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Can Machine Learning-Based Portfolios Outperform Traditional Risk-Based Portfolios? The Need to Account for Covariance Misspecification

Jain, P and Jain, S (2019) Can Machine Learning-Based Portfolios Outperform Traditional Risk-Based Portfolios? The Need to Account for Covariance Misspecification. In: Risks, 7 (3).

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.3390/risks7030074


The Hierarchical risk parity (HRP) approach of portfolio allocation, introduced by Lopez de Prado (2016), applies graph theory and machine learning to build a diversified portfolio. Like the traditional risk-based allocation methods, HRP is also a function of the estimate of the covariance matrix, however, it does not require its invertibility. In this paper, we first study the impact of covariance misspecification on the performance of the different allocation methods. Next, we study under an appropriate covariance forecast model whether the machine learning based HRP outperforms the traditional risk-based portfolios. For our analysis, we use the test for superior predictive ability on out-of-sample portfolio performance, to determine whether the observed excess performance is significant or if it occurred by chance. We find that when the covariance estimates are crude, inverse volatility weighted portfolios are more robust, followed by the machine learning-based portfolios. Minimum variance and maximum diversification are most sensitive to covariance misspecification. HRP follows the middle ground; it is less sensitive to covariance misspecification when compared with minimum variance or maximum diversification portfolio, while it is not as robust as the inverse volatility weighed portfolio. We also study the impact of the different rebalancing horizon and how the portfolios compare against a market-capitalization weighted portfolio.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Risks
Publisher: MDPI AG
Additional Information: The copyright for this article belongs to the Authors.
Keywords: Covariance misspecification; Machine learning for portfolio; NIFTY; Superior predictive ability
Department/Centre: Division of Interdisciplinary Sciences > Management Studies
Division of Physical & Mathematical Sciences > Physics
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2022 05:37
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2022 05:37
URI: https://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/77367

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