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Nonlinear shrinkage of the covariance matrix for portfolio selection: Markowitz meets Goldilocks

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  • Olivier Ledoit
  • Michael Wolf

Abstract

Markowitz (1952) portfolio selection requires estimates of (i) the vector of expected returns and (ii) the covariance matrix of returns. Many proposals to address the first question exist already. This paper addresses the second question. We promote a new nonlinear shrinkage estimator of the covariance matrix that is more flexible than previous linear shrinkage estimators and has 'just the right number' of free parameters (that is, the Goldilocks principle). In a stylized setting, the nonlinear shrinkage estimator is asymptotically optimal for portfolio selection. In addition to theoretical analysis, we establish superior real-life performance of our new estimator using backtest exercises.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics - University of Zurich in its series ECON - Working Papers with number 137.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
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Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:137

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Keywords: Large-dimensional asymptotics; Markowitz portfolio selection; nonlinear shrinkage;

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  1. Olivier Ledoit & Michael Wolf, 2013. "Spectrum estimation: a unified framework for covariance matrix estimation and PCA in large dimensions," ECON - Working Papers 105, Department of Economics - University of Zurich, revised Jul 2013.
  2. Oliver Ledoit & Michael Wolf, 2008. "Robust Performance Hypothesis Testing with the Sharpe Ratio," IEW - Working Papers 320, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Victor DeMiguel & Lorenzo Garlappi & Francisco J. Nogales & Raman Uppal, 2009. "A Generalized Approach to Portfolio Optimization: Improving Performance by Constraining Portfolio Norms," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(5), pages 798-812, May.
  4. Gabriel Frahm & Christoph Memmel, 2010. "Dominating Estimators for Minimum-Variance Portfolios," Post-Print hal-00741629, HAL.
  5. Michael W. Brandt & Pedro Santa-Clara & Rossen Valkanov, 2009. "Parametric Portfolio Policies: Exploiting Characteristics in the Cross-Section of Equity Returns," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(9), pages 3411-3447, September.
  6. Olivier Ledoit & Michael Wolf, 2013. "Optimal estimation of a large-dimensional covariance matrix under Stein’s loss," ECON - Working Papers 122, Department of Economics - University of Zurich, revised Dec 2013.
  7. Tu, Jun & Zhou, Guofu, 2011. "Markowitz meets Talmud: A combination of sophisticated and naive diversification strategies," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 204-215, January.
  8. Ledoit, Olivier & Wolf, Michael, 2004. "A well-conditioned estimator for large-dimensional covariance matrices," Journal of Multivariate Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 365-411, February.
  9. Jegadeesh, Narasimhan & Titman, Sheridan, 1993. " Returns to Buying Winners and Selling Losers: Implications for Stock Market Efficiency," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 48(1), pages 65-91, March.
  10. Olivier Ledoit & Michael Wolf, 2001. "Improved estimation of the covariance matrix of stock returns with an application to portofolio selection," Economics Working Papers 586, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  11. Ravi Jagannathan & Tongshu Ma, 2002. "Risk Reduction in Large Portfolios: Why Imposing the Wrong Constraints Helps," NBER Working Papers 8922, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Ross, Stephen A., 1976. "The arbitrage theory of capital asset pricing," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 341-360, December.
  13. Harry Markowitz, 1952. "Portfolio Selection," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 7(1), pages 77-91, 03.
  14. Kan, Raymond & Zhou, Guofu, 2007. "Optimal Portfolio Choice with Parameter Uncertainty," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(03), pages 621-656, September.
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