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Sortino Ratio

Decoding Sortino Ratio: A Comprehensive Guide to Downside Risk Measurement

Compact Explanation

The Sortino Ratio measures return relative to downside risk.

Calculation formula of 'Sortino Ratio'


In the landscape of investment and financial risk management, the Sortino Ratio occupies a significant place. It's an essential tool that helps investors quantify the downside risk associated with a particular investment or portfolio, providing a more nuanced understanding than the widely used Sharpe Ratio.


The Sortino Ratio is a statistical tool that measures the risk-adjusted return of an investment asset, portfolio, or strategy. It differentiates harmful volatility from total overall volatility by using the standard deviation of negative asset returns, which separates downside risk from total risk.

Context and Use

The Sortino Ratio is particularly useful for investors and portfolio managers who are concerned about potential downside risk. By providing a means to quantify downside risk, it assists in making more informed investment decisions and constructing portfolios that are in line with an investor's risk tolerance and investment objectives.

Detailed Explanation

The Sortino Ratio is typically calculated using the following formula:

Sortino Ratio = (Return of Investment - Risk-Free Rate) / Downside Deviation

Let's delve deeper into the components of this formula:

  • Return of Investment: This is the total gains or losses made on an investment over a specific period.

  • Risk-Free Rate: This is the theoretical rate of return of an investment with zero risk. It's often approximated using the yield on a 3-month U.S. Treasury bill.

  • Downside Deviation: This is the standard deviation of the negative returns or the returns below a certain minimum acceptable return (MAR). This differentiation focuses only on adverse volatility, providing a more accurate measure of potential downside risk.

A higher Sortino Ratio implies a more favorable risk-adjusted return, meaning the investment or portfolio offers higher return per unit of bad risk taken on. Conversely, a lower Sortino Ratio indicates a less favorable risk-adjusted return.


For example, suppose an investment has an annual return of 15%, a risk-free rate of 2%, and a downside deviation of 10%. The Sortino Ratio would be:

Sortino Ratio = (15% - 2%) / 10% = 1.3

This indicates that the investment is earning 1.3 times the risk-free rate for each unit of downside risk.

Related Terms

  • Sharpe Ratio: A commonly used indicator to measure risk-adjusted performance. It considers total volatility, not just downside volatility.

  • Treynor Ratio: A performance metric for determining how well an investment has compensated for market risk.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Why is the Sortino Ratio important? A: The Sortino Ratio is important because it provides a more refined measure of downside risk, which is typically of greater concern to investors. By considering only harmful volatility, it provides a better understanding of the investment's risk/return profile.

Q: How does the Sortino Ratio differ from the Sharpe Ratio? A: While both ratios measure risk-adjusted return, they differ in their treatment of risk. The Sharpe Ratio considers total volatility (both upside and downside), while the Sortino Ratio focuses solely on downside volatility.

Q: What is a good Sortino Ratio? A: A higher Sortino Ratio is generally preferable as it indicates a higher return per unit of downside risk. However, what constitutes a "good" Sortino Ratio can depend on the benchmark or peer group against which an investment is being compared.

Q: Can the Sortino Ratio be negative? A: Yes, the Sortino Ratio can be negative if the investment's return is less than the risk-free rate, indicating that the investment carries a higher potential for downside risk relative to its returns.


The Sortino Ratio is a powerful tool in the investment analysis toolbox. By focusing on downside risk, it provides a more nuanced understanding of an investment's risk/return profile, enabling investors and portfolio managers to make better-informed decisions. However, like all financial metrics, it should be used in conjunction with other measures for a comprehensive assessment of an investment's performance.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is for educational purposes only and should not be considered financial advice. Always seek professional advice before making any financial decisions.