Identifying States of a Financial Market
The understanding of complex systems has become a central issue because complex systems exist in a wide range of scientific disciplines. Time series are typical experimental results we have about complex systems. In the analysis of such time series, stationary situations have been extensively studied and correlations have been found to be a very powerful tool. Yet most natural processes are non-stationary. In particular, in times of crisis, accident or trouble, stationarity is lost. As examples we may think of financial markets, biological systems, reactors or the weather. In non-stationary situations analysis becomes very difficult and noise is a severe problem. Following a natural urge to search for order in the system, we endeavor to define states through which systems pass and in which they remain for short times. Success in this respect would allow to get a better understanding of the system and might even lead to methods for controlling the system in more efficient ways. We here concentrate on financial markets because of the easy access we have to good data and because of the strong non-stationary effects recently seen. We analyze the S&P 500 stocks in the 19-year period 1992-2010. Here, we propose such an above mentioned definition of state for a financial market and use it to identify points of drastic change in the correlation structure. These points are mapped to occurrences of financial crises. We find that a wide variety of characteristic correlation structure patterns exist in the observation time window, and that these characteristic correlation structure patterns can be classified into several typical "market states". Using this classification we recognize transitions between different market states. A similarity measure we develop thus affords means of understanding changes in states and of recognizing developments not previously seen.