For example, a stock with a beta of 1.2 is 20% more volatile than the market. So if the S&P 500 rises 10%, a stock with a beta of 1.2 is expected to rise by 12%. If the S&P 500 falls 10%, a stock with a beta of 1.2 is expected to fall by 12%.

The beta of an individual stock is based on how it performs in relation to the index’s beta. A stock with a beta of 1.0 indicates that it moves in tandem with the S&P 500. There is also a chance that a fund manager just got lucky instead of having true alpha. Suppose a manager outperforms the market by an average of 2% during the first three years of the fund without any extra market-related volatility. When using a generated alpha calculation it is important to understand the calculations involved.

Alpha can be used to evaluate a fund manager’s performance or ability to outperform a market index, such as the S&P 500. Understanding the alpha can also help you decide whether the return you hope to earn will be high enough to outweigh any potential investment fees, such as the expense ratio. Overall, the goal of alpha investing is to beat the market by investing in high-performing assets. Alpha represents how much an investment’s actual return exceeded its expected return, based on its risk level. Alpha is used to evaluate whether an investment outperformed a certain benchmark. Different investors might be interested in each of those investments for different reasons.

  1. Alpha measures how well an investment performed compared to a related benchmark index, such as the S&P 500.
  2. Alpha is used in finance as a measure of performance, indicating when a strategy, trader, or portfolio manager has managed to beat the market return or other benchmark over some period.
  3. Alpha and beta are both measurements used by investors and portfolio managers to compare the performance and volatility of an underlying security.
  4. Rather, it is more a matter of what the requirements of the investor are and how he plans on using alpha vs beta investing to achieve his investment goals.

Active investors seek to achieve returns that are higher than a benchmark and can employ a variety of strategies to do so. Many funds, such as hedge funds, have the purpose of achieving alpha and charge high management fees for doing so. Alpha measures the excess return above a benchmark for an investment while beta is the measure of volatility, also known as risk. Active investors seek to achieve alpha returns by employing unique strategies.

A portfolio that is constructed of multiple equities will inherently have some beta exposure. Beta exposure in individual security is not a fixed value over a given period of time. This translates to systematic risk that cannot be held at a steady value. By separating the beta component, an investor can keep a controlled set amount of beta exposure in accordance with their own risk tolerance. This helps enhance portfolio returns by producing more consistent portfolio returns.

If an asset has an alpha of -15, then the investment is considered much too risky given the return. If it has an alpha of 0, then the asset has provided a return that was equivalent to the risk. The alpha is defined as the excess return on an investment once you have adjusted for market volatility and random fluctuations.

Unlike alpha, which measures relative return, beta is the measure of relative volatility. It measures the systematic risk of a security or a portfolio in comparison to the market as a whole. With the CAPM ( capital asset pricing model ), alpha is the rate of return that exceeds the model’s prediction. Although the Alpha figure is often represented as a single number (like 3 or -5), it actually describes a percentage that measuring how a stock of mutual fund performed compared to a benchmark index. The numbers mentioned would mean the investment respectively fared 3% better and 5% worse than the broader market.

Therefore, an alpha of 1.0 means the investment outperformed its benchmark index by 1%, while conversely, an alpha of -1.0 means the investment underperformed its benchmark index by 1%. Alpha and beta are both measurements used by investors to compare the performance and volatility alpha and beta of stocks of an underlying security. Alpha helps investors measure the performance of a fund in comparison to an index or another fund. Beta helps investors determine the volatility of a security in comparison to an index so they can further align their investments with their risk tolerance.

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Alpha and beta are both risk ratios that calculate, compare, and predict returns. If the beta is below 1, the stock either has lower volatility than the market or it’s a volatile asset whose price movements are not highly correlated with the overall market. The price of Treasury bills (T-bills) has a beta lower than 1 because it doesn’t move very much in relation to the overall market. Many consider stocks in the utility sector to have betas less than 1 since they’re not very volatile.

How is beta calculated?

Beta can be calculated for different periods, so two reported betas on the same security may not be the same. The overall market has volatility also, which we usually measure by using the volatility of the S&P 500 index. Beta (or the ‘beta coefficient’) is essentially the comparison of the volatility in a particular stock to that of the market as a whole. We can think of it as the ratio of a stock’s movements relative to the market as shown in the table below. In this case, covariance refers to the direction of the relationship between the asset and market return.

Say you’re considering investing in a tech stock and learn it has a beta of 1.5—meaning it carries 50% more risk than the overall market. You might be willing to take on the risk if achieving higher returns is your goal. However, if you’re risk-averse, you might avoid this stock in favor of one with less risk and a lower beta value. A $1,000 investment in the S&P 500 in 1965 would have been worth about $239,000 by the end of 2022. Meanwhile, the same investment in Berkshire would have grown to more than $35 million, thanks to the power of compounding.

How beta is calculated

They’re significant numbers to know, but one must check carefully to see how they are calculated. An alpha of -15 means the investment was far too risky given the return. An alpha of zero suggests that an asset has earned a return commensurate with the risk.

In practice, investments will earn positive alpha or negative alpha all the time. However, it’s difficult for money managers to consistently produce positive alpha from their portfolios. Alpha is most often used in the fund industry to measure a portfolio manager’s skill. Generating alpha is the goal of active fund managers because they’re earning returns above what would be expected for a given level of risk-taking. Alpha is a measure of performance in regard to investment returns that is better when compared to a benchmark when adjusted for risk.

You may have certainly heard mentions of ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’ during the course of your stock market research. You may even have an inkling that they pertain to technical analysis of the market and are useful tools for the informed investor. Here’s what you need to know about these indicators as well as the crucial differences between them.

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