# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

What is Beta?

A fund’s beta is a measure of its sensitivity to market movements.

The beta of the market is 1.00 by definition. Morningstar calculates beta by comparing a fund's excess return over Treasury bills to the market's excess return over Treasury bills, so a beta of 1.10 shows that the fund has performed 10% better than its benchmark index in up markets and 10% worse in down markets, assuming all other factors remain constant.

Conversely, a beta of 0.85 indicates that the fund's excess return is expected to perform 15% worse than the market's excess return during up markets and 15% better during down markets.

Beta can be a useful tool when at least some of a fund's performance history can be explained by the market as a whole. Beta is particularly appropriate when used to measure the risk of a combined portfolio of mutual funds.

It is important to note that a low beta for a fund does not necessarily imply that the fund has a low level of volatility. A low beta signifies only that the fund's market-related risk is low. (Standard deviation is a measure of a fund's absolute volatility.)

A specialty fund that invests primarily in gold, for example, will usually have a low beta, as its performance is tied more closely to the price of gold and gold-mining stocks than to the overall stock market. Thus, the specialty fund might fluctuate wildly because of rapid changes in gold prices, but its beta will remain low.

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