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Fama and French Three Factor Model


The Fama and French Three Factor Model is an asset pricing model that expands the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) by incorporating two additional factors – size and value – to predict stock returns more accurately. Developed by finance professors Eugene Fama and Kenneth French in 1993, the model posits that smaller companies and those with high book-to-market ratios (value stocks) tend to generate higher returns. Consequently, by considering market risk, company size, and value factors, this model provides a better framework for estimating expected returns and portfolio diversification.


The phonetics of “Fama and French Three Factor Model” are:Fama: /’fɑmə/and: /ænd/French: /’frɛntʃ/Three: /θri/Factor: /’fæktər/Model: /’mɒdəl/

Key Takeaways

  1. Asset Pricing Model: Fama and French Three Factor Model is an asset pricing model that extends the traditional Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) by adding two new factors – size and value – to better explain the variation in stock returns.
  2. Three Factors: The model includes three factors – market risk (i.e., overall market performance), size (measured by a company’s market capitalization), and value (measured by the book-to-market ratio). These factors are believed to capture most of the variation in stock returns and can be used to explain a portfolio’s performance.
  3. Better Performance Prediction: The Fama and French model is generally regarded as a more accurate predictor of portfolio performance than the traditional CAPM. By accounting for size and value factors, it can explain much of the variation in returns that CAPM cannot and better help investors to assess potential investment opportunities.


The Fama and French Three Factor Model is an influential and widely-used financial model that expands upon the traditional Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) to better predict stock returns and assess investment risks. Developed by Eugene Fama and Kenneth French in the early 90s, this model recognizes three main factors that influence stock prices – market risk, size of the company, and the value of the firm (book-to-market ratio). By incorporating these additional factors, the model allows investors and portfolio managers to better understand the driving forces behind asset pricing and performance, ultimately leading to more optimized investment strategies and improved risk management. The importance of this model lies in its ability to provide a more comprehensive and accurate framework for predicting stock returns while simultaneously allowing investors to analyze and diversify their portfolios effectively.


The Fama and French Three Factor Model serves as an essential tool in the finance and business worlds for gaining a deeper understanding of the factors driving stock returns. It helps investors and portfolio managers to improve their investment strategies by analyzing and quantifying the impact of different variables affecting stock performance. This model expands on the traditional Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) by incorporating two additional factors – size and value – to the market risk factor found in CAPM. By doing so, it provides a more holistic approach in determining the expected returns of a stock, allowing asset managers and investors to make more informed decisions on how to construct and manage their portfolios in an attempt to maximize their returns. Beyond its practical application, the Fama and French Three Factor Model holds immense importance as an academic and research tool, offering robust insights into the complex workings of the financial markets. It enables researchers and analysts to investigate the underlying causes of stock returns, deepening our understanding of market inefficiencies and testing various investment theories. Ultimately, this refined knowledge contributes to the development of improved investment strategies, regulatory policies, and the overall functioning of financial markets. In essence, the Fama and French Three Factor Model serves as a valuable instrument for uncovering and examining the intricate factors involved in stock performance – benefiting investors, business professionals, and institutions alike.


The Fama and French Three Factor Model is an asset pricing model that expands on the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) by adding two additional factors – Size and Value – to explain the differences in returns of diversified portfolios. Here are three real-world examples illustrating the use and application of this model: 1. Investment Management: A wealth management firm may use the Fama and French Three Factor Model to construct and manage client’s investment portfolios. By considering market risk, company size, and the book-to-market ratio, the firm aims to deliver better risk-adjusted returns for their clients. For example, if their analysis suggests that small-cap value stocks are likely to outperform large-cap growth stocks, they may increase the allocation to small-cap value stocks in their portfolio strategies 2. Mutual Funds and ETF Evaluation: Fund rating agencies like Morningstar often use the Fama and French Three Factor Model to analyze the performance of mutual funds and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). By understanding how much of a fund’s returns can be explained by exposure to these three factors, the rating agency can provide investors with a more accurate assessment of a fund’s quality, risks, and potential rewards. 3. Academic Research and Publications: Many financial journals, academic institutions, and industry analysts refer to or directly use the Fama and French Three Factor Model in their research. This can include papers investigating historical stock market performance, predicting future stock returns, or testing the effectiveness of alternative asset pricing models. For example, a recent academic paper may study how the inclusion of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors affects the dividends paid by large-cap value stocks in comparison to other factors in the Three Factor Model.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Fama and French Three Factor Model?
The Fama and French Three Factor Model is a widely recognized and utilized asset pricing model in finance, developed by Eugene Fama and Kenneth French in 1992. The model expands the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) by incorporating three factors – market risk, outperformance of small-cap securities, and outperformance of high book-to-market value stocks – to better explain stock returns.
What are the three factors in the Fama and French Three Factor Model?
The three factors in the model are:1. Market risk (Rm-Rf): Difference between the overall market return and the risk-free rate, representing the premium that investors demand for investing in riskier assets.2. Size risk (SMB: Small Minus Big): Difference between returns of small-cap stocks and large-cap stocks, indicating a premium for the risk associated with small-cap companies.3. Value risk (HML: High Minus Low): Difference between returns of high book-to-market stocks (value stocks) and low book-to-market stocks (growth stocks), addressing the premium that investors command for investing in undervalued stocks compared to growth stocks.
Why was the Fama and French Three Factor Model developed?
The Fama and French Three Factor Model was developed in response to limitations in the CAPM, which only considered a single factor – market risk – to estimate expected returns. Empirical evidence suggested that the CAPM sometimes inadequately explained stock returns, so Fama and French sought to improve the model by including two additional factors: SMB (size risk) and HML (value risk).
How is the Fama and French Three Factor Model used in portfolio management and risk assessment?
The model is used by portfolio managers and analysts to help them identify and measure the sources of portfolio returns and risk. By evaluating the exposure of a portfolio to each factor, managers can better understand the drivers of performance and assess potential risks. This information can then guide decision-making, such as adjusting a portfolio’s factor exposures to optimize risk-adjusted returns.
Are there any criticisms of the Fama and French Three Factor Model?
The Fama and French Three Factor Model, while widely recognized and used, is not without its critics. Some argue that the model is too simplistic, and that other factors, such as momentum or quality, are equally important in explaining stock returns. In response to these criticisms, Fama and French have since developed a Five Factor Model, which adds profitability and investment factors to their original three-factor model. Critics also argue that the model is less applicable to other asset classes, such as bonds or emerging markets, and that some adaptation or modification is necessary in those cases.

Related Finance Terms

  • Market Risk Premium
  • Size Factor (SMB)
  • Value Factor (HML)
  • Portfolio Diversification
  • Risk-Adjusted Returns

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