Hedge fund machines cash in—again

Systematica Investments' CEO Leda Braga in their offices, Geneva, Switzerland last February.
Denis Balibouse | Reuters

The robots are winning again.

Hedge funds that rely on sophisticated computer algorithms to invest are once again producing the industry's best returns.

Funds managed by ISAM, Cantab, AHL, Systematica and others produced double-digit gains over the first three months of 2015, according to private performance figures obtained by CNBC.com.

Those funds practice a so-called trend-following strategy using contracts on the future price of securities related to stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities.

Many of them caught big macroeconomic trends in the first quarter, like bets on the U.S. dollar gaining in value versus the euro (it gained 11 percent) and other currencies; government bonds in the U.S. and Europe appreciating (e.g., 10-year U.S. Treasurys were up 2.6 percent); and also stocks rising in Europe and Japan (e.g., the Nikkei 225 rose 10 percent).

"Trend followers and other macro investors clearly outperformed," said Robert Christian, head of research at K2 Advisors and Franklin Templeton Solutions. "What's carried people is just classic, good old trend following."

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