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Reading 41  Portfolio Risk and Return: Part I (Intro)
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Construction of an optimal portfolio is an important objective for an investor. In this reading, we will explore the process of examining the risk and return characteristics of individual assets, creating all possible portfolios, selecting the most efficient portfolios, and ultimately choosing the optimal portfolio tailored to the individual in question.

During the process of constructing the optimal portfolio, several factors and investment characteristics are considered. The most important of those factors are risk and return of the individual assets under consideration. Correlations among individual assets along with risk and return are important determinants of portfolio risk. Creating a portfolio for an investor requires an understanding of the risk profile of the investor. Although we will not discuss the process of determining risk aversion for individuals or institutional investors, it is necessary to obtain such information for making an informed decision. In this reading, we will explain the broad types of investors and how their risk–return preferences can be formalized to select the optimal portfolio from among the infinite portfolios contained in the investment opportunity set.

The reading is organized as follows: Section 2 discusses the investment characteristics of assets. In particular, we show the various types of returns and risks, their computation and their applicability to the selection of appropriate assets for inclusion in a portfolio. Section 3 discusses risk aversion and how indifference curves, which incorporate individual preferences, can be constructed. The indifference curves are then applied to the selection of an optimal portfolio using two risky assets. Section 4 provides an understanding and computation of portfolio risk. The role of correlation and diversification of portfolio risk are examined in detail. Section 5 begins with the risky assets available to investors and constructs a large number of risky portfolios. It illustrates the process of narrowing the choices to an efficient set of risky portfolios before identifying the optimal risky portfolio. The risky portfolio is combined with investor risk preferences to generate the optimal risky portfolio. A summary concludes this reading.

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