Essays in Asset Allocation
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This dissertation consists of two essays in asset allocation. In the first essay, I explore the question of how investors should optimally incorporate commodities in their multi-asset portfolios, or even if they should at all. To tackle this problem, I conduct a comprehensive out-of-sample assessment on the economic value of commodities in multi-asset investment strategies for both mean-variance and non-mean-variance investors who exploit the predictability of time-varying asset return moments. With both monthly and quarterly rebalancing frequencies, I find that predictability makes the addition of commodities profitable even when short-selling and high leverage are not permitted. For instance, a mean-variance (non mean-variance) investor rebalancing quarterly, with moderate risk aversion and leverage, would be willing to pay up to 108 (155) basis points per year after transaction cost for adding commodities into her stock, bond and cash portfolio. In the second essay, I study the economic value generated by active equity mutual funds from an investor’s perspective. I employ an optimization-based portfolio approach to construct a composite investment strategy of U.S. active equity mutual funds. The strategy jointly exploits the conditioning information conveyed by multiple fund characteristics and macroeconomic variables about the cross-section of fund performance. Based on an extensive out-of-sample performance evaluation, I find that the proposed strategy consistently outperforms a large set of passive investments that rely on index funds as well as the strategies that exploit the fund characteristics on an individual basis. The outperformance is net of fees and expenses and after precluding short-sales and leverage. I further show that the proposed strategy’s superior performance derives from effectively exploiting the predictive power of distinct fund characteristics to shift portfolio allocation toward (away from) funds with future outperformance (underperformance) as market conditions evolve over time. The findings indicate that investing in active equity mutual funds can add significant economic value for investors if the time-varying predictability in fund performance is properly taken into account and if an optimal portfolio approach, as opposed to simpler strategies based on sorting or on equal-weighted schemes, is adopted.