Bridge over ocean
1 March 2010 Financial Analysts Journal Volume 66, Issue 2

The Equal Importance of Asset Allocation and Active Management

  1. James X. Xiong, CFA
  2. Roger G. Ibbotson
  3. Thomas M. Idzorek, CFA
  4. Peng Chen, CFA

What is the relative importance of asset allocation policy versus active portfolio management in explaining variability in performance? Considerable confusion surrounds both time-series and cross-sectional regressions and the importance of asset allocation. Cross-sectional regressions naturally remove market movements; therefore, the cross-sectional results in the literature are equivalent to analyses of excess market returns even though the regressions were performed on total returns. In contrast, time-series analyses of total returns do not naturally remove market movements. Time-series analyses of excess market returns and cross-sectional analyses of either total or excess market returns, however, are consistent with each other. With market movements removed, asset allocation and active management are equally important in determining portfolio return differences within a peer group. Finally, an examination of period-by-period cross-sectional results reveals why researchers using the same regression technique can get widely different results.

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