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Trading activity near the end of a quarter or fiscal year that is designed to improve the appearance of a portfolio to be presented to clients or shareholders. For example, a portfolio manager may sell losing positions so as to display only positions that have gained in value. Financial institutions have also been criticized for a different type of window dressing as many moved debt off the balance sheet near the end of the quarter in a temporary manner. This made the bank appear to have less leverage than it actually did.
The act or practice of buying and selling securities on a portfolio immediately before a report is due in order to make the portfolio look more profitable or otherwise healthier than it has been. For example, the portfolio manager may sell stocks that have performed poorly and buy those that have performed well. Portfolios receive window dressing in order to make them look more attractive to prospective investors, which in turn makes the portfolio manager look more successful. The practice is also called dressing up a portfolio or portfolio dressing. See also: Manager Universe (benchmark).
An adjustment made to a portfolio or financial statement to create false appearances. For example, a manager may decide to provide window dressing to a portfolio by selling stock that has declined in value and replacing it with stock that has increased in value. Such activity creates the impression of successful portfolio management.