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2013/2014  KAN-CM_F89  Asset Allocation

English Title
Asset Allocation

Course information

Language English
Exam ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Course period First Quarter
Changes in course schedule may occur
Tuesday 08.00-11.30, week 36-41
Tuesday 08.00-12.25, week 43
Time Table Please see course schedule at e-Campus
Max. participants 60
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Claus Parum - Department of Finance (FI)
Teacher: Marcel Fischer - mf.fi@cbs.dk
Administration: Sabrine Josephine Schmidt - sjs.fi@cbs.dk
Main academic disciplines
  • Finance
Last updated on 01-10-2013
Learning objectives
To attain the top grade, students are required to have a deep understanding of the field of asset allocation and the various factors affecting optimal portfolio choice. This – among others – includes
  • Dealing with the concepts of preferences and utility.
  • Computing risk measures and critically judge about their information content.
  • Generalizing arguments/methods/concepts to problems that have not been analyzed explicitly throughout the course.
  • Deriving formal conditions for optimal portfolio choice (including settings with market frictions) and computing optimal portfolio weights.
  • Solving portfolio problems.
  • Identifying, classifying and applying appropriate portfolio choice model in various settings.
  • Distinguish between one and multi-period models and identify when a portfolio choice problem can be solved in a one-period setting and where a multi-period setting is needed.
Course prerequisites
For making informed portfolio decisions, a good working knowledge in quantitative methods is indispensable. You should at least be able to deal with the contents of the course "Quantitative Methods in Finance and Economics" at the bachelor's level (of course, you might have learned these skills somewhere else). That is, you should - among others - be able to deal with Matrix Algebra, Calculus and constrained optimization (including the Lagrangian approach and Kuhn-Tucker conditions).
Asset Allocation:
Examination form Written sit-in exam
Individual or group exam Individual
Assignment type Written assignment
Duration 4 hours
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Autumn Term
Aids allowed to bring to the exam Limited aids, see the list below and the exam plan/guidelines for further information:
  • Books and compendia brought by the examinee
  • Notes brought by the examinee
  • Allowed calculators
  • Allowed dictionaries
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
If the number of registered candidates for the make-up examination/re-take examination warrants that it may most appropriately be held as an oral examination, the programme office will inform the students that the make-up examination/re-take examination will be held as an oral examination instead.
Description of the exam procedure

The exam must be hand written (pen and paper)

Given that writing formulas is somewhat time-consuming in Microsoft Word, the exam will be paper-based. The exam is of the open book type. Students are allowed to bring paper-based aids such as books, slides, and hand-written notes. Furthermore, students are allowed to bring a pocket calculator to the exam. The use of other electronic devices during the exam is not permitted.
Course content and structure

The objective of the course ''Asset Allocation'' is to enable you to make ''clever'' portfolio choice decisions based on more advanced portfolio choice models than Markowitz - irrespective of whether you want to use these skills in your future profession or just want to manage your own private portfolio an intelligent way. In order to do so, it is both the objective of the course to give you an overview of portfolio choice models and their limits as well as to provide you with the necessary mathematical tools that are required to determine these portfolios.
After a brief introduction into the concepts of preferences and utility that are required for understanding what properties optimal portfolios should have, we turn to different risk measures. We will argue that standard deviation (as used in the Markowitz model) only covers some part of the risk investors are facing in the market.
Having discussed these concepts, we are able to turn to the core part of the course, namely portfolio choice models. We first turn to one-period models where (as e.g. in the Markowitz model) it is assumed that the investor’s investment horizon is one period. In particular, the investor once chooses his portfolio and then holds it until the end of his investment horizon. After a brief recap of the famous Markowitz model and discussing its limitations, we will turn to several extensions of this approach that try to overcome some of these limitations. In addition, we will cover portfolio choice models that have been quite successful from an empirical point of view. In particular, we will discuss so-called Fama/French portfolios as well as parametric portfolios as a very recent innovation in portfolio choice.
In the presence of market frictions, we will argue that one-period models may not be sufficient to cover the dynamics of varying investment opportunity sets. Such variations in the investment opportunity set might e.g. be caused by time-varying labor income, wash sale constraints, transaction costs, and the illiquidity of housing wealth or tax-effects for instance. Introducing these factors into portfolio choice models complicates finding optimal portfolios by an order of magnitude. However, choosing a portfolio based on a model that does not take these frictions into account can result in suboptimal portfolios. One of the most important market frictions private investors are dealing with are taxes. We will see that tax-effects can significantly alter portfolio choice. Tax-effects we will consider include tax-timing options (capital gains are not taxed when they occur, but when they are realized), the different taxable treatment of capital gains and losses (when you realize capital gains you are subject to taxation, when you realize losses you are only endowed with a tax loss carry-forward you can offset in forthcoming periods) and the different taxable treatment of profits in retirement and conventional savings accounts. In particular, making “clever” portfolio choice decisions for retirement is an issue that is of increasing importance to private investors.

Teaching methods
Further Information
It is not possible to write an “afløsningopgave” in Asset Allocation.
Expected literature

Teaching some of the most recent innovations in portfolio choice is a key objective of the course. There is no therefore text book available covering all the portfolio choice models that will be dealt with throughout the course. The lecturer will therefore provide students with a set of detailed lecture notes of around 160 pages (including old exam questions with a sketch of solution) covering all topics of the course. In order to deepen the contents of the course, it will be dealt with some original research papers from scientific journals throughout the course. These research papers include:

Brandt, M., Santa-Clara, P., and Valkanov, R. 2009. Parametric portfolio policies: Exploiting characteristics in the cross section of equity returns. Review of Financial Studies 22:3411-3447

Cocco, J., Gomes, F., and Maenhout, P. 2005. Consumption and portfolio choice over the life cycle. Review of Financial Studies 18:491-533.

Dammon, R., Spatt, C., and Zhang, H. 2001. Optimal consumption and investment with capital gains taxes. Review of Financial Studies 14:583-616.

DeMiguel, V., Garlappi, L., Nogales, F., and Uppal, R. 2009. A generalized approach to portfolio optimization: Improving performance by constraining portfolio norms. Management Science 55:798-812

Lynch, A., and Tan, S. 2010. Multiple Risky Assets, Transaction Costs and Return Predictability: Allocation Rules and Implications for U.S. Investors, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, 45:1015-1053.

Ehling, P., Gallmeyer, M., Srivastava, S., Tompaidis, S., and Yang, C. 2010. Portfolio choice with capital gain taxation and the limited use of losses. Working Paper, University of Texas at Austin

Fama, E. and French, K. 1992. The cross-section of expected stock returns. Journal of Finance 47:427-465.

Yao, R. and Zhang, H. 2005. Optimal consumption and portfolio choices with risky housing and borrowing constraints. Review of Financial Studies 18:197-239.

Last updated on 01-10-2013