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Hedgies caught with their pants down

In China, Financial competency on 28/08/2015 at 1:03 pm

From NYT Dealbook

ROUGH AND TUMBLE FOR HEDGE FUNDS The fallout from the global sell-off has few limits. Many on Wall Street have been caught off guard and money managers at some of the biggest hedge funds in the United States have had their vacation plans interrupted, Alexandra Stevenson and Matthew Goldstein report in DealBook.

One adviser had to hop around on conference calls from his cabin in the woods. Another said investors had requested play-by-play commentary and performance figures. With the reason for the plunge so unclear, many have not been willing to stick their necks out and speak publicly.

It is clear, however, that August numbers are not looking good for them. Hedge funds went into the sell-off bullish, with $1.5 trillion in long positions – bets that stocks will rise in price – compared with $684 billion in short positions, bets that stocks will decline in price, according to an analysis of the industry by Goldman Sachs.

The 10 stocks that Goldman said were the most widely held by hedge funds – stocks like Apple, Citigroup, Facebook and Amazon – were down from 5 to 10 percent over the last three trading days.

Leon G. Cooperman, founder of the $9 billion hedge fund Omega Advisors and a longtime market bull, is emerging as a big loser in the chaos. As of Friday, his fund was said to have lost 11 percent this month, according to people briefed on the matter. The firm was hit hard by big declines in the share prices of Allergan, AerCap, Citigroup and the American International Group.

One hedge fund manager who invests mainly in United States stocks, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he would not be surprised if the average fund lost from 3 to 7 percent in August. He said the last week had been brutal and the losses had come far faster than most would have anticipated.

Even the world’s biggest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, led by Ray Dalio, was not spared. The $162 billion firm told investors on Friday that its Pure Alpha fund was down 4.7 percent for the month. Going into August, the Pure Alpha portfolio had been up 11.8 percent for the year.

After six years of a bull market run, few hedge fund managers have been brave enough to short stocks with much conviction. To take a short position, a trader sells borrowed stock in a company that he or she thinks is overvalued in anticipation of buying it back at a cheap price. Those that have taken short positions have not been hit as hard by the sell-off.

Hedge funds that scoop up distressed assets at bottomed-out prices also began to eye opportunities. “What I have told investors is the economy is fine but now is a great time to be buying some things when they get hit,” said Marc Lasry, a co-founder of the $13.9 billion hedge fund Avenue Capital Group. “Other people may be having issues,” Mr. Lasry said. “For us, that is an opportunity as opposed to a problem.”

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