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What is the low-volatility anomaly?

Low-volatility anomaly

The low-volatility anomaly is the name given to the phenomenon that low-risk (low-volatility) securities seem to have higher returns than high-risk securities.

Where have you heard about the low-volatility anomaly?

Plenty of studies prove the existence of the low-volatility anomaly. One of the most significant was done by Brendan Bradley, Jeffrey Wurgler and Malcolm Baker. The study showed that over a huge 40-year period, low-risk securities outperformed high-risk securities by a significant margin.

What you need to know about the low-volatility anomaly.

The low-volatility anomaly goes directly against modern portfolio theory and the Capital Asset Pricing Model, both of which suggest that high-risk generates higher returns. The anomaly blew much of traditional volatility theory out of the water when it was first proven.

Because high-volatility securities attract more attention (because traders are optimistic about their future performance, and perhaps overconfident about their ability to predict future events), low-volatility stocks are often cheaper. It's worth looking at low-volatility stocks as part of your long-term investment plan – but, as with anything, you should remember that there's always the risk that the value could change at any minute.

Find out more about the low-volatility anomaly.

To learn more about low volatility, read our guide to the term here.

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