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Synchronizing different markets

The more the usage the more the mix of ideas and unexpected scenarios that backtrader has to face. And with each new one, a challenge to see if the platform can live up to the expectations set forth when development started, flexibility and ease of use were the targets and Python was chosen as the cornerstone.

Ticket #76 raises the question as to whether synchronizing markets with different trading calendars can be done. Direct attempts to do so fail and the issue creator wonders why backtrader is not looking at the date.

Before any answer is delivered some thought has to be put into:

  • Behavior of indicators for the days which do not align

The answer to the latter is:

  • The platform is as much as possible date and time agnostic and will not look at the contents of the fields to evaluate those concepts

Taken into account the fact that stock market prices are datetime series the above can hold up true up to certain limits. In the case of multiple datas the following design considerations apply:

  • The 1st data added to cerebro is the datamaster

  • All other datas have to be time aligned/synchronized with it never being able to overtake (in datetime terms) the datamaster

Putting together the 3 bullet points from above delivers the mix experienced by the issue creator. The scenario:

  • Calendar Year: 2012

  • Data 0: ^GSPC (or S&P 500 for friends)

  • Data 1: ^GDAXI (or Dax Index for friends)

Running a custom script to see how the data is synchronized by backtrader:

$ ./ --online --data1 '^GSPC' --data0 '^GDAXI'

And the output:

0001,  True, data0, 2012-01-03T23:59:59, 2012-01-03T23:59:59, data1
0002,  True, data0, 2012-01-04T23:59:59, 2012-01-04T23:59:59, data1
0003,  True, data0, 2012-01-05T23:59:59, 2012-01-05T23:59:59, data1
0004,  True, data0, 2012-01-06T23:59:59, 2012-01-06T23:59:59, data1
0005,  True, data0, 2012-01-09T23:59:59, 2012-01-09T23:59:59, data1
0006,  True, data0, 2012-01-10T23:59:59, 2012-01-10T23:59:59, data1
0007,  True, data0, 2012-01-11T23:59:59, 2012-01-11T23:59:59, data1
0008,  True, data0, 2012-01-12T23:59:59, 2012-01-12T23:59:59, data1
0009,  True, data0, 2012-01-13T23:59:59, 2012-01-13T23:59:59, data1
0010, False, data0, 2012-01-17T23:59:59, 2012-01-16T23:59:59, data1
0011, False, data0, 2012-01-18T23:59:59, 2012-01-17T23:59:59, data1

As soon as 2012-01-16 the trading calendars diverge. The data0 is the datamaster (^GSPC) and even if data1 (^GDAXI) would have a bar to deliver on 2012-01-16, this wasn’t a trading day for the S&P 500.

The best that backtrader can do with the aforementioned design restrictions when the next trading day for the ^GSPC comes in, the 2012-01-17 is deliver the next not yet processed date for ^GDAXI which is the 2012-01-16.

And the synchronization problem accumulates with each diverging day. At the end of 2012 it looks like follows:

0249, False, data0, 2012-12-28T23:59:59, 2012-12-19T23:59:59, data1
0250, False, data0, 2012-12-31T23:59:59, 2012-12-20T23:59:59, data1

The reason should be obvious: the Europeans trade more days than the Americans.

In the Ticket #76 the poster shows what zipline does. Let’s look at the 2012-01-13 - 2012-01-17 conundrum:

0009 : True : 2012-01-13 : close 1289.09 - 2012-01-13 :  close 6143.08
0010 : False : 2012-01-13 : close 1289.09 - 2012-01-16 :  close 6220.01
0011 : True : 2012-01-17 : close 1293.67 - 2012-01-17 :  close 6332.93

Blistering barnacles! The data for 2012-01-13 has been simply duplicated without apparently asking the user for permission. Imho, this shouldn’t be because the end user of the platform cannot undo this spontaneous addition.


Except for a brief look at zipline, the author doesn’t know if this is the standard behavior, configured by the script developer and if it can be undone

Once we have seen that the others let’s try again with backtrader using the accumulated wisdom: the Europeans trade more often than the Americans. Let’s reverse the roles of ^GSPC and ^GDAXI and see the outcome:

$ ./ --online --data1 '^GSPC' --data0 '^GDAXI'

The output (skipping to 2012-01-13 directly):

0009,  True, data0, 2012-01-13T23:59:59, 2012-01-13T23:59:59, data1
0010, False, data0, 2012-01-16T23:59:59, 2012-01-13T23:59:59, data1
0011,  True, data0, 2012-01-17T23:59:59, 2012-01-17T23:59:59, data1

Blistering barnacles again! backtrader has also duplicated the 2012-01-13 value for data1 (in this case ^GSPC) as a match for data0 (now ^GDAXI) delivery of 2012-01-16.

