Market Risk Premium

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Written By
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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.

Market risk premium is the expected return of a market portfolio versus the risk-free rate.

It is used as compensation for investors who are taking on additional risk by investing in the market instead of a risk-free asset like government bonds.

The market risk premium can be used to calculate the expected return of individual stocks and other investments.

Generally, the higher the market risk premium, the greater potential return an investor should expect from their investments.

However, this does not guarantee that any particular stock will perform better than any other stock or investment.

It simply states that if one were to invest in a portfolio equal to that of the overall market, then one should expect to earn a higher return than what can be earned with a risk-free asset over time.


Market Risk Premium – Key Takeaways

  • The market risk premium is the expected return of an investment in the market (usually a diversified basket of riskier assets) over and above the risk-free rate of return.
  • The market risk premium is a form of compensation for investors that invest their money in riskier assets, which have a higher potential for loss than investments with low or no risk such as bonds or treasury bills.
  • Investors use the market risk premium when determining how much extra return to expect for investing in risky assets such as stocks.
  • The size of the premium will depend on various factors including economic conditions, political environment, and other perceived risks.
  • A larger market risk premium typically indicates greater uncertainty, while a smaller one suggests more stability and security in the markets.
  • Knowing the size of the market risk premium is important for investors as it can help them decide which types of assets to invest in and also give them an idea of expected returns from those investments.
  • It is important to note that investors should always consider the risk they are taking when investing in any asset class, as there is no guarantee of absolute return or safety.


How to Calculate Market Risk Premium (Market Risk Premium Formula)

The market risk premium can be calculated using the following formula:


Market Risk Premium = (Expected Return of the Market – Risk-Free Rate)


The expected return of the market is often determined by analyzing past performance data, forward-looking data, and making an educated guess about future returns.

The risk-free rate is typically considered to be the yield on a 10-year government bond from the United States Treasury.

For example, if an investor expects a portfolio consisting of stocks (or stocks, bonds, and other investments) to generate 6% annual returns and they believe that 10-year US Treasuries will return 3%, then the market risk premium would be 3%.

Therefore, instead of just earning the safe 3%, investors should expect to earn 6% by taking on additional risk.

This market risk premium can then be used to determine expected returns for individual stocks and other investments.

The exact required return of any particular stock or investment is impossible to predict with any precision but understanding the overall market risk premium can help inform trading and investing decisions and create a more efficient portfolio.


Market Risk Premium in CAPM

The market risk premium is also used in the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) to help determine the expected return of a particular stock or other investment.

The CAPM formula states that:


Expected Return = Risk-Free Rate + Beta x (Market Return – Risk-Free Rate)


Where beta is a measure of an individual security’s volatility and systematic risk relative to the overall market.

Therefore, by understanding the expected return of the overall market (the risk-free rate plus the market risk premium), investors can use CAPM to calculate what their expected returns should be for any given stock or asset.


FAQs – Market Risk Premium

How do you calculate market risk premium for inflation?

The market risk premium is generally done in nominal terms, or including inflation.

Calculating the market risk premium without inflation would mean putting the risk-free rate in real terms and then basing the market risk premium off that.

If the risk-free rate is 3% and the inflation rate is 2%, then the real rate would be 1%.

Is the market risk premium the same as the equity risk premium?

They can be, but not necessarily. The equity risk premium refers to equities alone.

The market risk premium can also refer to just equities, but can also refer to a broader overall portfolio. It is generally calculated as the return on a broad portfolio minus the risk-free rate.

Because the equity risk premium is narrower, it tends to be larger.

What are the factors used to determine an expected market risk premium?

The expected market risk premium is determined by looking at past returns, current economic and political conditions, and future expectations.

The main factors that influence it include inflation, equity markets, bond yields, exchange rates, macroeconomic trends, and geopolitical risks.

In addition, individual investor preferences may also affect the calculation of the expected market risk premium.

In other words: no two investors will have the same expectation of what their market risk premium should be.

Factors such as age and personal financial situation should be taken into account when determining an expected market risk premium.

Generally speaking, younger investors have longer time horizons and are more likely to take on higher risk relative to older investors.

Is alpha a market risk premium?

Alpha refers to the excess return of an investment relative to a benchmark or index.

It is not directly related to the market risk premium, but it may be taken into account when calculating the expected market risk premium.

In general, alpha can be used to measure how well an investor has performed relative to their benchmark and can be seen as one factor that affects the overall level of expected market risk premiums.

Is there a standard formula for calculating market risk premium?

No, there is no single formula for calculating the market risk premium.

Different investors will use different methods to calculate their own expected market risk premiums based on their individual goals and preferences.

The most commonly used models include the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM), the Arbitrage Pricing Theory (APT), and the Black-Scholes option pricing model.

For others, it can often be as simple as – how much return do I want or need, and what is the current risk-free rate?

If a pension fund, for example, needs 7% annual returns and the risk-free rate is 3%, then it would calculate the market risk premium at 4%.

Ultimately, investors need to assess different methods and models to determine which approach works best for them in calculating their expected market risk premium.

What factors affect market risk premium?

Factors like macroeconomic volatility, political risk, currency rate fluctuations, and inflation all can affect market risk premiums.

Additionally, investor preferences and personal financial circumstances also play a role in determining market risk premiums.

For example, some investors may be more willing to take on higher levels of risk in order to potentially achieve higher returns, while others may prefer a more conservative approach with lower risks.

Additionally, changing economic conditions such as decreased consumer spending or increased unemployment rates could lead to changes in the expected market risk premium.

Investors should stay up to date on current developments when calculating their expected market risk premium.



The market risk premium is an essential consideration when making trading and investment decisions.

It is the expected return of investing in a portfolio equal to that of the overall market versus the risk-free rate and can be used to calculate expected returns for individual stocks and investments.

The market risk premium is also a key component when trying to determine the expected returns of any stock or asset using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM).

By understanding how the market risk premium works, investors can make more informed decisions about their portfolios which should help them achieve higher long-term returns.