Computer Science Department
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


Automated Market Making:
Theory and Practice

Abraham Othman

May 2012

Ph.D. Thesis


Keywords: Market microstructure, agent design, wagering, risk measures

Market makers are unique entities in a market ecosystem. Unlike other participants that have exposure (either speculative or endogenous) to potential future states of the world, market making agents either endeavor to secure a risk-free profit or to facilitate trade that would otherwise not occur. In this thesis we present a principled theoretical framework for market making along with applications of that framework to different contexts. We begin by presenting a synthesis of two concepts–automated market making from the artificial intelligence literature–and risk measures from the finance literature—that were developed independently. This synthesis implies that the market making agents we develop in this thesis also correspond to better ways of measuring the riskiness of a portfolio–an important application in quantitative finance. We then present the results of the Gates Hillman Prediction Market (GHPM), a fielded large-scale test of automated market making that successfully predicted the opening date of the new computer science buildings at CMU. Ranging over 365 possible opening days, the market's large event partition required new advances like a novel span-based elicitation interface. The GHPM uncovered some practical flaws of automated market makers; we investigate how to rectify these failures by describing several classes of market makers that are better at facilitating trade in Internet prediction markets. We then shift our focus to notions of profit, and how a market maker can trade to maximize its own account. We explore applying our work to one of the largest and most heavily-traded markets in the world by recasting market making as an algorithmic options trading strategy. Finally, we investigate optimal market makers for fielding wagers when good priors are known, as in sports betting or insurance.

212 pages

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