IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

On the origin of power law tails in price fluctuations


  • J. Doyne Farmer
  • Fabrizio Lillo


In a recent Nature paper, Gabaix et al. \cite{Gabaix03} presented a theory to explain the power law tail of price fluctuations. The main points of their theory are that volume fluctuations, which have a power law tail with exponent roughly -1.5, are modulated by the average market impact function, which describes the response of prices to transactions. They argue that the average market impact function follows a square root law, which gives power law tails for prices with exponent roughly -3. We demonstrate that the long-memory nature of order flow invalidates their statistical analysis of market impact, and present a more careful analysis that properly takes this into account. This makes it clear that the functional form of the average market impact function varies from market to market, and in some cases from stock to stock. In fact, for both the London Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange the average market impact function grows much slower than a square root law; this implies that the exponent for price fluctuations predicted by modulations of volume fluctuations is much too big. We find that for LSE stocks the distribution of transaction volumes does not even have a power law tail. This makes it clear that volume fluctuations do not determine the power law tail of price returns.

Suggested Citation

  • J. Doyne Farmer & Fabrizio Lillo, 2003. "On the origin of power law tails in price fluctuations," Papers cond-mat/0309416,, revised Jan 2004.
  • Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:cond-mat/0309416

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Latest version
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eric Smith & J Doyne Farmer & Laszlo Gillemot & Supriya Krishnamurthy, 2003. "Statistical theory of the continuous double auction," Quantitative Finance, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(6), pages 481-514.
    2. Vasiliki Plerou & Parameswaran Gopikrishnan & Luis. A. Nunes Amaral & Xavier Gabaix & H. Eugene Stanley, 1999. "Economic Fluctuations and Diffusion," Papers cond-mat/9912051,
    3. Parameswaran Gopikrishnan & Vasiliki Plerou & Xavier Gabaix & H. Eugene Stanley, 2000. "Statistical Properties of Share Volume Traded in Financial Markets," Papers cond-mat/0008113,
    4. V. Plerou & P. Gopikrishnan & L. A. N. Amaral & M. Meyer & H. E. Stanley, 1999. "Scaling of the distribution of price fluctuations of individual companies," Papers cond-mat/9907161,
    5. J. Doyne Farmer & Laszlo Gillemot & Fabrizio Lillo & Szabolcs Mike & Anindya Sen, 2004. "What really causes large price changes?," Quantitative Finance, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(4), pages 383-397.
    6. J. Doyne Farmer & Paolo Patelli & Ilija I. Zovko, 2003. "The Predictive Power of Zero Intelligence in Financial Markets," Papers cond-mat/0309233,, revised Feb 2004.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:arx:papers:cond-mat/0309416. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (arXiv administrators). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.