Nonlinear shrinkage of the covariance matrix for portfolio selection: Markowitz meets Goldilocks
Markowitz (1952) portfolio selection requires estimates of (i) the vector of expected returns and (ii) the covariance matrix of returns. Many successful proposals to address the first estimation problem exist by now. This paper addresses the second estimation problem. We promote a 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 to estimate (that is, the Goldilocks principle). It turns out that this number is the same as the number of assets in the investment universe. Under certain high-level assumptions, we show that our nonlinear shrinkage estimator is asymptotically optimal for portfolio selection in the setting where the number of assets is of the same magnitude as the sample size. For example, this is the relevant setting for mutual fund managers who invest in a large universe of stocks. In addition to theoretical analysis, we study the real-life performance of our new estimator using backtest exercises on historical stock return data. We find that it performs better than previous proposals for portfolio selection from the literature and, in particular, that it dominates linear shrinkage.
|Date of creation:||Jan 2014|
|Date of revision:||Dec 2014|
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