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A Sharper Angle on Optimization

Maxim Golts

State Street Global Advisors

Gregory C. Jones


October 5, 2009

The classical mean-variance optimization takes expected returns and variances and produces portfolio positions. In this paper we discuss the direction and the magnitude of the positions vector separately, and focus on the former. We quantify the distortions of the mean-variance optimization process by looking at the angle between the vector of expected returns and the vector of optimized portfolio positions. We relate this angle to the condition numbers of the covariance matrix and show how to control it by employing robust optimization techniques. The resulting portfolios are more intuitive and investment-relevant, in particular with lower leverage of the “noise” alphas at the expense of lower ex-ante Sharpe Ratio.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 16

Keywords: mean-variance optimization, covariance matrix, condition number, leverage, Sharpe Ratio

JEL Classification: G11, C61

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Date posted: October 7, 2009 ; Last revised: November 19, 2009

Suggested Citation

Golts, Maxim and Jones, Gregory C., A Sharper Angle on Optimization (October 5, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1483412 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1483412

Contact Information

Maxim Golts (Contact Author)
State Street Global Advisors ( email )
United States
+1 617 664 8149 (Phone)
Gregory C. Jones
GMO ( email )
40 Rowes Wharf
Boston, MA 02110
United States
617 346 7664 (Phone)
617 478 9509 (Fax)
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References:  18