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Disentangling the role of variance and covariance information in portfolio selection problems

Andre Santos ()

Quantitative Finance, 2019, vol. 19, issue 1, 57-76

Abstract: The covariation among financial asset returns is often a key ingredient used in the construction of optimal portfolios. Estimating covariances from data, however, is challenging due to the potential influence of estimation error, specially in high-dimensional problems, which can impact negatively the performance of the resulting portfolios. We address this question by putting forward a simple approach to disentangle the role of variance and covariance information in the case of mean-variance efficient portfolios. Specifically, mean-variance portfolios can be represented as a two-fund rule: one fund is a fully invested portfolio that depends on diagonal covariance elements, whereas the other is a long-short, self financed portfolio associated with the presence of non-zero off-diagonal covariance elements. We characterize the contribution of each of these two components to the overall performance in terms of out-of-sample returns, risk, risk-adjusted returns and turnover. Finally, we provide an empirical illustration of the proposed portfolio decomposition using both simulated and real market data.

Date: 2019
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