The minimizing problem is the following : $$ \underset{w}{\operatorname{argmin}} \sum_{i=1}^{n}\left[w_{i}\times (\frac{Vw}{\sigma})_{i} - b_{i}\right]^{2}$$ with $V$ a $n\times n$ matrix (covariance matrix) which depends on the vector $w$ of size $n$, $\sigma$ is a scalar which is equal to $\sigma = \sqrt{w^\top Vw}$.

For $i=1,\ldots,n$, the quantity $w_{i}\times\left(\frac{Vw}{\sigma}\right)_{i}$ has a meaning in finance and I want the vector to be as close as possible to the target vector $b$. That's why I am minimizing this function.

I have a function that uses scipy.minimize to solve this problem and it returns the optimal weights $\tilde{w}=(w_{i})$ of a portfolio of 500+ stocks. However, some of these weights are very low and I would like the weights $w_{j}$ that are under a certain thresold $\rm thr$ to be set to 0.

One way to have this would be to run my function, then manually set such weights to 0 with if conditions, and finally rescale the weights so the sum equals one. The problem with this method is that the final vector $w$ will not be the optimal vector $\tilde{w}$ anymore.

Do you know any way to minimize a function while having such conditions ?

  • $\begingroup$ what is the function you are minimizing? can you write down your model? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to OR.SE! Please take a look at these questions and answers, and see whether they answer your question: or.stackexchange.com/questions/76/… and or.stackexchange.com/questions/33/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you @LarrySnyder610 ! I checked your links, unfortunately I don't think my problem can be solved with the answers. $\endgroup$
    – FredNgu
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ OK -- in that case, it would be good if you can put your problem statement into your question rather than in the comments. Hopefully someone will have a good answer for you. Thanks! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:11
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The $w_i$ are semicontinuous variables or.stackexchange.com/questions/1512/… . Any MIQP solver should be able to handle this, whether handled directly as semicontinuous variables, or handled by binary variables Believe me when I say you are not the first person in the history of portfolio optimization who has done this. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:17

1 Answer 1


with optimization engines like CPLEX you can model this if with logical constraints:

For instance, (x<=2) implies (y>=3) can be written in OPL, which is one of CPLEX APIs

(x<=2) => (y>=3);

Now for your portfolio example if you start with the standard Markowitz example

you may easily add if constraints or logical constraints:

{string} Investments = ...;
float Return[Investments] = ...;
float Covariance[Investments][Investments] = ...;
float Wealth = ...;
float Rho = ...;  // Variance Penalty (increasing rho from 0.001 to 1.0 
                  //                   produces a distribution of funds 
                  //                   with smaller and smaller variability).


range float FloatRange = 0.0..Wealth;

dvar float  Allocation[Investments] in FloatRange;  // Investment Level


// Minimal Investment
float minimalInvestment=0.01;
// max nb assets
float nbAssetsMax=5;

dexpr float Objective =
  (sum(i in Investments) Return[i]*Allocation[i])
    - (Rho/2)*(sum(i,j in Investments) Covariance[i][j]*Allocation[i]*Allocation[j]);

maximize Objective;

subject to {
  // sum of allocations equals amount to be invested
  allocate: (sum (i in Investments) (Allocation[i])) == Wealth;
  sum(i in Investments) (Allocation[i]>=minimalInvestment)<=nbAssetsMax;
  forall(i in Investments) (Allocation[i]>=minimalInvestment) || (Allocation[i]==0);

tuple AllocationSolutionT{ 
    string Investments; 
    float value; 
{AllocationSolutionT} AllocationSolution = {<i0,Allocation[i0]> | i0 in Investments};

float TotalReturn = sum(i in Investments) Return[i]*Allocation[i];
float TotalVariance = sum(i,j in Investments) Covariance[i][j]*Allocation[i]*Allocation[j];

execute DISPLAY {
  writeln("Total Expected Return: ", TotalReturn);
  writeln("Total Variance       : ", TotalVariance);

in particular

forall(i in Investments) (Allocation[i]>=minimalInvestment) || (Allocation[i]==0);

makes sure that an allocation is either 0 or more than a minimum level


I gave an example in OPL but that 's the same in C, python, java ...


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