I have a matrix $A$ given and I want to find the matrix $B$ which is closest to $A$ in the frobenius norm and is positiv definite. $B$ does not need to be symmetric.

I found a lot of solutions if the input matrix $A$ is symmetric. Are they any for a non-symmetric matrix $A$? Is it possible to rewrite the problem as a minimization of a convex problem?

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    $\begingroup$ The subset of positive definite matrices (of size $n\times n$) is an open set in the given topology, and not a closed set. Therefore a "closest" $B$ will not necessarily exist, e.g. taking $A = 0$. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Jan 23 '14 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ Some links to defining positive definite for real, but not necessarily symmetric matrices. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Jan 23 '14 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ For these reasons you should clarify what you mean by asking for $B$ to be positive definite and not necessarily symmetric. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Jan 23 '14 at 15:01

A real, square matrix $B$ is positive definite iff $v^TBv> 0$ for all $v\neq 0$. But $$v^TBv = \tfrac{1}{2}(v^TBv+v^TB^Tv) = \tfrac{1}{2}v^T(B+B^T)v.$$ It follows then that $B$ is positive definite iff $B+B^T$ is positive definite. Therefore, your model becomes $$\begin{array}{ll} \text{minimize} & \|A-B\|_F \\ \text{subject to} & B+B^T \succ 0 \end{array}$$ This remains a convex optimization problem. For example, in CVX the model is

n = size(A,1);
cvx_begin sdp
    variable B(n,n)
    subject to
        B+B' >= 0

(Disclaimer: I am the author of CVX. You do not need to use it to solve this problem, however. Any SDP solver can handle this problem.)

Note that the CVX model relaxes the condition to require $B$ to be positive semidefinite. That will be necessary with any numerical solver you are likely to employ here. Of course, an interior-point method would get you a sequence of strictly positive definite solutions that converge to an optimum, but this optimum may itself be positive semidefinite.

  • $\begingroup$ Did I understand you right: There is no numerical solver that finds for sure a closest positive definite matrix? $\endgroup$ – Adam Jan 28 '14 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't. The set of positive definite matrices is an open set. For some choices of $A$ (say, $A=I$), the optimal solution will be in the set ($B=I$, of course). But in other cases, the optimal solution will be on the boundary of the set, which is positive semidefinite. So if you require positive definiteness, you cannot guarantee attainment. For a simple example, consider $A=-I$; then $B=0$ is optimal if you allow $B$ to be PSD. $\endgroup$ – Michael Grant Jan 28 '14 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Michael. Can you comment on whether anything changes (e.g. is it simpler?) if we know that A is real symmetric? $\endgroup$ – Bitwise Jun 1 '14 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ Yes. In that case, you can actually compute the solution with an eigenvalue decomposition. Basically, let $B=Q\Lambda Q^T$ be the Schur decomposition of the matrix; $\Lambda$ is the diagonal matrix of eigenvalues. Then the solution is $A=Q\Lambda_+ Q^T$, where $[\Lambda_+]_{ii}=\max\{\Lambda_{ii},0\}$. In other words, just zero out any negative eigenvalues. $\endgroup$ – Michael Grant Jun 2 '14 at 1:56

I think this is a direct way to compute the closest psd matrix without using numerical optimization.

  1. Find the closest symmetric psd matrix (call it $S$) to $A$ as follows (see the proof of Theorem 2.1 in Higham's 1988 paper):

    (i) Compute the symmetric part of $A$: $C=(A+A^T)/2$

    (ii) Compute a spectral decomposition $C=UDU^T$, where $D$ is diagonal

    (iii) Replace the negative entries in $D$ with zero to get diagonal matrix $D_+$

    (iv) Compute $S=UD_+U^T$

  2. Add an anti-symmetric matrix $Q$ to $S$ that gets it closest to $A$:

    (i) Stack up a generic anti-symmetric matrix $Q$ into a vector $\text{vec}(Q)$ and rearrange it to the form $Px$, where $P$ is a known basis matrix and $x$ is a vector containing the upper-triangular elements of $Q$

    (ii) Compute $Q$ from $\text{vec}(Q)=P(P^TP)^{-1}P'\text{vec}(A-S)$

    (iii) The desired closest psd matrix is $B=S+Q$.

  • $\begingroup$ I can see that (1) will be closer in 2-norms, but will it be also close in frobinus norm? $\endgroup$ – piyush_sao Aug 30 '17 at 12:46

Let suppose C is non positive definite correlation matrix $$C=Q\Lambda Q^*=Q (\Lambda_+ -\Lambda_-)Q^*$$ Where $\Lambda$ is diagonal matrix of Eigen values. Replace all negative eigen values with zero. Then we use the Symmetric , non negative definite matrix $\rho^2C$ with suitable value of $\rho$. Two choices of $\rho$ are $$\rho_1=tr(\Lambda)/tr(\Lambda_+) \space\space\space\space\space \rho_1=\sqrt{tr(\Lambda)/tr(\Lambda_+)}$$ User defined $\rho$ is also allowed. For +ve definite matrix $\Lambda=\Lambda_+$ and $\rho=1$ .Another Way is to add $C*I$ to your corr-matrix, where is C is a constant and I is an identity matrix.

Chan, Grace; Wood, Andrew T.A., An algorithm for simulating stationary Gaussian random fields, J. R. Stat. Soc., Ser. C 46, No.1, 171-181 (1997). ZBL0913.65142.


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