Letters to Nature

Nature 397, 498-500 (11 February 1999) | doi:10.1038/17290; Received 29 October 1998; Accepted 27 November 1998

Scaling and criticality in a stochastic multi-agent model of a financial market

Thomas Lux1 & Michele Marchesi2

  1. Department of Economics, University of Bonn, Adenauerallee 24-42, 53113 Bonn, Germany
  2. Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Cagliari, Piazza d'Armi, 09123 Cagliari, Italy

Correspondence to: Thomas Lux1 Correspondence and requests for materals should be addressed to T.L. (e-mail: Email: lux@iiw.uni-bonn.de.)

Financial prices have been found to exhibit some universal characteristics1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 that resemble the scaling laws characterizing physical systems in which large numbers of units interact. This raises the question of whether scaling in finance emerges in a similar way — from the interactions of a large ensemble of market participants. However, such an explanation is in contradiction to the prevalent 'efficient market hypothesis'7 in economics, which assumes that the movements of financial prices are an immediate and unbiased reflection of incoming news about future earning prospects. Within this hypothesis, scaling in price changes would simply reflect similar scaling in the 'input' signals that influence them. Here we describe a multi-agent model of financial markets which supports the idea that scaling arises from mutual interactions of participants. Although the 'news arrival process' in our model lacks both power-law scaling and any temporal dependence in volatility, we find that it generates such behaviour as a result of interactions between agents.