Not even AI can beat the market these days

By Aaron Brown

09 Dec 2022 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

For all its potential, AI has so far failed to outperform humans when it comes to investing. Still, it is making strong inroads in investment management, as Bloomberg columnist Aaron Brown explains.

From the earliest days of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in the 1950s, practitioners have spoken of using it for investment fund management. After all, humans are notoriously bad at investing, as only a minority of money managers beat random security selections, and most who do are probably just lucky. Even successful managers are only able access a tiny fraction of all information relevant to security selection and must guard against a suite of behavioral biases that sabotage strategies. But a tireless machine able to digest all information and immune to human biases should be clearly superior.

So far, that promise has not been realized. The only major fund run by AI - AI Powered Equity ETF - has underperformed and attracted low investor interest. Since opening in October 2017 the fund has returned just under half as much as the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF, or 35.3% versus 70.8%, with slightly more volatility: 24.2% versus 21.5%. The AI ETF - ticker AIEQ - has a beta of 1 to the S&P 500 Index after fees, with an alpha of negative 3.82%, which means it has lost 3.82% to the S&P 500 each year on average over the last five years. However, that alpha is not statistically significant, meaning it's plausible that AIEQ has a superior long-run expected risk-adjusted return but just had an unlucky five-year run.

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