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Reducing Estimation Risk in Mean-Variance Portfolios with Machine Learning


  • Daniel Kinn


In portfolio analysis, the traditional approach of replacing population moments with sample counterparts may lead to suboptimal portfolio choices. I show that optimal portfolio weights can be estimated using a machine learning (ML) framework, where the outcome to be predicted is a constant and the vector of explanatory variables is the asset returns. It follows that ML specifically targets estimation risk when estimating portfolio weights, and that "off-the-shelf" ML algorithms can be used to estimate the optimal portfolio in the presence of parameter uncertainty. The framework nests the traditional approach and recently proposed shrinkage approaches as special cases. By relying on results from the ML literature, I derive new insights for existing approaches and propose new estimation methods. Based on simulation studies and several datasets, I find that ML significantly reduces estimation risk compared to both the traditional approach and the equal weight strategy.

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  • Daniel Kinn, 2018. "Reducing Estimation Risk in Mean-Variance Portfolios with Machine Learning," Papers 1804.01764,, revised Jul 2018.
  • Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:1804.01764

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Frost, Peter A. & Savarino, James E., 1986. "An Empirical Bayes Approach to Efficient Portfolio Selection," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(3), pages 293-305, September.
    2. 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.
    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. Brodie, Joshua & Daubechies, Ingrid & De Mol, Christine & Giannone, Domenico, 2007. "Sparse and Stable Markowitz Portfolios," CEPR Discussion Papers 6474, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. repec:bla:jfinan:v:58:y:2003:i:4:p:1651-1683 is not listed on IDEAS
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