Advertiser Disclosure

Advertiser Disclosure: We may have financial relationships with companies listed on our site. We may receive compensation for placement of sponsored products or services and this may affect our decision about who to promote and where to promote them. We make every effort to be authentic and accurate with every article we write.


Stock Market

Understanding Abnormal Return to Avoid Surprises

Neither CashBlog nor its writers are financial advisors.  Nothing published on our website is financial advice.  Our articles are strictly educational.

An abnormal return refers to the generation of unusual profits over a specified period of time, by the given portfolios or securities. The performance differs from the anticipated RoR (rate of return). The anticipated RoR is the expected return. The same is calculated as per the asset pricing model using multiple valuations and historical average.

These abnormal returns are also termed as the excess returns or the alpha returns.

Why are the abnormal returns important?

While comparing to a benchmark index or the overall market, the abnormal return essentially help in determining the adjusted performance of a portfolio’s risk. Abnormal returns help identify the skills of a portfolio manager on the basis of risk adjustment.

The abnormal return can assume both negative and positive turns. The figure is a summary of the difference between the predicted and the actual returns. For instance, if a mutual fund earns 30% while the expected is 10% average per annum, the positive abnormal yield is 20%. Alternatively, if the actual return comes out to be 5%, the negative abnormal yield is 5%.

Cumulative Abnormal Return

CAR is the sum of all abnormal returns. Usually, it is calculated over a short time window. This generally extends to a few days. Daily compounding of abnormal returns creates a return bias and hence, the duration is kept short. It is beneficial for measuring effects of different events on the stock prices, buyouts and lawsuits. It also helps determine the asset pricing model’s accuracy for predicted the performance.

CAPM or the capital asset pricing model is a framework for calculating the expected return of a portfolio or security. It is based on the expected return from the market; the beta and risk free RoR. After calculating the expected return, the abnormal return is estimated by subtraction of expected from the realized return.

Key Takeaways

  • An abnormal return gives the description of unusual profits that a specific portfolio or security generates over a time period.
  • Abnormal returns help in determining the risk adjusted performance. Based on the portfolio or security and its performance, they can either be positive or negative.
  • The total of all abnormal returns gives the cumulative abnormal return.
  • CAR is beneficial for measuring effects of different events on the stock prices, buyouts and lawsuits.

An Example from the Real World

Assuming a 2% risk free RoR and the benchmark index to have a return expected as 15%. If you hold a portfolio of securities and wish to calculate the abnormal return from it during last year, here’s how to do it.

 The return from the portfolio is 25% and the beta is 1.25 against the benchmark index. Therefore, with the risk involved, the return should have been 18.25% = 2%+1.25(15%-2%)

Consequently, the abnormal return is 25 to 18.25% or 6.75%.

Photo of author

Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
Want to Say in the Loop?

Get the latest updates we offer about all things "Money" by signing up for the CashBlog newsletter.

As Seen on

The content on is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not financial advice and we are not certified financial advisors. strives to keep its information accurate and up to date, but it may differ from actual numbers. We may have financial relationships with companies listed on our site. We may receive compensation for the placement of sponsored products or services. We work hard to write authentic and accurate articles.