Hedge Funds Scale Back Big Bets

An interesting article published over the weekend was one in the Financial Times headlined “Hedge funds scale back big bets”. It said “Hedge funds focused on US equities are pulling back sharply on their bets after the longest stretch of sustained selling in more than a decade left many managers nursing stiff losses”. It also reported that “Long-short equity funds, which pitch themselves on the ability to protect client money in down markets, have lost 18.3 per cent for the year up to and including Wednesday, according to Goldman Sachs estimates”.

The opaque and murky world of hedge funds is well described in a book I am currently reading entitled “Hedge Hogging”. This is by Barton Biggs a former hedge fund manager and contains lots of interesting stories about his experiences. For example, he covers going short on oil stocks based on fundamental analysis when the market started going in the other direction and he was in danger of clients taking their money out of the fund.

But it’s a book that any investor can learn from. Just looking at some of the chapter titles gives you some flavour of the content: The Odyssey of Starting a Hedge Fund: A Desperate Frantic Adventure; The Violence of Secular Market Cycles; Nature’s Mysticism and Groupthink Stinks; The Internet Bubble; Great Investment Managers are Intense, Disciplined Maniacs; Three Investment Religions – Growth, Value and Agnostic; Bubbles and the True Believer; Divine Intervention or Inside Information – a Tale That Will Make Your Blood Run Cold.

It makes it clear that the hedge funds world shows the natural survival of the fittest in the extreme. Those who make big bets and win are the survivors but those who make big bets and lose disappear and are soon forgotten as investors move their money elsewhere. Whether there is clear out performance in the long term by anyone is not clear but the high fees charged mean it can be very lucrative for the fund managers who can stay in business.

In summary it covers a wide range of topics including the dangers of shorting stocks if anyone has an urge to dabble in that as the market falls.

Ideal summer reading on your holidays.

FT article is here: https://www.ft.com/content/8495545c-74e1-4150-8207-4855c66c9750

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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