Consider an investment that pays 40% half the time and still pays 20% in less successful years. Such an investment would have a much higher standard deviation than one that simply paid 5% every year. However, few people would say that getting paid 5% every year was really safer. Both of these investments would have a downside deviation of zero using 5% as the minimum acceptable return .

The Sharpe ratio is also called the reward-to-variability ratio and is the most common portfolio management metric. It is calculated by subtracting the rate of return on an investment considered risk-free, such as a U.S. Treasury bill, from the expected or actual return on an equity investment portfolio or an individual stock, then dividing that number by the standard deviation of the stock or portfolio. A negative Sharpe ratio indicates that the investor would have a better risk-adjusted rate of return using a risk-free investment. A Sharpe ratio of one or higher is commonly considered a good risk-adjusted return rate.

A key aspect of sortino ratio is it specifically focuses on downside volatility of a scheme. The first problem with the Sharpe Ratio is it does not distinguish between upside and downside volatility. This phenomenon is exacerbated because the more significant outliers increase the standard deviation used in the calculation. The standard deviation is the denominator, meanwhile, the numerator is not affected.


The formula will still work correctly as long as there is consistency in the type of return. Another difference is that the main formula of the Sortino Ratio uses the target/required return, instead of the risk-free rate of return, in the numerator of the formula. However, some people still use the risk-free rate of return to simplify the formula. Consider Aditya Birla Sun Life Corporate Bond fund, with an average 1-year return of 9.2% when rolled over 3 years. But the former’s Sharpe is far better at 2.54 against the L&T fund’s 1.46 because it was half as volatile. On the other hand, while UTI Flexicap is higher volatile than, say, DSP Flexicap , it still scores better on Sharpe as its returns have been high enough to make up for that higher volatility.

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Whereas standard deviation measures how varied a fund’s returns have been relative to its average return), the Sortino ratio’s denominator aims to home in on undesirable downside deviations. The process of computing downside deviation is much like that of calculating the standard deviation for the Sharpe ratio; it’s the deviation of excess returns from the mean portfolio return. The only difference is that to capture downside deviations, we ignore the fund’s returns if they’re above the fund’s mean portfolio return. By penalizing only an investment’s undesirable volatility, the Sortino ratio expresses a fund’s excess return relative to its downside risk. The Sortino ratio variation of the Sharpe ratio measures the performance of the investment relative to the downward deviation. Unlike Sharpe, the Sortino ratio does not consider the total volatility of the investment.

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This example illustrates that you can use the Sortino ratio in conjunction with Morningstar Ratings for funds. From the above definition, it is clear that various investors use the Sortino ratio, and portfolio owners do achieve the expected return. It is a statistical tool used to evaluate an investment risk for a given bad risk level. Downside risk is an estimation of a security’s potential loss in value if market conditions precipitate a decline in that security’s price.

Let’s say i have daily data on a risk-free asset which i want to use as my minimum accpetable reuturn. DD was first proposed by Sortino and Price in 1994 in a paper called “Performance Measurement in a Downside Risk Framework” and it is part of the family of semi-deviation measures of risk. Yarilet Perez is an experienced multimedia journalist and fact-checker with a Master of Science in Journalism. She has worked in multiple cities covering breaking news, politics, education, and more. Upside volatility is a plus; therefore, it should not be included in the risk calculation, as is the case with the Sortino Ratio. Here are the fundamental differences between Sharpe Ratio and Sortino Ratio, to help you understand which one to use and when.

If not, the investor has made an irrational choice, as the same return could have been obtained without the added risk. A core principle of valuation theory is that investors should receive more compensation for the incremental risk of holding a risky asset, rather than a risk-free asset. The information contained herein does not constitute investment advice and made available for educational purposes only. Prices and returns on equities are listed without consideration of fees, commissions, taxes, penalties, or interest payable due to purchasing, holding, or selling. It must be noted that though the computation is quite similar to that of the Sharpe ratio (a standard measurement tool of risk-return trade-offs), there is one significant difference between them. The Sortino ratio can tell you how risky an investment is and its risk-adjusted return.

Risk-adjusted return

We will not consider those with returns as their deviations are zero. This stock shows three periods where returns were lower than the MAR of 5%, with a difference of -2% in each instance. The total of the squares of these three instances is -12%, and when we divide by the total of 10 periods, we come up with -1.2%. The square root of 1.2 is about 1.1, for a downside deviation of about 1.1%. Retail InvestorsA retail investor is a non-professional individual investor who tends to invest a small sum in the equities, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and other baskets of securities.

