In the APT context, arbitrage consists of trading in two assets – with at least one being mispriced. The arbitrageur sells the asset which is relatively too expensive and uses the proceeds to buy one which is relatively too cheap.

Under the APT, an asset is mispriced if its current price diverges from the price predicted by the model. The asset price today should equal the sum of all future cash flows discounted at the APT rate, where the expected return of the asset is a linear function of various factors, and sensitivity to changes in each factor is represented by a factor-specific beta coefficient.

A correctly priced asset here may be in fact a synthetic asset - a portfolio consisting of other correctly priced assets. This portfolio has the same exposure to each of the macroeconomic factors as the mispriced asset. The arbitrageur creates the portfolio by identifying x correctly priced assets (one per factor plus one) and then weighting the assets such that portfolio beta per factor is the same as for the mispriced asset.

When the investor is long (finance)|long the asset and short selling|short the portfolio (or vice versa) he has created a position which has a positive expected return (the difference between asset return and portfolio return) and which has a net-zero exposure to any macroeconomic factor and is therefore risk free (other than for firm specific risk). The arbitrageur is thus in a position to make a risk-free profit:

Where today's price is too low:

The implication is that at the end of the period the portfolio would have appreciated at the rate implied by the APT, whereas the mispriced asset would have appreciated at more than this rate. The arbitrageur could therefore:

Today:

- short selling|short sell the portfolio
- buy the mispriced asset with the proceeds.

At the end of the period:

- sell the mispriced asset
- use the proceeds to buy back the portfolio
- pocket the difference.

Where today's price is too high:

The implication is that at the end of the period the portfolio would have appreciated at the rate implied by the APT, whereas the mispriced asset would have appreciated at less than this rate. The arbitrageur could therefore:

Today:

- short selling|short sell the mispriced asset
- buy the portfolio with the proceeds.

At the end of the period:

- sell the portfolio
- use the proceeds to buy back the mispriced asset
- pocket the difference.

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