Portfolio Risks - Measuring Portfolio Risks

One of the concepts used in risk and return calculations is standard deviation, which measures the dispersion of actual returns around the expected return of an investment. Since standard deviation is the square root of the variance, variance is another crucial concept to know. The variance is calculated by weighting each possible dispersion by its relative probability (take the difference between the actual return and the expected return, then square the number).

The standard deviation of an investment's expected return is considered a basic measure of risk. If two potential investments had the same expected return, the one with the lower standard deviation would be considered to have less potential risk.

Risk measures
There are three other risk measures used to predict volatility and return:

  • Beta - This measures stock price volatility based solely on general market movements. Typically, the market as a whole is assigned a beta of 1.0. So, a stock or a portfolio with a beta higher than 1.0 is predicted to have a higher risk and, potentially, a higher return than the market. Conversely, if a stock (or fund) had a beta of .85, this would indicate that if the market increased by 10%, this stock (or fund) would likely return only 8.5%. However, if the market dropped 10%, this stock would likely drop only 8.5%.

    Learn how to properly use this measure to help you meet your criteria for risk within the article Beta: Gauging Price Fluctuations.


     
  • Alpha - This measures stock price volatility based on the specific characteristics of the particular security. As with beta, the higher the number, the higher the risk.

Alpha = [(sum of y) - ((b)(sum of x))]÷n

Where:
n = number of observations (36 months)
b = beta of the fund
x = rate of return for the market
y = rate of return for the fund

An alpha of 1.0 means the fund outperformed the market 1%.

  • Sharpe ratio - This is a more complex measure that uses the standard deviation of a stock or portfolio to measure volatility. This calculation measures the incremental reward of assuming incremental risk. The larger the Sharpe ratio, the greater the potential return.

Sharpe Ratio = (total return - risk free rate of return)
σ

Look Out!
The reverse of "the larger the Sharpe ratio, the greater the return" also holds true. The "lower the Sharpe ratio, the lower the potential return". If a security\'s Sharpe ratio were equal to "0", there would be no reward for taking on the higher risk, and the investor would be better off simply holding Treasuries (whose return is equal to the risk-free return component of the equation).

Stock Risk Reduction Strategies
Related Articles
  1. FA

    The Basics of The Series 79 Exam

    Passing the Series 79 exam is usually necessary for anyone who wants to work in investment banking.
  2. Term

    What is the Series 66?

    The Series 66 exam is one of two tests required to register as both a securities agent and an investment advisor.
  3. Professionals

    Breaking Down Financial Securities Licenses

    Find out which exam you need to begin your career as an investment professional.
  4. Professionals

    Career Advice: Financial Analyst Vs. Investment Banker

    Read an in-depth comparison about working as a Financial Analyst vs. working as an Investment Banker, two highly prestigious business careers.
  5. Professionals

    Who Needs to Take the Series 65?

    Most states require individuals to pass the Series 65 exam in order to act as investment advisors.
  6. Investing Basics

    Brokers and RIAs: One and the Same?

    Brokers and registered investment advisors have some key differences. Here's what you need to know.
  7. Professionals

    Understanding Series 6

    Upon successful completion of the Series 6, an individual will have the qualifications needed to sell open end mutual funds and variable annuities
  8. Professionals

    Top Strategies on How to Become a Stock Broker

    Gunning to be a stock broker and want an edge? Here's some veteran advice.
  9. Trading Systems & Software

    Steps to Starting Up an Independent Broker Dealer

    Launching your own broker-dealer is a lot of work, but the potential payoff is great, both personally and financially.
  10. Professionals

    Understanding Series 63

    Series 63 is a securities license that entitles the holder to sell securities in a particular state.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Series 6

    A securities license entitling the holder to register as a limited ...
  2. Series 79

    A examination to ensure a candidate is qualified to become a ...
  3. Research Analyst

    A person who prepares investigative reports on equity securities. ...
  4. Series 34

    An exam required for individuals seeking to engage in off-exchange ...
  5. Financial Advisor

    One who provides financial advice or guidance to customers for ...
  6. Series 28

    An exam given by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. Is a financial advisor required to have a degree?

    Financial advisors are not required to have university degrees. However, they are required to pass certain exams administered ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. If I have only a limited amount of time to study for the Series 6, what should I ...

    The Series 6 Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative Qualification Examination is administered ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What role does the 'chip cycle' play in the electronics sector?

    There are several highly acclaimed private Series 6 Exam courses in the United States. Many can be completed online. Popular ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What does passing the Series 6 enable me to do?

    The Series 6, or the Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Limited Representative, exam is administered by the Financial ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the differences between the Series 6 exam and the Series 7 exam?

    The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) offers a variety of licenses that must be obtained before conducting ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Do I have to successfully complete the Series 7 exam before I can register for the ...

    There are no prerequisites to register for the Series 63 exam. However, once you have registered for the exam, you must schedule ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Short Selling

    Short selling is the sale of a security that is not owned by the seller, or that the seller has borrowed. Short selling is ...
  2. Harry Potter Stock Index

    A collection of stocks from companies related to the "Harry Potter" series franchise. Created by StockPickr, this index seeks ...
  3. Liquidation Margin

    Liquidation margin refers to the value of all of the equity positions in a margin account. If an investor or trader holds ...
  4. Black Swan

    An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult ...
  5. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  6. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
Trading Center