Efficient Frontier

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DEFINITION of 'Efficient Frontier'

A set of optimal portfolios that offers the highest expected return for a defined level of risk or the lowest risk for a given level of expected return. Portfolios that lie below the efficient frontier are sub-optimal, because they do not provide enough return for the level of risk. Portfolios that cluster to the right of the efficient frontier are also sub-optimal, because they have a higher level of risk for the defined rate of return.

BREAKING DOWN 'Efficient Frontier'

Since the efficient frontier is curved, rather than linear, a key finding of the concept was the benefit of diversification. Optimal portfolios that comprise the efficient frontier tend to have a higher degree of diversification than the sub-optimal ones, which are typically less diversified.

The efficient frontier concept was introduced by Harry Markowitz in 1952 and is a cornerstone of modern portfolio theory.

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