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The author use university endowment funds to study the relationship between asset allocation decisions and performance in multiple asset class portfolios. Although endowments differ substantially in asset class composition, policy portfolio returns and volatilities are remarkably similar across the sample. The risk-adjusted performance of the average endowment is negligible, but actively managed funds generate significantly larger alphas than passive ones. This is consistent with endowment managers exploiting their security selection abilities by over-weighting asset classes in which they have superior skills. Contrary to both theory and prevailing beliefs, asset allocation is not related to portfolio returns in the cross-section but does indirectly influence performance.
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