A return distribution with positive skew has frequent small losses and a few extreme gains. A return distribution with negative skew has frequent small gains and a few extreme losses. The positively skewed distribution shown has a long tail on its right side; the negatively skewed distribution has a long tail on its left side. For the positively skewed unimodal distribution, the mode is less than the median, which is less than the mean. For the negatively skewed unimodal distribution, the mean is less than the median, which is less than the mode.41
Investors should be attracted by a positive skew because the mean return falls above the median. Relative to the mean return, positive skew amounts to a limited, though frequent, downside compared with a somewhat unlimited, but less frequent, upside.
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