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Cantab remains generally long stocks, government bonds and the U.S. dollar, and short energy commodities, metals and the euro. Its strategy relies on trading futures contracts as a commodity trading advisor.
Cantab, based in Cambridge, England, manages $4.5 billion overall and $3.5 billion in the CCP Quantitative Fund. The big gain came in the Aristarchus share class, the most popular offering.
"Cantab's performance in January illustrates the value of maintaining a diversified portfolio that includes macro and CTA managers," said Sean Bill, investment program manager for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.
Bill, who was until recently a trustee for pensions of the city of San Jose, California, a Cantab client, said the firm and other CTAs should continue to perform well given differences in central bank policies and increased market turbulence.
"After several years of less-than-stellar returns, I believe that CTA managers are well-positioned to capture the volatility that has recently returned to the markets," Bill said.
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Cantab said the high return wasn't due to high risk.
"It is tempting to conclude from the month's exceptional return that the program was taking excess risk. In fact, the program realized volatility that was very close to its target of 20 percent annualized," the letter said.
Still, the Aristarchus fund has more volatility than some hedge funds.
It gained 39.3 percent in 2014, among the best performances in the hedge fund industry, but fell 27.6 percent in 2013, according to the Cantab letter. The annualized return since inception in March 2007 is 11.38 percent. That compares to 6.78 for the S&P 500 index. Annualized volatility for the fund was 17.52 percent versus 16.20 percent for the stock index.
The main quantitative fund wasn't the only one up big. The $918 million CCP Core Macro Fund gained 9.32 percent in January.
A Cantab spokesman declined to comment.