Portfolio weights solely based on risk avoid estimation errors from the sample mean, but they are still affected from the misspecification in the sample covariance matrix. To solve this problem, we shrink the covariance matrix towards the Identity, the Variance Identity, the Single-index model, the Common Covariance, the Constant Correlation, and the Exponential Weighted Moving Average target matrices. Using an extensive Monte Carlo simulation, we offer a comparative study of these target estimators, testing their ability in reproducing the true
portfolio weights. We control for the dataset dimensionality and the shrinkage intensity in the Minimum Variance (MV), Inverse Volatility (IV), Equal-Risk-Contribution (ERC), and Maximum Diversification (MD) portfolios. We find out that the Identity and Variance Identity have very good statistical properties, also being well conditioned in high-dimensional datasets. In addition, these two models are the best target towards which to shrink: they minimise the misspecification in risk-based portfolio weights, generating estimates very close to the population values. Overall, shrinking the sample covariance matrix helps to reduce weight misspecification, especially in the Minimum Variance and the Maximum Diversification portfolios. The Inverse Volatility and the Equal-Risk-Contribution portfolios are less sensitive to covariance misspecification and so benefit less from shrinkage.
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