Hedge Funds

Hedge funds are now negative for the year following stock market sell-off

Key Points
  • October's market volatility hammered hedge funds, which lost 3.1 percent for the month and are now down about 2.6 percent for the year.
  • The monthly performance actually topped the stock market, but hedge funds still trail equities year to date.
  • The only hedge fund class to make money during October was forex/currency.
Saul Gravy | Getty Images

October's miserable market month took its toll across the board, including the hedge fund industry, which collectively turned negative for the year.

Hedge fund returns declined 3.1 percent during the month, according to industry tracker eVestment, the second-worst month since 2011. Equity funds caused the biggest damage, down 4.3 percent, while derivatives fell 3.7 percent and broad multimarket managers saw a decline of close to 2.5 percent.

The only class to make money was foreign exchange/currency, which rose just over 1 percent.

The declines dragged funds into negative territory for the year, with a loss of 2.6 percent.

"The search for bright spots in the industry was difficult in October as almost every hedge fund primary market and primary strategy was in the red for the month, although many are still in positive territory" year to date, eVestment said in a report. "October's fund performance and resulting impact on YTD performance are in stark contrast to the largely positive results hedge funds saw in 2017 and 2016."

Indeed, the industry has been on a winning streak, with returns of about 9 percent in 2017 and 5.8 percent the year before.

Bad as October was, hedge funds actually outperformed the stock market, as the fell 6.9 percent. The market's losses began in mid-October, when investors began worrying about higher interest rates, corporate earnings that may be close to peaking, and the looming midterms that ultimately saw Democrats wrest House control from the Republicans.

For the year, though, equities continue to hold the edge. Investors who bought a plain index fund that tracks the S&P 500 would have been up about 3 percent through October and paid only a low fee, while the hedge fund industry, much of which still operates on the 2-and-20 model — respectively representing the percentage charge on assets and performance — lagged behind.

From a strategy standpoint, multistrategy credit led in October by being about flat, while event-driven activists lost 5.8 percent. For the year, multistrategy has been the best performer, with a 2.9 percent return, while activists have fared worst with a 6.9 percent decline.

The 10 largest funds have done best with a collective gain of 1.24 percent year to date, while the 10 largest managed futures funds are down 4.9 percent. At a country level, Brazil has led with a 0.75 percent gain while India is off 22.5 percent.