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Should Benchmark Indices Have Alpha? Revisiting Performance Evaluation

  • Martijn Cremers
  • Antti Petajisto
  • Eric Zitzewitz

Standard Fama-French and Carhart models produce economically and statistically significant nonzero alphas, even for passive benchmark indices such as the S&P 500 and Russell 2000. We find that these alphas arise primarily from the disproportionate weight the Fama-French factors place on small value stocks, which have performed well, and from the CRSP value-weighted market index, which is historically a downward-biased benchmark for U.S. stocks. We propose small methodological changes to the Fama-French factors to eliminate the nonzero alphas, and we also propose factor models based on common and tradable benchmark indices. Both kinds of alternative models improve performance evaluation of actively managed portfolios, with the index-based models exhibiting the best performance.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18050.

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Date of creation: May 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18050
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  1. Ferson, Wayne E & Schadt, Rudi W, 1996. " Measuring Fund Strategy and Performance in Changing Economic Conditions," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(2), pages 425-61, June.
  2. Pastor, Lubos & Stambaugh, Robert F., 2002. "Mutual fund performance and seemingly unrelated assets," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 315-349, March.
  3. William Goetzmann & Zoran Ivkovich & K. Rouwenhorst, 2000. "Day Trading International Mutual Funds: Evidence And Policy Solutions," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm138, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Jun 2001.
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  7. K. J. Martijn Cremers & Antti Petajisto, 2009. "How Active Is Your Fund Manager? A New Measure That Predicts Performance," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(9), pages 3329-3365, September.
  8. Martijn Cremers & Antti Petajisto, 2006. "How Active is Your Fund Manager? A New Measure That Predicts Performance," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2370, Yale School of Management, revised 01 May 2009.
  9. Petajisto, Antti, 2011. "The index premium and its hidden cost for index funds," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 271-288, March.
  10. Ross, Stephen A., 1976. "The arbitrage theory of capital asset pricing," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 341-360, December.
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