STONE MOUNTAIN CAPITAL RESEARCH PERSPECTIVE VOL.88
Our in-house strategies in credit, equity and fund of funds, as measured by our indices, have performed better in the first half of the year than their traditional and alternative peers. Tactical trading is still lagging due to the struggling performance of the actively managed altcoin strategy this year mainly driven by falling bitcoin prices. Equities are the top performing and the bucket that has the most representatives in the top-5 performing table, followed by credit/fixed income strategies.
Hedge funds started 2017 under pressure and the overall industry’s model was in question. Performance and fees were the main topic of debate among investors at the beginning of the year, but hedge funds managed to pull a strong year with no down month. Despite losses from some large managers, the industry overall generated strong returns according to HFR data attracting more capital. Per HFR, total hedge fund industry AuM increased by $59bn to $3.21tr, the sixth consecutive quarterly record for total industry AuM. The inflows suggest a sign of regained optimism, but the industry will need to sustain its performance long-term in order to regain its calibre. The oxymoron of the industry is the fact that equity hedge were the best performing strategies amongst hedge funds but suffered the biggest outflows. Macro, CTAs and multi-strategy attracted more capital this year, and given the outlook for more volatility and less central bank intervention, investors target further allocations in those sub-sectors.
Stone Mountain Capital Strategies
2017 was the year producing the strongest return for hedge funds since 2013 and second best since 2009. Stone Mountain Capital strategies outperformed in last year’s environment across all asset classes. Credit was the only strategy underperforming its peers, caused by yield compression in the direct lending space. One, out of only three negative strategies was in credit, while the other two, were CTAs that struggled amid the low volatility and trendless environment. Despite these two strategies, tactical trading was overall the best performing strategy with strong returns generated by discretionary global macro and cryptocurrency. Equities enjoyed a very profitable year and Stone Mountain Capital’s mandated equity hedge managers produced astonishing returns, beating their traditional and alternative peers. Finally, fund of hedge funds recovered from their 2016 losses, surviving while the industry’s model is evolving.
Figure 3. Stone Mountain Capital In-House Indices vs. Major Benchmark Indices Hedge Funds and Long Only in 2017, Stone Mountain Capital Research; SMC strategy indices are not investable products but are used as indication of our managers' performance and are calculated with the equally-weighted method.
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The most popular and controversial topic this year within finance and tech circles is the rise of Bitcoin and crypto markets. Bitcoin jumped into mainstream and financial products like futures, options, funds, certificates, ETNs, ETFs are being designed to allow exposure to cryptocurrencies. The last one and a half month, we evidenced a huge growth of the crypto market, with its capitalisation surpassing $561bn from $182bn on the first day of November. The crypto market metamorphosed into a market bigger than CTAs, a $343bn well-established alternative investment market. Crypto market, according to CoinMarketCap, consists of 1360 cryptocurrencies, but Bitcoin and Ethereum account for around 67% of this market. Bitcoin market cap became almost three times bigger within two months, being a $318bn market now, with its price rising from $6,750 in the first day of November to $18,000. Ethereum was the fourth largest coin market in 2015 behind Bitcoin, Ripple and LiteCoin, but as we approach the end of 2017, the $66bn Ethereum market cap is nearly double of Ripple and Litecoin’s capitalisation combined.
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A recent PwC report showed that global assets under management are going to surpass $145.4 trillion by 2025, currently at $84.9 trillion. Investments targeting alternative asset classes will more than double to 21.1 trillion. Investors will be looking to pursue opportunities in established asset classes such as real assets, private equity, private debt (trade finance, peer-to-peer lending in particular) and hedge funds and in more niche markets including machine learning/systematic strategies and cryptocurrencies. In this perspective, we focus on cryptocurrency and systematic trading strategies due to the prevailing “phrenitis” of investors allocating to the space or being in the process of exploring the markets. In an earlier perspective, we examined the effects of adding bitcoin and systematic CTAs to institutional portfolios and evidenced the enhancement of the risk/return profile as both strategies have uncorrelated alpha features, desirable for investors.
Figure 1 highlights the growth of CTA and cryptocurrency (in particular Bitcoin / Ethereum) markets, which all stand at all-time high AuM, while still attracting interest and inflows from (institutional) investors.
STONE MOUNTAIN CAPITAL RESEARCH PERSPECTIVE VOL.55
The hedge fund industry is recuperating after two years of struggle. During the first half of 2017 hedge funds lived up to their investors’ expectations, who are looking to increase their hedge fund exposure for diversification and risk-return enhancement. The industry approximates $3.2 trillion in assets under management (AuM) across all strategies according to BarclayHedge with over five thousand institutional investors eyeing on the space of over 15,000 hedge fund strategies globally. Those numbers suggest an overcrowded space and considering data from the Asset Management Association of China, managers in China reach 25,000, the industry is in need of more regulatory attention.
Active management is again in demand and hedge funds will have to compete with their peers to attract more assets and it will be worthy to observe the fundraising arena. Using data from BarclayHedge for five main core strategies AUM, we observe that the main investor focus is on equity hedge (long/short, long-only and market neutral) and fixed income strategies, which are accounting for 25% and 18% respectively of hedge fund AuM. Macro and CTA strategies with $600bn account for 18%, while event-driven strategies are occupying only 5% of the industry’s AuM.