We find changepoint detection (CPD) [2105.13727], another technique for responding to regime change, can complement multi-headed attention, especially when we run CPD at multiple timescales. Through the addition of an interpretable variable selection network, we observe how CPD helps our model to move away from trading predominantly on daily returns data. We note that the model can intelligently switch between, and blend, classical strategies - basing its decision on patterns in the data.


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