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Estimated correlation matrices and portfolio optimization

Listed author(s):
  • Pafka, Szilárd
  • Kondor, Imre

Correlations of returns on various assets play a central role in financial theory and also in many practical applications. From a theoretical point of view, the main interest lies in the proper description of the structure and dynamics of correlations, whereas for the practitioner the emphasis is on the ability of the models to provide adequate inputs for the numerous portfolio and risk management procedures used in the financial industry. The theory of portfolios, initiated by Markowitz, has suffered from the “curse of dimensions” from the very outset. Over the past decades a large number of different techniques have been developed to tackle this problem and reduce the effective dimension of large bank portfolios, but the efficiency and reliability of these procedures are extremely hard to assess or compare. In this paper, we propose a model (simulation)-based approach which can be used for the systematical testing of all these dimensional reduction techniques. To illustrate the usefulness of our framework, we develop several toy models that display some of the main characteristic features of empirical correlations and generate artificial time series from them. Then, we regard these time series as empirical data and reconstruct the corresponding correlation matrices which will inevitably contain a certain amount of noise, due to the finiteness of the time series. Next, we apply several correlation matrix estimators and dimension reduction techniques introduced in the literature and/or applied in practice. As in our artificial world the only source of error is the finite length of the time series and, in addition, the “true” model, hence also the “true” correlation matrix, are precisely known, therefore in sharp contrast with empirical studies, we can precisely compare the performance of the various noise reduction techniques. One of our recurrent observations is that the recently introduced filtering technique based on random matrix theory performs consistently well in all the investigated cases. Based on this experience, we believe that our simulation-based approach can also be useful for the systematic investigation of several related problems of current interest in finance.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications.

Volume (Year): 343 (2004)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 623-634

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Handle: RePEc:eee:phsmap:v:343:y:2004:i:c:p:623-634
DOI: 10.1016/j.physa.2004.05.079
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