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Using Twitter to Predict the Stock Market

This article was written by in Investing. 7 comments.


A perfect predictor for stock market movements is the holy grail of investing. If you knew with certainty that the stock market would increase tomorrow, you would buy to take advantage of the change, and if yo knew with certainty it would decline, you would sell. If a predictor could be proven to be perfect, it would be its own undoing; if everyone uses the same decision making process and makes the same decisions, the predictor becomes the sole cause in this cause-effect relationships, and there would be no future movements to predict.

So predictors work best when not everyone jumps on board. But everyone wants this advantage. Mathematicians, engineers, and financial analysts try to come up with algorithms that will drive purchases and sales in order to make the most money, but perhaps social scientists have an advantage.

TwiterResearchers at Indiana University-Bloomington were looking at Twitter to see if language analysis could be used on the social network to gauge public mood. The assumption was that the public is generally happy after days where the stock market goes up and generally upset after days where the stock market tanks. They used the tumultuous recession in 2008 as the main data.

The results didn’t exactly meet the researchers’ expectations. Using standard word analysis used in medical research to determine the effect of pharmaceuticals, the moods measured on Twitter lined up with stock market movements — but three or four days in advance of those movements rather than as a result of the market activity.

According to the research, the mood on Twitter, qualified as “anxious” or “happy,” when added to a test algorithm based on stock market patters, improves the predictability of the stock market from 73.3 percent accuracy to 86.7 percent accuracy, a significant improvement.

This isn’t a perfect predictor, but it shows that public mood most likely has an influence on investors’ trades. It’s also important to point out that the public mood measured on Twitter doesn’t predict stock market activity alone, it’s only when this information is added to an existing moderately accurate pattern-based algorithm that Twitter moods are shown to make a difference.

There isn’t a causal relationship between moods on Twitter and stock market movements, of course, but if there is a correlation to be found, it could prove to be somewhat important, at least to fund managers looking for new ways to create and market equity funds. The same aspects of investor or public psychology that drive people to produce Twitter updates describing how they feel today could drive investors to buy and sell their investments.

A British hedge fund has already committed $40 million for investing using the researchers’ Twitter-based algorithms. So how has this fund, Derwent Capital Markets, performed so far? Its a hedge fund, so the information isn’t exactly public.

Market prognostication fascinates the mind of every investor. If there were just one way to know what stocks will do — and no one else were privy to this information — the lucky fortune-teller would never have to worry about money again.

Photo: JoshSemans
Wired, Indiana Daily Student

Published or updated August 17, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Money Beagle

Interesting but some investment firm will figure a way to game the system so that when people start using this, they get their money taken. Typical opportunity for a Wall Street ‘gotcha money’ grab.

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

Does the mood patterns only apply to twitter or does it hold true for other mood indicators as well?

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avatar Jan

Made me think of this Dutch company: http://www.sntmnt.com/ “Realtime monitoring and analysis of online sentiment surrounding 25 AEX funds.”…

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avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

this is pretty wild, but i do not think this will ever filter down to be useful to the average investor.

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

I agree. I don’t think the average investor is going to be able to spend time discerning one hot stock pick from another in 140 characters or less.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

Somehow I do not think that I would trust the average Twitter user.

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avatar Kelsey

It’s definitely accurate to say, “public mood most likely has an influence on investors’ trades.” After all, that’s what the stock market is all about- the public sentiment on a certain stock. If everyone gets into a panic about one stock, most people begin to analyze their own investment in that stock.

I think it’s very interesting that someone decided to study twitter. Twitter is the epicenter of what millions of people are thinking, all in 140 characters or less. People have to get to the point, and fast. That’s an easy environment to pull analytics from.

This is definitely something I’ll be keeping in mind, “the moods measured on Twitter lined up with stock market movements — but three or four days in advance of those movements rather than as a result of the market activity.”

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