Sortino Ratio vs Sharpe Ratio

The Sharpe ratio is used more to evaluate low-volatility investment portfolios, and the Sortino variation is used more to evaluate high-volatility portfolios. Read the article to explore more.
Sortino Ratio vs Sharpe Ratio
3 min

The Sortino ratio, an adaptation of the Sharpe ratio, distinguishes detrimental volatility from overall volatility by focusing on the asset's standard deviation of negative portfolio returns, known as downside deviation, rather than the total standard deviation of portfolio returns.

If you are planning to invest in market-linked assets like stocks or mutual funds, it is not enough to simply compare the returns of different investments before making a choice. You need to also evaluate the risk-adjusted returns. Financial metrics like the Sharpe ratio and the Sortino ratio can help you with this.

In this article, we examine the meaning of these ratios and explore the Sortino ratio vs Sharpe ratio comparison.

What is the Sharpe ratio

The Sharpe ratio is a metric that evaluates the risk-adjusted returns of stocks and mutual fund schemes. Originally known as the reward-to-variability ratio, it was first developed by William F. Sharpe as a progression of his propositions about the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM).

This ratio essentially tells you how much excess returns you earn from an asset for every unit of risk and volatility that you take on. It is particularly useful for evaluating highly volatile assets because it helps you see if the additional risk is set off by potentially higher risk-adjusted returns.

Sharpe ratio calculation

To calculate the Sharpe ratio, you need to compare the excess returns from an asset or portfolio with its standard deviation. The formula for this ratio is:

Sharpe ratio = (Rp — Rf) ÷ σp


Rp is the expected returns from the portfolio or fund

Rf is the risk-free rate

σp is the standard deviation of the portfolio or fund

What is the Sortino ratio

The Sortino ratio, like the Sharpe ratio, also helps you measure the risk-adjusted returns of a mutual fund, stock or portfolio. However, it only focuses on the downside risk or the standard deviation of the losses from a portfolio. In other words, it tells you the excess returns you can earn from a mutual fund or portfolio for every unit of downside risk you assume by investing in it.

The main difference between the Sortino ratio and the Sharpe ratio is the kind of volatility considered. While the Sharpe ratio assesses the risk-adjusted returns for the total volatility of an asset, the Sortino ratio tells you the excess returns you earn for the harmful volatility you endure.

This distinction is important because not all volatility is adverse. If the price of an asset or mutual fund moves in a favourable direction, it improves the risk-adjusted returns instead of eroding your gains.

Sortino ratio calculation

The formula to calculate the Sortino ratio is similar to the Sharpe ratio formula. The only difference between the Sortino ratio and the Sharpe ratio formulas is the type of standard deviation used. Check out the formula for the Sortino ratio.

Sortino ratio = (Rp — Rf) ÷ σp


Rp is the expected returns from the portfolio or fund

Rf is the risk-free rate

σp is the standard deviation of the negative or downside returns from the asset or portfolio

Sharpe ratio vs Sortino ratio: The key differences

Now that you have seen the fundamentals of the Sortino ratio vs Sharpe ratio comparison, let us examine these details further. The table below summarises the differences between the Sortino ratio and the Sharpe ratio.


Sharpe ratio

Sortino ratio

What it measures

The excess returns received for the extra volatility in a riskier asset

The excess returns received for the extra negative volatility in an asset

The type of volatility considered

Considers the total volatility of an asset, thereby including both gains and losses

Considers only the downside volatility, thereby focusing specifically on losses or negative returns


Reacts to both positive and negative changes in the price or asset value

Reacts only to negative changes in the asset value and ignores any positive performance

Use cases

Useful for general risk-adjusted performance assessment of investments

Useful for evaluating investments where protection against downside risk is a priority


How are the Sharpe ratio and the Sortino ratio used in investing

The Sharpe ratio and the Sortino ratio can be useful in different ways. Before you make a lump sum or SIP investment in a mutual fund or take a long position in any other asset, you can use the Sharpe ratio to evaluate the risk-adjusted performance of the asset. It also helps you compare mutual funds and optimise the risk-reward proposition in your existing portfolio.

The Sortino ratio is crucial for assessing the downside risk in any investment. It can also help you assess investment strategies and plays a pivotal role in performance benchmarking.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Sharpe Ratio 

The Sharpe Ratio assesses an investment's risk-adjusted return by comparing its performance to a risk-free asset. A higher ratio signifies better risk-adjusted returns. Its advantages include straightforward calculation and interpretation, insights into risk-return tradeoffs, and facilitating comparisons across investments with varying risk levels. However, limitations include disregarding nonlinear investment behaviors and excluding considerations like taxes and transaction expenses.