And even better:

  • Synchronization is reachieved with the next date: 2012-01-17

The same re-synchronization is seen again soon:

0034,  True, data0, 2012-02-17T23:59:59, 2012-02-17T23:59:59, data1
0035, False, data0, 2012-02-20T23:59:59, 2012-02-17T23:59:59, data1
0036,  True, data0, 2012-02-21T23:59:59, 2012-02-21T23:59:59, data1

Followed by not such an easy re-sync:

0068,  True, data0, 2012-04-05T23:59:59, 2012-04-05T23:59:59, data1
0069, False, data0, 2012-04-10T23:59:59, 2012-04-09T23:59:59, data1
0129, False, data0, 2012-07-04T23:59:59, 2012-07-03T23:59:59, data1
0130,  True, data0, 2012-07-05T23:59:59, 2012-07-05T23:59:59, data1

Such episodes keep repeating until the last bar for ^GDAXI is delivered:

0256,  True, data0, 2012-12-31T23:59:59, 2012-12-31T23:59:59, data1

The reason for this synchronization issues is that backtrader does NOT duplicate the data.

  • Once the datamaster has delivered a new bar the other datas are asked to deliver

  • If no bar can be delivered for the current datetime of the datamaster (because it, for example, would be overtaken) the next best data is, so to say, re-delivered

    And this is a bar with an already seen date

Proper Synchronization

But not all hope is lost. backtrader can deliver. Let’s use filters. This piece of technology in backtrader allows manipulating the data before it hits the deepest parts of the platform and for example indicators are calculated.


delivering is a perception matter and therefore what backtrader delivers may not be what the recipient is expecting as the delivery

The actual code

from __future__ import (absolute_import, division, print_function,

import datetime

class WeekDaysFiller(object):
    '''Bar Filler to add missing calendar days to trading days'''
    # kickstart value for date comparisons
    lastdt = datetime.datetime.max.toordinal()

    def __init__(self, data, fillclose=False):
        self.fillclose = fillclose
        self.voidbar = [float('Nan')] * data.size()  # init a void bar

    def __call__(self, data):
        '''Empty bars (NaN) or with last close price are added for weekdays with no

          - data: the data source to filter/process

          - True (always): bars are removed (even if put back on the stack)

        dt = data.datetime.dt()  # current date in int format
        lastdt = self.lastdt + 1  # move the last seen data once forward

        while lastdt < dt:  # loop over gap bars
            if < 6:  # Mon-Fri
                # Fill in date and add new bar to the stack
                if self.fillclose:
                    self.voidbar = [self.lastclose] * data.size()
                self.voidbar[-1] = float(lastdt) + data.sessionend

            lastdt += 1  # move lastdt forward

        self.lastdt = dt  # keep a record of the last seen date

        self.lastclose = data.close[0]
        data._save2stack(erase=True)  # dt bar to the stack and out of stream
        return True  # bars are on the stack (new and original)

The test script is already fitted with the capability to use it:

$ ./ --online --data0 '^GSPC' --data1 '^GDAXI' --filler

With --filler the WeekDaysFiller is added to both data0 and data1. And the output:

0001,  True, data0, 2012-01-03T23:59:59, 2012-01-03T23:59:59, data1
0009,  True, data0, 2012-01-13T23:59:59, 2012-01-13T23:59:59, data1
0010,  True, data0, 2012-01-16T23:59:59, 2012-01-16T23:59:59, data1
0011,  True, data0, 2012-01-17T23:59:59, 2012-01-17T23:59:59, data1

The 1st conundrum at 2012-01-13 - 2012-01-17 is gone. And the entire set is synchronized:

0256,  True, data0, 2012-12-25T23:59:59, 2012-12-25T23:59:59, data1
0257,  True, data0, 2012-12-26T23:59:59, 2012-12-26T23:59:59, data1
0258,  True, data0, 2012-12-27T23:59:59, 2012-12-27T23:59:59, data1
0259,  True, data0, 2012-12-28T23:59:59, 2012-12-28T23:59:59, data1
0260,  True, data0, 2012-12-31T23:59:59, 2012-12-31T23:59:59, data1

Something worth noticing:

  • With ^GSPC as data0 we had 250 lines (the index traded 250 days in 2012)

  • With ^GDAXI we data0 had 256 lines (the index traded 256 days in 2012)

  • And with the WeekDaysFiller in place the length of both datas has been extended to 260

    Adding 52 * 2 (weekends and days in a weekend), we would end up with 364. The remaining day until the regular 365 days in a year was for sure a Saturday or a Sunday.

The filter is filling with NaN values for the days in which no trading took place for the given data. Let’s plot it:

$ ./ --online --data0 '^GSPC' --data1 '^GDAXI' --filler --plot


Filled days are quite obvious:

  • The gap in between bars is there

  • The gap is even more obvious for the volume plot

A 2nd plot will try to answer the question at the top: what happens with indicators?. Remember that the new bars have been given a value of NaN (that’s why they are not displayed):

$ ./ --online --data0 '^GSPC' --data1 '^GDAXI' --filler --plot --sma 10


Re-blistering barnacles! The Simple Moving Average has broken the space time continuum and jumps some bars with no solution of continuity. This is of course the effect of filling up with Not a Number aka NaN: mathematic operations no longer make sense.

