Quant Guy's list is really impressive! However, I am not sure they will readily solve your specific problem? I think there is one missing piece.
Please note that imputing missing data is a very broad topic. There are many recipes to impute missings but that's for their specific 'assumptions' and purposes. They do not necessarily intend to well address your specific problem: the regime change.
To best address your specific problem, you have to quantitatively define the market regime as a part of your adjusting formula. Otherwise, it wouldn't logically make sense that your model is aware of and able to react to it properly.
In Stambaugh's '97 research (which I think is the most relevant reference Qaunt Guy listed), Stambaugh's formula actually used B = V21*V11^(-1), i.e. Beta, to make adjustment. I have to say that not soon after, the history has taught us how vulnerable the beta is for several times, especially in a rapidly changing market environment (but I guess the application of Beta was still novel and not that fragile in the epoch of '90s?).
Now let's define market regime quantitatively. In common sense, average correlation is a pretty neat regime indicator. Simple and intuitive, easy to employ in a proprietary model (and I feel that's why Ledoit-Wolf's model is that popular :)). But yes, as Branson pointed out in Ian's answer, there is possibility that we will get very undesirable results.
One of the potential solutions is to map the intuitive indicator to proper space/dimension for operations, and then transform it back. This is a very useful technique that is commonly employed in machine learning. Correlation lives in a very constrained space [-1,1] and this greatly restricts what we can do about it. (Please don't think covariance will be less constrained. When you put them together in a matrix, trust me, it will be as constrained as correlation. Correlation is actually easier to work with to see possible problems)
Now, how about mapping correlation to an equally intuitive (at least to me) but less constrained space,
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) = Correlation^2 / (1 - Correlation^2)
** Correlation = sqrt(snr/(1+snr))
and refine my regime indicator as the median of SNR. (*I rarely use average in financial applications)
I don't know how people feel about SNR, but I feel very comfortable with a background in EE. In communication system, SNR is exactly the regime (environment) indicator that characterizes a channel. I feel a significant analogy here.
The remaining work will be straightforward. I will use the ratio of my regime indicators as a multiplier to adjust young asset's pairwise SNRs against other assets. Then map the final adjustment back to correlations.
You will at least gain the following benefits using this approach:
- Correlations won't blow up as in your first attempt
- Original ranking of pairiwise correlation (with short-lived assets) is preserved
- Much easier to implement. No need to impute missing data.
- Intuitive (to me), east to understand what's going on in your code.
- This approach is compatible with many other techniques in Quant Guy's references such as Ledoit-Wolf Shrinkage, RMT, and weighted representative covariance matrices.
Last but not least, this is a collaboratory idea with one of my most brilliant colleagues and close friend, Manish Agarwal.