Collecting 2 and 20 in a world where “alpha-creation” through insider trading (thank you 72 Cummings Point Road for ending that party) is now history will be even more difficult after the current year is over when LPs get their year end performance reports and find out that for the fifth year in a row they have underperformed not only the S&P (by a whopping 75%) but the average plain vanilla mutual fund, which happens to collect a fraction of the fees hedge funds charge just to enjoy the privilege of engaging in pissing matches on CNBC with other hedge fund billionaires.
As the chart below shows, through October 31, the average hedge fund has returned a paltry 6%, 75% below the return of the S&P 500 and the average mutual fund. And while the traditional retort: “hedge funds aren’t supposed to outperform the market but to hedge downside risk” is always at the ready, the retort to that retort is that as long as Mr. Yellen is Chief Risk Officer for the S&P, and the Federal Reserve is engaged in QE and otherwise generating a “wealth effect”, which according to many will be in perpetuity or until the Fed finally and mercifully is abolished, the purpose behind the existence of hedge funds is simply no longer there as the Fed will never again voluntarily allow the kind of market drop that would make the existence of hedge funds meaningful.
Of course, if and when the Fed loses control, not even the best hedged fund will do much to offset the ensuing cataclysm.
Some other observations from Goldman:
- The typical hedge fund generated a 2013 YTD return of 6% through October 31, compared with 25% gains for both the S&P 500 and the average large-cap core mutual fund. At mid-year 2013 the average hedge fund had returned 4%, suggesting second-half gains of 2% while the S&P 500 rose nearly 5%.
- The distribution of YTD performance suggests that 20% of hedge funds have generated absolute losses. The standard deviation of YTD hedge fund returns is wide, at 11 percentage points. Fewer than 5% of hedge funds have outperformed the S&P 500 or the average large-cap core mutual fund YTD.
- Equity long/short funds have posted slightly better returns than the average across all funds, at 10%. Many of the poorest performers YTD are macro funds, which generated an average YTD return of -4%.
- Stock pickers have received a boost from their long books, as the most important long positions have outperformed the S&P 500 by nearly 500 bp so far in 2013. Our Hedge Fund VIP basket has returned 30% YTD.
- However, many widely-held short positions continue to outperform, offsetting the strong performance of popular longs and hampering overall hedge fund returns. The 50 stocks over $1 billion market cap with the highest short interest as a percentage of market cap have returned an average of 34% YTD. More than half of the 50 key short positions have outperformed the S&P 500 YTD, and five have returned over 100%
Precisely as we forecast they would 14 months ago.