This distinction matters to you as an investor because you’d much prefer to invest in a stock with consistent, positive returns rather than one with high volatility. This priority is especially important for short-term investors, who would be hurt by any sharp downturn in the value of their stock portfolios. Both these ratios help investors check how a portfolio or asset is likely to perform despite the market fluctuations. As a result, they focus on the volatility and derive respective results, be it assessing the risk or additional returns.

Will Kenton is an expert on the economy and which ratio uses downside deviationing laws and regulations. He previously held senior editorial roles at Investopedia and Kapitall Wire and holds a MA in Economics from The New School for Social Research and Doctor of Philosophy in English literature from NYU. Risk analysis is the process of assessing the likelihood of an adverse event occurring within the corporate, government, or environmental sector.

What is the Sortino Ratio?

This means that you are not calculating the semi-standard deviation for the target of 0, but for the target of -3. The first argument is a range of returns, and the second argument is the minimum acceptable return. While DD has some advantages, there are also disadvantages when using this measure. The first disadvantage is that in a lot of cases, standard deviation will yield similar results as downside deviation.

Ideally, do this for a few different market phases to get a better picture. The index you choose here should be one that fits the fund; there’s no point in taking the Nifty 50 index, for example, and seeing what small-cap funds are doing when that index falls or rises. By comparison, the Sharpe ratio treats upside and downside risks in the same way. It means that even those investments that produce gains are penalized, which should not be the case. The average realized return refers to the weighted mean return of all the investments in an individual’s portfolio.

The Difference Between the Sharpe Ratio and the Sortino Ratio

In order to compensate for the higher normal deviation, the fund must generate the next return to keep up a better Sharpe ratio. Sharpe ratio also does not indicate if a portfolio is concentrated into a single sector, which might be very risky for a retail investor. The standard deviation figures also assume that price movements in either direction are equally risky. Step 2 → Next, the excess return is divided by the portfolio’s standard deviation (i.e. the proxy for portfolio risk). Investors can determine the risk-adjusted returns by assessing the excess returns earned over the risk-free rate.

  • Unfortunately, many performance metrics fail to account for the variation in the risk of an investment.
  • Downside risk is an estimation of a security’s potential loss in value if market conditions precipitate a decline in that security’s price.
  • Now let’s follow an example of how to calculate the Sortino Ratio of a forex trading account.

However, I think that the downside deviation is not calculated correctly. For instance, if you have 5 returns and 3 meet you requirements, then the array formula will use 3 in the denominator, rather than 5 (or 5-1, for sample data). Downside deviation gives you a better idea of how much an investment can lose than standard deviation alone. Standard deviation measures volatility on the upside and the downside, which presents a limited picture.

Also, it refers to the uncertainty level of realized returns being much lesser than the anticipated ones. We now present two methods of calculating the downside deviation in Excel; the first uses an Excel matrix formula, and the second uses VBA. The post-modern portfolio theory is a portfolio optimization methodology that uses the downside risk of returns and builds on modern portfolio theory. From a practical point of view, the calculation must take into account all the data , not just the observations below the target.

The indicator examines changes in the risk-free rate; hence, enabling investors to make more informed decisions. The information ratio measures portfolio returns and indicates a portfolio manager’s ability to generate excess returns relative to a given benchmark. While using the risk-free rate of return is common, investors can also use expected return in calculations. To keep the formulas accurate, the investor should be consistent in terms of the type of return. You also can use downside deviation to determine the Sortino Ratio, which is a measure of whether the downside risk is worthwhile to achieve a certain return.

In these categories, you can check standard deviation, and stick to shorter return timeframes as explained in the point below. Most investors’ goal is to focus their money into assets that have consistent, positive returns, instead of assets that have wild swings up and down. It is a statistical tool used to evaluate the returns from the investment for a given level of bad risk.


As a trader or investor, strong upside is a positive characteristic; however, the Sharpe Ratio will disguise this. Since its creation in 1966 to measure the performance of mutual funds’, the Sharpe Ratio has been the most popular calculation for determining a risk-adjusted evaluation of return on investment performance. A few of those shortcomings can be overcome by using the Sortino Ratio, an alternative measurement that was first developed in the early 1980s.

They often take the services of online or traditional brokerage firms or advisors for investment decision-making. Given that there are square and square roots in the other formula I am thinking it is the latter. This article provides an Excel spreadsheet to calculate downside deviation .