Systematic Risk

Risk caused by factors beyond the control of a company or individual

What is Systematic Risk?

Systematic risk is that part of the total risk that is caused by factors beyond the control of a specific company or individual. Systematic risk is caused by factors that are external to the organization. All investments or securities are subject to systematic risk and therefore, it is a non-diversifiable risk. Systematic risk cannot be diversified away by holding a large number of securities.


Systemic Risk


Types of Systematic Risk

Systematic risk includes market risk, interest rate risk, purchasing power risk, and exchange rate risk.


Market Risk

Market risk is caused by the herd mentality of investors, i.e. the tendency of investors to follow the direction of the market. Hence, market risk is the tendency of security prices to move together. If the market is declining, then even the share prices of good performing companies fall. Market risk constitutes almost two-thirds of total systematic risk. Therefore, sometimes systematic risk is also referred to as market risk. Market price changes are the most prominent source of risk in securities.


Interest Rate Risk

Interest rate risk arises due to changes in market interest rates. In the stock market, this primarily affects fixed income securities because bond prices are inversely related to the market interest rate. In fact, interest rate risks include two opposite components: Price Risk and Reinvestment Risk. Both these risks work in opposite directions. Price risk is associated with changes in the price of a security due to changes in interest rate. Reinvestment risk is associated with reinvesting interest/ dividend income. If price risk is negative (i.e. fall in price), reinvestment risk would be positive (i.e. increase in earnings on reinvested money). Interest rate changes are the main source of risk for fixed income securities such as bonds and debentures.


Purchasing Power Risk (or Inflation Risk)

Purchasing power risk arises due to inflation. Inflation is the persistent and sustained increase in the general price level. Inflation erodes the purchasing power of money, i.e., the same amount of money can buy fewer goods and services due to an increase in prices. Therefore, if an investor’s income does not increase in times of rising inflation, then the investor is actually getting lower income in real terms. Fixed income securities are subject to a high level of purchasing power risk because income from such securities is fixed in nominal terms. It is often said that equity shares are good hedges against inflation and hence subject to lower purchasing power risk.


Exchange Rate Risk

In a globalized economy, most of the companies have exposure to foreign currency. Exchange rate risk is the uncertainty associated with changes in the value of foreign currencies. Therefore, this type of risk affects only the securities of companies with foreign exchange transactions or exposures such as export companies, MNCs, or companies that use imported raw material or products.


Calculation of Systematic Risk (β)

Systematic risk is that part of the total risk that is caused by factors beyond the control of a specific company, such as economic, political, and social factors. It can be captured by the sensitivity of a security’s return with respect to market return. This sensitivity can be calculated by the β (beta) coefficient. The β coefficient is calculated by regressing a security’s return on market return. The estimated equation is given below:


Systematic Risk


RS is the return on a particular security while RM is the market return. It can be observed that β is the regression coefficient of RS on RM. The intercept term α shows a security’s return independent of market return.

The value of β can be calculated using the following formula:


Systematic Risk




Systematic Risk


Beta is a measure of a stock’s volatility in relation to the market. It measures the risk exposure of a particular stock or sector in relation to the market. β measures the resultant change in RS (i.e. a security’s return) for a unit change in RM (i.e. market return).

  • A beta of 0 indicates that the portfolio is uncorrelated with the market.
  • A beta less than 0 indicates that it moves in the opposite direction of the market.
  • A beta between 0 and 1 signifies that it moves in the same direction as the market, with less volatility.
  • A beta of 1 indicates that the portfolio will move in the same direction, with the same volatility as the overall market, and is sensitive to systematic risk.
  • A beta greater than 1 indicates that the portfolio will move in the same direction as the market, with a higher magnitude, and is very sensitive to systematic risk.


To better understand various investment risks, CFI offers the following resources.

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