If instead of NaN the last seen closing price is used:

$ ./ --online --data0 '^GSPC' --data1 '^GDAXI' --filler --plot --sma 10 --fillclose

The plot looks a lot nicer with a regular SMA for the entire 260 days



Synchronizing two instruments with different trading calendars is a matter of making decisions and compromises. backtrader needs time aligned data to work with multiple datas and different trading calendars don’t help.

The use of the WeekDaysFiller described here can alleviate the situation but it is by no means a universal panacea, because with which values to fill is a matter of long and prolonged consideration.

Script Code and Usage

Available as sample in the sources of backtrader:

$ ./ --help
usage: [-h] [--online] --data0 DATA0 [--data1 DATA1]
                          [--sma SMA] [--fillclose] [--filler] [--filler0]
                          [--filler1] [--fromdate FROMDATE] [--todate TODATE]

Sample for aligning with trade

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --online              Fetch data online from Yahoo (default: False)
  --data0 DATA0         Data 0 to be read in (default: None)
  --data1 DATA1         Data 1 to be read in (default: None)
  --sma SMA             Add a sma to the datas (default: 0)
  --fillclose           Fill with Close price instead of NaN (default: False)
  --filler              Add Filler to Datas 0 and 1 (default: False)
  --filler0             Add Filler to Data 0 (default: False)
  --filler1             Add Filler to Data 1 (default: False)
  --fromdate FROMDATE, -f FROMDATE
                        Starting date in YYYY-MM-DD format (default:
  --todate TODATE, -t TODATE
                        Ending date in YYYY-MM-DD format (default: 2012-12-31)
  --plot                Do plot (default: False)

The code:

from __future__ import (absolute_import, division, print_function,

import argparse
import datetime

import backtrader as bt
import backtrader.feeds as btfeeds
import backtrader.indicators as btind
import backtrader.utils.flushfile

# from wkdaysfiller import WeekDaysFiller
from weekdaysfiller import WeekDaysFiller

class St(bt.Strategy):
    params = (('sma', 0),)

    def __init__(self):
        if self.p.sma:
            btind.SMA(self.data0, period=self.p.sma)
            btind.SMA(self.data1, period=self.p.sma)

    def next(self):
        dtequal = (self.data0.datetime.datetime() ==

        txt = ''
        txt += '%04d, %5s' % (len(self), str(dtequal))
        txt += ', data0, %s' % self.data0.datetime.datetime().isoformat()
        txt += ', %s, data1' % self.data1.datetime.datetime().isoformat()

def runstrat():
    args = parse_args()

    fromdate = datetime.datetime.strptime(args.fromdate, '%Y-%m-%d')
    todate = datetime.datetime.strptime(args.todate, '%Y-%m-%d')

    cerebro = bt.Cerebro(stdstats=False)

    DataFeed = btfeeds.YahooFinanceCSVData
        DataFeed = btfeeds.YahooFinanceData

    data0 = DataFeed(dataname=args.data0, fromdate=fromdate, todate=todate)

    if args.data1:
        data1 = DataFeed(dataname=args.data1, fromdate=fromdate, todate=todate)
        data1 = data0.clone()

    if args.filler or args.filler0:
        data0.addfilter(WeekDaysFiller, fillclose=args.fillclose)

    if args.filler or args.filler1:
        data1.addfilter(WeekDaysFiller, fillclose=args.fillclose)


    cerebro.addstrategy(St, sma=args.sma), preload=True)

    if args.plot:

def parse_args():
    parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(
        description='Sample for aligning with trade ')

    parser.add_argument('--online', required=False, action='store_true',
                        help='Fetch data online from Yahoo')

    parser.add_argument('--data0', required=True, help='Data 0 to be read in')
    parser.add_argument('--data1', required=False, help='Data 1 to be read in')

    parser.add_argument('--sma', required=False, default=0, type=int,
                        help='Add a sma to the datas')

    parser.add_argument('--fillclose', required=False, action='store_true',
                        help='Fill with Close price instead of NaN')

    parser.add_argument('--filler', required=False, action='store_true',
                        help='Add Filler to Datas 0 and 1')

    parser.add_argument('--filler0', required=False, action='store_true',
                        help='Add Filler to Data 0')

    parser.add_argument('--filler1', required=False, action='store_true',
                        help='Add Filler to Data 1')

    parser.add_argument('--fromdate', '-f', default='2012-01-01',
                        help='Starting date in YYYY-MM-DD format')

    parser.add_argument('--todate', '-t', default='2012-12-31',
                        help='Ending date in YYYY-MM-DD format')

    parser.add_argument('--plot', required=False, action='store_true',
                        help='Do plot')

    return parser.parse_args()

if __name__ == '__main__':