What Is Market Exposure?

Market exposure refers to the dollar amount of funds or percentage of a broader portfolio that is invested in a particular type of security, market sector, or industry. Market exposure is usually expressed as a percentage of total portfolio holdings, for instance, as in 10% of a portfolio being exposed to the oil and gas sector.

Market exposure represents the amount an investor can lose from the risks unique to a particular investment or asset class. It is a tool used to measure and balance risk in an investment portfolio. Having too much exposure to a particular area can indicate a portfolio needs to undergo broader diversification.

Key Takeaways

  • Market exposure is the proportion of one's assets that are tied up in a class of securities, a particular industry, or a geographic market. 
  • Market exposure can be subdivided in various ways to gain insight into the risks posed to investors across different types of markets. 
  • Measuring and balancing market exposure across all assets in a diversified portfolio is a key aspect of managing total risk. 

Understanding Market Exposure

Market exposure describes the risk and reward potential for an investor given the division of assets within an investment portfolio. The proportion of assets invested in any given asset class, market segment, geographic region, or industry can be used to measure the degree to which the investor is exposed to potential loss due to those specific assets. 

Market exposure can be separated based on a variety of factors that then allows an investor to mitigate the risks involved in certain investments by balancing exposure via diversification to other asset classes, regions, or industries. The greater one's market exposure, the greater their total market risk in that specific investment area. A concentration of market exposure in any one area can lead to large losses if that area happens to get hit hard.

Market Exposure by Investment Type

Investments can be segmented based on the type of asset class involved. For example, a portfolio can consist of 20% bonds and 80% stocks. The investor’s market exposure to stocks is thus 80%. This investor stands to lose or gain more depending on how stocks perform than from how bonds perform.

Market Exposure by Region

When examining the market exposure in a portfolio, an investor can also examine holdings by geographic location. This may include separating domestic investments from those of foreign economies, or further dividing foreign markets by their specific region in the world or as emerging markets.

For example, an investor could have a portfolio that is allocated to 50% domestic and 50% foreign stocks. If additional exposure separation is desired, the foreign holdings may be divided further to show 30% in Asian markets and 20% in European markets. Moreover, we can describe the Asian segment as allocated 50% to developed and emerging markets apiece.

Market Exposure by Industry Segment

Investments can also be divided up by the industry or economic sector within which the underlying companies operate.

Using the above hypothetical investor’s 80% market exposure to stocks, there might be a 30% market exposure to the health care sector, 25% exposure to the technology sector, 20% to the financial services sector, 15% to the defense sector, and 10% to the energy sector. The portfolio’s returns are more influenced by health care stocks than by energy stocks because of the greater market exposure to the former.

Exposure, Diversification, and Risk Management

The exposure of a portfolio to particular securities, markets, or sectors must be considered when determining a portfolio’s overall asset allocation since diversification can greatly increase returns while also minimizing losses. For instance, a portfolio with both stock and bond holdings that includes market exposure to both types of assets typically has less risk than a portfolio with exposure only to stocks. In other words, diversification in this way reduces market exposure risks.

This applies to allocating assets across different asset classes or industries. Using the aforementioned example, if the investor wanted to reduce high market exposure to health care because of major changes in the industry brought by new federal regulations, selling 50% of those holdings reduces that particular exposure to 15%.