This sums up the Sortino ratio vs the Sharpe ratio comparison. The bottom line is that the Sharpe ratio and the Sortino ratio are both useful if you want to assess and compare mutual funds to make a smart investment decision. To choose from a variety of mutual funds in different categories with varying risk-adjusted returns, check out the 1,000+ mutual fund schemes on the Bajaj Finserv Platform.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a good Sortino ratio?

A Sortino ratio of 2 or higher is considered to be good for investors because it means that the mutual fund or portfolio generates enough excess returns to cover the downside risk at least twice over.

How is the Sortino ratio calculated?

To calculate the Sortino ratio, you need to divide the excess returns from a portfolio by its negative volatility. The difference between the portfolio’s expected returns and the risk-free rate represents the excess returns. Meanwhile, the standard deviation of an asset’s negative returns represents the negative volatility.

What is a good Sharpe ratio?

A higher Sharpe ratio is always better. As a rule of thumb, a Sharpe ratio between 1 and 2 may be quite good, while a ratio ranging from 2 to 3 may be very good. If the ratio exceeds 3, it is considered excellent.

What is the difference between the Sharpe ratio and the Sortino ratio?

The main difference between the Sortino ratio and the Sharpe ratio lies in the type of volatility or standard deviation considered. While the Sharpe ratio accounts for all kinds of volatility (i.e. the standard deviation of the portfolio’s overall returns), the Sortino ratio only focuses on negative volatility (i.e. the standard deviation of the portfolio’s negative returns or losses).

What does Sortino ratio tell you?

A higher Sharpe Ratio indicates better performance. A Sharpe Ratio above 0 signifies that your portfolio has achieved strong returns compared to a risk-free investment like Treasury bills or cash, considering the volatility it experienced during a specific period.

Is a Sharpe ratio of 0.5 good?

A Sharpe ratio below 1 is generally deemed unfavorable. Ratios between 1 and 1.99 are considered acceptable or favorable, while those between 2 and 2.99 are viewed as highly favorable. Ratios exceeding 3 are regarded as outstanding. A higher Sharpe ratio indicates that a fund's returns have outperformed considering the level of investment risk undertaken.

What is the difference between CAGR and Sharpe ratio?

CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) measures the average annual growth rate of an investment over a specified period. It focuses on total return and is independent of risk. In contrast, the Sharpe ratio assesses risk-adjusted return by comparing an investment's excess return to its volatility. CAGR reflects growth, while the Sharpe ratio evaluates return relative to risk.

What is a Sharpe ratio of 0?

A Sharpe ratio of 0 indicates that the investment's excess return over the risk-free rate is exactly equal to its volatility. This implies that the investment's risk-adjusted return is exactly in line with its risk level, offering no excess return beyond what is expected for the amount of risk taken.

What is a favorable Sharpe ratio?

A favorable Sharpe ratio varies depending on the investor's preferences and the market context. Generally, a Sharpe ratio greater than 1 is considered good, indicating that the investment is providing sufficient excess return for its level of risk. However, what constitutes a favorable ratio can differ based on risk appetite, investment goals, and prevailing market conditions.

What is a good Sortino ratio for a mutual fund?

A good Sortino ratio for a mutual fund typically exceeds 1. It measures the fund's risk-adjusted returns, focusing on downside risk. A higher Sortino ratio indicates better performance in managing downside volatility, which is crucial for risk-averse investors. Investors often prefer mutual funds with Sortino ratios above 1, as they suggest superior risk-adjusted returns while minimizing downside risk.

How to calculate Sortino ratio?

The Sortino ratio is calculated using the formula: S = (Mean portfolio return – MAR) / Downside deviation. Unlike the Sharpe ratio, which measures risk using standard deviation, the Sortino ratio addresses the limitations associated with standard deviation in assessing risk.

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The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute any financial advice. The content herein has been prepared by BFL on the basis of publicly available information, internal sources and other third-party sources believed to be reliable. However, BFL cannot guarantee the accuracy of such information, assure its completeness, or warrant such information will not be changed. 

This information should not be relied upon as the sole basis for any investment decisions. Hence, User is advised to independently exercise diligence by verifying complete information, including by consulting independent financial experts, if any, and the investor shall be the sole owner of the decision taken, if any, about suitability of the same.