Positive-definite modification of a covariance matrix by minimizing the matrix ℓ norm with applications to portfolio optimization

Seonghun Cho, Shota Katayama, Johan Lim, Young Geun Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The covariance matrix, which should be estimated from the data, plays an important role in many multivariate procedures, and its positive definiteness (PDness) is essential for the validity of the procedures. Recently, many regularized estimators have been proposed and shown to be consistent in estimating the true matrix and its support under various structural assumptions on the true covariance matrix. However, they are often not PD. In this paper, we propose a simple modification to make a regularized covariance matrix be PD while preserving its support and the convergence rate. We focus on the matrix ℓ norm error in covariance matrix estimation because it could allow us to bound the error in the downstream multivariate procedure relying on it. Our proposal in this paper is an extension of the fixed support positive-definite (FSPD) modification by Choi et al. (2019) from spectral and Frobenius norms to the matrix ℓ norm. Like the original FSPD, we consider a convex combination between the initial estimator (the regularized covariance matrix without PDness) and a given form of the diagonal matrix minimize the ℓ distance between the initial estimator and the convex combination, and find a closed-form expression for the modification. We apply the procedure to the minimum variance portfolio (MVP) optimization problem and show that the vector ℓ error in the estimation of the optimal portfolio weight is bounded by the matrix ℓ error of the plug-in covariance matrix estimator. We illustrate the MVP results with S&P 500 daily returns data from January 1978 to December 2014.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-627
Number of pages27
JournalAStA Advances in Statistical Analysis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec


  • High-dimensional covariance matrix
  • Linear shrinkage
  • Matrix ℓ norm
  • Minimum variance portfolio
  • Positive definiteness
  • Regularized covariance matrix estimator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analysis
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Applied Mathematics


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