Sunday, December 9, 2007

Political Prediction Markets: Some Thoughts

Apparently, my last postings on the predictability of the political prediction markets generated some interest. The analysis is more difficult in this scenario, but for the next few days we see stabilizing signals with a trend to go upwards" and we were proven wrong: the price declined from 43 on Dec 2nd, to 39.5 on Dec 9th, an 8% decline. I realized what was wrong in my reasoning. What was stabilizing was the sentiment index, not the price. And a stabilized sentiment around 50% tends to be a pretty bad adviser on how the market will move.

Bo's comment made me think about parallels in "prediction market trading" and "stock market trading". As Bo pointed out, in existing stock markets, there is a significant amount of algorithmic trading. This algorithmic trading makes the stock market significantly more efficient than, say, in the early 1980's where the programmatic trading was at its infancy. In fact, I have heard many stories from old-timers, saying that in the early days it was extremely easy to find inefficiencies in the markets and get healthy profits. As algorithmic trading proliferated, it became increasingly harder to spot inefficiencies in the market.

Something similar can happen today with prediction markets. If we have a prediction market platform that allows automatic/algorithmic trading, then we can improve tremendously the efficiency of today's prediction markets. Furthermore, such a tool (if done with play money) can be used as a great educational tool, similar to the now inactive Penn-Lehman Automated Trading (PLAT) Project. Allowing also for some data integration from the existing prediction markets (BetFair, Intrade, etc.) we could have a pretty realistic tool that can be used for many educational purposes that, at the same time, can generate useful and efficient prediction markets.

Now, I need to find someone willing to fund the idea. Ah, there are a couple of NSF call for proposals still open :-)