Revisiting the use of web search data for stock market movements
Advances in Big Data make it possible to make short-term forecasts for market trends from previously unexplored sources. Trading strategies were recently developed by exploiting a link between the online search activity of certain terms semantically related to finance and market movements. Here we build on these earlier results by exploring a data-driven strategy which adaptively leverages the Google Correlate service and automatically chooses a new set of search terms for every trading decision. In a backtesting experiment run from 2008 to 2017 we obtained a 499% cumulative return which compares favourably with benchmark strategies. A crowdsourcing exercise reveals that the term selection process preferentially selects highly specific terms semantically related to finance (e.g. Wells Fargo Bank), which may capture the transient interests of investors, but at the cost of a shorter span of validity. The adaptive strategy quickly updates the set of search terms when a better combination is found, leading to more consistent predictability. We anticipate that this adaptive decision framework can be of value not only for financial applications, but also in other areas of computational social science, where linkages between facets of collective human behavior and online searches can be inferred from digital footprint data.