Jensen’s Alpha

Contributor Image
Written By
Contributor Image
Written By
Dan Buckley
Dan Buckley is an US-based trader, consultant, and part-time writer with a background in macroeconomics and mathematical finance. He trades and writes about a variety of asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities, currencies, and interest rates. As a writer, his goal is to explain trading and finance concepts in levels of detail that could appeal to a range of audiences, from novice traders to those with more experienced backgrounds.

Jensen’s Alpha is a performance metric used in finance to determine the excess return of an investment portfolio over the expected return predicted by the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM).

Developed by Michael Jensen in the 1960s, this metric is a popular tool for evaluating the skill of portfolio managers.


Calculation & Formula of Jensen’s Alpha

The formula for Jensen’s Alpha is:


Jensen’s Alpha



  • Portfolio Return (Rp​): This is the actual return of the portfolio over a specified period.
  • Risk-Free Rate (Rf): Typically, the yield on government bonds is used as the risk-free rate.
  • Beta (β): Represents the sensitivity of the portfolio’s returns to the returns of the market.
  • Market Return (Rm): The return of the market benchmark, such as the S&P 500.



Performance Measurement

Jensen’s Alpha is used to measure how much of the portfolio’s performance can be attributed to the manager’s decision-making, as opposed to the general market movement.

Skill Assessment

A positive Alpha indicates that the portfolio has outperformed its benchmark, suggesting the manager’s skill.

A negative Alpha suggests underperformance.


Portfolio Evaluation

Investors/analysts use Jensen’s Alpha to evaluate the performance of mutual funds, ETFs, and other managed portfolios.

Manager Skill

It is often used to assess the ability of fund managers to generate excess returns, adjusted for market risk.



Risk-Adjusted Performance

Jensen’s Alpha provides a risk-adjusted measure of performance, considering both the market risk and the return aspect.

Benchmark Comparison

It allows for direct comparison of a portfolio’s performance against its benchmark.

This makes it easier to evaluate investment or trading skill.



CAPM Dependency

Jensen’s Alpha is based on the CAPM, which has its own set of assumptions and limitations, such as the notion of a single-factor model (market risk).

Market Index Selection

The choice of market index can greatly influence the Alpha calculation.

An inappropriate benchmark can lead to misleading results.

Historical Data

Alpha is a backward-looking measure, relying on historical data.

So, it may not necessarily predict future performance.



Jensen’s Alpha measures a portfolio manager’s ability to generate excess returns above those predicted by the market’s overall performance.

Its effectiveness in isolating the manager’s contribution from general market helps with evaluating investment skill and portfolio performance.

Nevertheless, its reliance on historical data and the CAPM framework necessitates a careful interpretation.