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What is Pairs Trading and its correlation-based strategies?

What is Pairs Trading and its correlation-based strategies?

The popular strategy of Pairs trading has gained significant attention in the Indian stock market. This strategy is used by traders to take advantage of the correlation between two assets. Let's explore the fundamentals of pairs trading and delve into correlation-based strategy, focusing on its relevance in the Indian stock market. Let's delve into the fundamentals of pairs trading and explore correlation-based strategies, emphasizing their relevance in the Indian stock market.

 Understanding Pairs Trading

Pairs trading, also known as statistical arbitrage, is based on the notion that certain stocks or assets tend to move in tandem due to historical correlations. When one security in a pair outperforms or underperforms the other, the trader takes advantage of the price differential. Here's how it works:

1. Pair Selection: Traders identify a pair of assets with a historically high correlation. For example, two stocks from the same industry or sector are often chosen.

2. Establish a Pair: The trader simultaneously enters into two positions - long (buy) and short (sell) - with equal rupee amounts of both assets. This creates a market-neutral situation.

3. Monitoring: Traders continually monitor the performance of both assets. When one investment outperforms the other, the trader profits from the difference.

4. Exit Strategy: When the relationship between the two assets returns to normal, the trader exits the positions, locking in the profit.

Pairs trading is a market-neutral strategy, meaning that it aims to profit regardless of the overall market's direction. It relies on the relative performance of the chosen pair of assets.

Key Attributes of Pairs Trading

Pairs trading is a sophisticated strategy that relies on several fundamental attributes to identify and execute profitable trades. Let's explore these essential components and how they relate to them with an example of  Crude Oil and Asian paints.

1. Securities

In pairs trading, securities are the assets or stocks you choose to trade as a pair. These securities are selected based on their historical correlation, and it's crucial to pick stocks with a substantial connection. 

Example:  Asian Paints and Crude Oil are chosen based on historical correlation.

2. Relationship

The heart of pairs trading lies in the relationship between the selected pairs. Asian Paints' market impact closely mirrors that of Crude Oil due to historical correlation and requirement of raw materials as crude oil is majorly used as raw material in paint manufacturing.

3. Relationship Deviation

In pairs trading, unforeseen events or changes in market conditions can temporarily disrupt the correlation between Asian Paints and Crude Oil.

4. Impact of Deviation

The good news is that, In pairs trading, traders actively monitor for variations, and when they occur, they take advantage of the situation allowing traders to profit from re-establishing the relationship.

In the example of Asian Paints and Crude Oil:


Crude Oil

Asian Paints

Industry Type

Energy and commodities sector

Paint and coatings industry

Market Presence

It has a pervasive presence in global commodity markets and offers a high market volume target audiences, and customer bases.

Dominates only the consumer paint market and has a low market volume, target audiences, and customer bases.

Product Lines and Target Audiences

Crude Oil being a raw material for various industries has a diverse target audience, product lines, and customer bases.

It focuses on consumer goods and focuses on narrow target audience, product lines,and customer bases.

Challenges and Regulations

It is influenced by geopolitical factors, demand-supply dynamics, and international regulations in the energy sector.

Deals with market trends, consumer preferences, and environmental regulations in the paint industry

Understanding and leveraging these unique attributes of Asian Paints and Crude Oil is crucial for executing successful pairs trading strategies, and capturing opportunities within the dynamic landscape of the Indian stock market.

Correlation-Based Pairs Trading in the Indian Stock Market

Pairs trading has found fertile ground in the Indian stock market due to its unique characteristics and the presence of correlated stocks within various sectors. Here are the steps to implement correlation-based pairs trading in India:

 1. Pair Selection

The first step is to identify a pair of stocks that exhibit a strong historical correlation. Traders often look for stocks within the same sector or industry, such as two automobile manufacturers, two pharmaceutical companies, or two IT service providers, or choose stocks from two different sectors or industries like the fabric and textile industry, crude oil and paints industry, or commodities and food industry.

 2. Data Analysis

Accurate historical data is crucial for this strategy. Traders use statistical tools and software to analyze price movements, calculate the correlation coefficient, and identify instances of divergence.

 3. Establishing the Pairs

Once a fitting pair is recognized, traders initiate their positions. For instance, if Crude Oil and Asian Paints exhibit a historically strong correlation, a trader could enter a long position on Crude Oil and a short position on Asian Paints in equal proportions.

 4. Risk Management

Pairs trading does carry risks, and it's vital to have a robust risk management plan. Traders should set stop-loss orders and decide on the maximum loss they are willing to accept.

 5. Monitoring and Adjustment

Traders must continuously monitor the performance of their chosen pair. When the correlation weakens and one stock outperforms the other, the trader can lock in profits and close the positions.

 6. Market Conditions

It's essential to consider market conditions and events that can affect the correlation between the pair. For example, a change in government policies or industry-specific news can impact the correlation.


Pairs trading, with its correlation-based strategies, can offer an alternative way to profit from the Indian stock market. It is a market-neutral approach that leverages the relative movements of correlated stocks, potentially providing opportunities in both rising and falling markets.

However, it's crucial to note that pair trading is not risk-free. Traders must have a deep understanding of the assets they trade, employ risk management, and continually monitor their positions. As with any trading strategy, gaining experience and expertise is essential for success. For those willing to put in the effort, pairs trading in the Indian stock market can be a rewarding and intriguing trading approach.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: How do I select the right stocks for pair trading?

Ans: The key to successful pairs trading is identifying stocks with a strong historical correlation. Typically, traders look for stocks in the same sector or industry. In-depth data analysis and statistical tools can help you find suitable pairs.

Q2: What tools and software are helpful for pairs trading analysis in India?

Ans: Traders often rely on statistical software and financial data analysis tools to assess historical correlations, calculate correlation coefficients, and identify divergence points; however, it's suggested to go with a reliable stockbroker.

Q3: How does risk management work in pairs trading?

Ans: Effective risk management in pairs trading involves setting stop-loss orders and defining the maximum acceptable loss for each trade. It's crucial to have a risk management plan in place.

Q4: What factors impact the correlation between stock pairs in the Indian market?

Ans: Various factors can influence the correlation between stock pairs, including changes in government policies, industry-specific news, and economic conditions. Staying informed about these factors is essential for pair trading success.

Q5: Are pairs trading in the Indian stock market risk-free?

Ans: Pairs trading is not risk-free. It's a trading strategy that carries inherent risks. Traders need to continuously monitor their positions, employ risk management strategies, and have a deep understanding of the assets they trade to minimize risks and enhance profitability.


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