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Absolute Return


Absolute return is a financial term used to describe the performance of an investment, specifically focusing on the actual gains or losses it experiences over a specified period. It is expressed as a percentage and measures the appreciation or depreciation of an asset, disregarding benchmark comparisons or market conditions. The goal of an absolute return strategy is to consistently generate positive returns in both rising and falling markets.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Absolute Return” is:Ab-suh-loot Reh-turn

Key Takeaways

  1. Absolute return refers to the total returns generated by an investment or portfolio, regardless of the market conditions or benchmarks. It aims to generate positive returns irrespective of the market movements and focuses on the actual gains or losses made by the investment.
  2. Absolute return strategies often utilize a range of investment techniques, such as long/short positions, arbitrage, derivatives, and leverage, to achieve their goals. These strategies are typically employed by hedge funds and other alternative investment vehicles, as they often have greater flexibility in their investment approaches compared to traditional investment funds.
  3. While absolute return funds may offer greater diversification and potentially lower correlation with traditional market benchmarks, they also have their own set of risks. These risks may include higher management fees, limited liquidity, and complex investment strategies that could lead to significant losses if the fund manager’s expectations are not met.


The concept of Absolute Return is important in business and finance as it serves as a practical performance measure of an investment’s profitability, regardless of the market conditions. By focusing on an asset’s actual gains or losses over a given time period, it allows investors and fund managers to assess their investment strategies’ effectiveness, distinguishing them from market movements or other external factors. This metric enables better risk management, encourages consistent performance, and promotes the pursuit of positive returns, even in volatile or declining markets. Consequently, it helps investors make better-informed decisions, aligning their portfolio’s growth with long-term financial goals.


Absolute return is an investment strategy that focuses on generating consistent and positive returns regardless of market fluctuations and conditions. The primary purpose of adopting this approach is to minimize risk and preserve capital, as it seeks to provide investors with consistent returns based on the performance of a specific investment or a portfolio, rather than benchmarking against a traditional market index.

By utilizing a variety of investment tactics, such as hedging, leveraging, and short selling, absolute return strategies strive to find opportunities to generate returns that are uncorrelated to the broader market trends. This approach can prove especially beneficial to investors during times of market volatility and instability, as absolute return seeks to limit potential downside and achieve positive results regardless of market performance.

Absolute return strategies are commonly used by investors, such as hedge funds, institutional investors, and high-net-worth individuals, to diversify their investment portfolios and to achieve more consistent returns irrespective of market ups and downs. By decoupling from traditional benchmarks, such as the S&P 500 or other stock market indices, an absolute return-oriented portfolio has the potential to reduce overall investment risk, while still generating meaningful returns.

Therefore, the primary function of absolute return is to serve as a risk management tool and to enhance the stability of an investment portfolio, making it a valuable addition to an investor’s broader investment strategy.


Absolute Return refers to the return that an investment or asset achieves over a certain period, regardless of the market conditions. It is often used to evaluate the performance of hedge funds, mutual funds, or portfolio managers. Here are three real-world examples of absolute return investments:

1. Bridgewater Associates’ Pure Alpha Fund: The Pure Alpha fund managed by Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, is an example of an absolute return fund. The fund’s primary objective is to generate positive returns irrespective of market conditions. Throughout its history, the fund has achieved positive annual returns in various market environments since its inception, demonstrating its absolute return strategy.

2. BlackRock Global Absolute Return Fund: Another example of an absolute return fund is the BlackRock Global Absolute Return Fund, which aims to achieve positive returns regardless of the market situation. The fund aims to achieve this by employing a diverse range of investment strategies focused on different asset classes, geographic regions, and market sectors through the use of advanced risk management techniques.

3. The AQR Capital Management’s Absolute Return Fund: The AQR Absolute Return Fund focuses on delivering consistent positive returns, regardless of market conditions. It does this by investing in a diversified portfolio, using various investment strategies and data-driven techniques. By mitigating market risks and aiming to generate positive returns, the fund serves as a real-world example of an absolute return investment.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Absolute Return?

Absolute Return refers to the total gain or loss an investment earns regardless of how other investments or market indices perform. The primary focus of absolute return strategies is to produce positive returns in any market condition.

How does Absolute Return differ from Relative Return?

While Absolute Return focuses on the actual gains or losses of an investment without comparison, Relative Return measures the performance of an investment against a market index or benchmark. Absolute Return strives for positive returns regardless of market conditions, whereas Relative Return assesses the investment’s performance compared to the market or sector.

What are some factors that may impact Absolute Returns?

Factors that can impact Absolute Returns may include market volatility, interest rates, inflation, geopolitical events, corporate performance, and overall economic conditions.

What are the benefits of an Absolute Return strategy?

The main benefits of an Absolute Return strategy include the potential for positive returns in various market conditions, lower portfolio volatility, and reduced exposure to systematic market risk.

How are Absolute Returns calculated?

Absolute Return is calculated using the following formula: (Current Value of Investment – Initial Value of Investment) / Initial Value of Investment. The result is then multiplied by 100 to express the return as a percentage.

Can Absolute Return guarantee positive performance?

While the objective of Absolute Return strategies is to produce positive performance in any market condition, no strategy can guarantee success. Depending on market conditions and the chosen investment vehicle, Absolute Return investments can still experience losses.

What types of investments use Absolute Return strategies?

Hedge funds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are some of the common investment vehicles that employ Absolute Return strategies. They may use various financial instruments, such as stocks, bonds, derivatives, and alternative investments, to achieve their goals.

What are the drawbacks of an Absolute Return approach?

Drawbacks can include higher management fees, limited liquidity, and lack of transparency in some investment vehicles, such as hedge funds. Additionally, achieving Absolute Returns can be challenging in consistently low-performing market conditions.

How does an Absolute Return approach fit into an investment portfolio?

Absolute Return strategies can be an effective diversification tool to complement traditional investments in an investor’s portfolio. They can provide risk management advantages and reduce portfolio volatility by uncorrelating their performance with market indices.

Related Finance Terms

  • Hedge Funds
  • Alpha Generation
  • Risk-Adjusted Performance
  • Long/Short Strategy
  • Event-Driven Investing

Sources for More Information

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