Asset Allocation

Expected Returns on Major Asset Classes

Topics - Asset Allocation Factor/Style Investing Momentum

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Expected Returns on Major Asset Classes

CFA Research Foundation

Expected returns are arguably the most important input into investment decisions. Many investors determine their expectations for returns on investments in highly subjective ways, based on discretionary views. More objective predictions are anchored on historical experience, financial theories and observation of prevailing market conditions.

This book calls for broadening the traditional paradigm of expected return estimation in two ways: (1) moving beyond the narrow perspective of asset class investing to focus additionally on expected returns for strategy styles (active management) and for underlying factors and (2) reducing the focus on historical performance and widening the set of inputs used. Two key implications follow: better-diversified portfolios (avoiding exclusive reliance on the equity premium as the source of beta return) and more forward-looking analysis.

Even though many investors have improved portfolio diversification by shifting from home-biased holdings to truly global investments and by expanding their asset class opportunity set, they still largely rely on the equity premium for long-term returns. Both 60%/40% stock/bond portfolios and “endowment model” portfolios (which make significant investments in alternatives) have high stock market betas, and equity risk often accounts for 90% of the portfolio risk budgets in either type of portfolio.

This book covers in detail the building blocks of asset class diversification: the equity premium, term and credit premia in fixed income, and the performance of the principal alternative assets (real estate, commodities, hedge funds, and private equity).

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The information contained herein is only as current as of the date indicated, and may be superseded by subsequent market events or for other reasons. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AQR Capital Management, LLC, its affiliates or its employees. This information is not intended to, and does not relate specifically to any investment strategy or product that AQR offers. It is being provided merely to provide a framework to assist in the implementation of an investor’s own analysis and an investor’s own view on the topic discussed herein. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.


Hypothetical performance results have many inherent limitations, some of which, but not all, are described herein. The hypothetical performance shown was derived from the retroactive application of a model developed with the benefit of hindsight.  Hypothetical performance results are presented for illustrative purposes only.


Diversification does not eliminate the risk of experiencing investment loss.


Certain publications may have been written prior to the author being an employee of AQR.

This material is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice, nor is it intended to replace the advice of a qualified attorney or tax advisor.


AQR Capital Management is a global investment management firm, which may or may not apply similar investment techniques or methods of analysis as described herein. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of AQR.