Stock markets, volatile and unpredictable in nature, have always been superstitious places.
Now Shing-Tat Chung, an artist-turned-fund manager in London, has created a superstitious trading algorithm that plays the market using numerology and lunar cycles.
The program was launched on the spread betting website GKFX on Friday and begins trading properly this week. With an initial pot of £4,600 – invested by members of the public over the project's website – the program is due to run for a year.
Chung's artistic work explores the human tendency to adopt superstitious practices in environments we cannot control. The stock market is the latest environment he has chosen to study.
"It's just as much of a thought experiment as a business plan to make money," he said.
The algorithm behind the Superstitious Fund is triskaidekaphobic – it avoids the number 13, especially a Friday – is drawn to the number 8 (considered lucky in several east Asian cultures), and even invents its own luck. The phases of the moon are also added to the equation. Ill-omened phases cause the program to trade smaller amounts and less often.
Chung, who is due to receive a Masters degree from the Royal College of Art in two weeks' time, said: "It generates its own lucky and unlucky numbers; after every single trade it ranks certain data and uses this data for a new logic in trading.
"The full moon and lunar eclipse are bad but the new moon is pretty good. On a solar eclipse it goes short, which means it bets that the market will go down. As it's a solar eclipse it risks more on that short position."
As with a regular fund, Chung will release quarterly performance reports to investors, which will also form part of a touring exhibition. He plans to hold meetings where investors can attempt to raise trading performance with supernatural rituals.
"It's something I want to play around with after I graduate. I think it will be really fun to keep that process going." he said.
George Potts at GDP Capital has invested £1,000 in the experiment as well as providing advice on building financial robots and tidying up contracts. He also put Chung in contact with the celebrity fortune teller Judith de Corti, who advised him that Friday 1 June would be an auspicious day to launch the project.
The initial Superstitious Fund portfolio includes investment in the poker pro Andrew Moseley and a variety of "clean tech" industries.
Mr Potts told The Independent: "My first thought was that this could be prone to catastrophic losses, but it was a remarkable thought nonetheless. So we had a great meeting in Manchester and by the end I was converted to support him with investment and also sponsorship for the fund.
The legendary market players Warren Buffet and George Soros warn against trading based on predictions, but superstition abounds nonetheless. The infamous Skyscraper Curse holds that the completion of a landmark building portends a major crash, raising some concern over the present state of London's Shard; and in the US the Super Bowl theory pits the future of the market on the football game's outcome.
The algorithm: lucky – and unlucky – signs
Full moon: The algorithm regards a full moon as a bad omen. In Greek mythology, werewolves appeared shortly after the full moon
13: The system 'fears' 13, which in China is seen as unlucky due to the number of people at the Last Supper
8: In China, eight is one of a serious of numbers regarded as lucky due to their phonetic similarity to words with positive meanings
Solar eclipse: Another bad omen – such an event was believed to signal a king's death in many ancient civilisations
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