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Beta Explained Incorrectly in the Times

In the New York Times Business Section, Paul Sullivan manages to describe a basic financial concept incorrectly:

Beta is the return of any given market. And charting beta is what a passive index fund does.
- Paul Sullivan, Aligning Your Investments With What Motivates You, NYT, Oct. 28, 2016



As anyone with a basic knowledge of finance should know, beta is not a measure of return but a measure of volatility. For instance:


Definition of beta
A measure of a stock's risk of volatility compared to the overall market. The market's beta coefficient is 1.00. Any stock with a beta higher than 1.00 is considered more volatile than the market, and therefore riskier to hold, whereas a stock with a beta lower than 1.00 is expected to rise or fall more slowly than the market.
- Financial Times Lexicon, Definition of beta


What is 'Beta'
Beta is a measure of the volatility, or systematic risk, of a security or a portfolio in comparison to the market as a whole.
- Investopedia, Explanation of Beta



This background (from Sullivan's book The Thin Green Line) may help explain the confusion:

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