November 2016, what many thought was unthinkable became a reality when Donald Trump assumed power in the United States. His unpredictability and outspokenness had already spooked markets in the lead up to the election, but what has happened since has been quite remarkable in its own right. Markets, which once feared the idea of a Trump presidency embraced it whole-heartedly, and what President Trump had once called ‘a big, fat, ugly bubble’ got a new lease of life. The rhetoric was toned down and the handshakes were tempered as the prospect of a renewed fiscal stimulus coupled with economic de-regulation set about trying to woo markets. While little has materialized save a deadlock on Capitol Hill, markets have risen to new highs.

Get The Timeless Reading eBook in PDF

Get the entire 10-part series on Timeless Reading in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues.

Also read:

The piece below will look at the performance of US long short equities focused hedge funds which along with the rest of the hedge fund industry have received a boost from the strong momentum in underlying markets. In addition, we explore the returns for specific sector focused strategies – financials, healthcare and IT and evaluate the systematic drivers of performance for North American long short equity hedge fund managers over the years. The piece concludes with a look at investor allocations across North American mandates which have seen a sharp trend reversal this year as investor appetite for hedge funds continues to improve.

Figure 1 depicts the performance of the Eurekahedge North America Hedge Fund Index versus comparable benchmarks since 2007. Over the period depicted, the Eurekahedge North America Hedge Fund Index has posted annualized returns of 6.10%, ahead of the MSCI USA IMI Index and its subgroup the MSCI USA Value IMI Index which gained 5.90% and 3.86% respectively while lagging the MSCI USA Growth IMI Index which delivered annualized returns of 7.08%. The results should hardly come as a surprise – North America focused equity long short hedge funds saw relatively contained drawdowns in 2008 which has helped them outperform the MSCI US IMI Index over the almost 10 year period depicted (see Table 1). Further, across investment styles, growth has done considerably better when compared to value strategies which have as of late fallen out of fashion given the markets growing love for expensive price-to-earnings multiples.

Figure 1a: Eurekahedge North America Long Short Equity Hedge Fund Index since 2008

US Equity Hedge Funds

Figure 1b summarizes the Trump Presidential effect. It starts with a market scare in October last year when polls showed that Hilary Clintons lead was narrowing but then reverses quickly as a Trump presidency materialized in November. Over the 12-month period ending August, North American long short equity hedge funds are up 7.80% while the MSCI US IMI Index has gained 13.74% on the back of the market rally that has ensued since (barring the interruption from the Korean crisis in August 2017).

Figure 1b: Eurekahedge North America Long Short Equity Hedge Fund Index - last 12 months

US Equity Hedge Funds

Table 1 summarises the key performance statistics for the Eurekahedge Hedge North America Long Shorty Equity Index relative to comparable benchmarks. Key takeaways include:

  1. The biggest outperformance on record for North American long short equities hedge fund managers came in 2008, when they outperformed the underlying benchmarks by over 20%. Since then, managers have generally underperformed the MSCI US Index though have fared much better in relation the MSCI US Value Index.
  2. Sharpe ratios (risk-adjusted returns) for North American long short hedge fund managers exceeded those for the underlying market benchmark over the 5 year period, coming in at 1.29 versus 1.12 the MSCI US Index and 1.15 for the SP500 Index. In recent years risk-adjusted returns have lagged market benchmarks owing in part to the strong market rally.
  3. Across all 5, 3 and 2 year time horizon, North American long short equity funds have posted lower annualized volatilities, almost half the levels seen for comparable market benchmarks.

Table 1: Eurekahedge ESG Fund Index vs. comparable benchmarks

Eurekahedge North America Long Short Equities Hedge  Fund Index MSCI USA IMI Index S&P 500 Index MSCI USA Growth IMI Index MSCI USA Value IMI Index
2008 (15.92%) (38.36%) (38.49%) (40.57%) (36.97%)
2009 25.97% 25.86% 23.45% 36.66% 16.57%
2010 13.44% 14.99% 12.78% 17.79% 12.88%
2011 (3.33%) (0.75%) 0.00% (1.56%) (1.98%)
2012 8.75% 13.90% 13.41% 14.32% 12.27%
2013 19.22% 30.74% 29.60% 29.82% 28.87%
2014 4.89% 10.36% 11.39% 11.32% 8.86%
2015 (0.19%) (1.36%) (0.73%) 0.77% (5.13%)
2016 8.83% 10.31% 9.54% 6.48% 14.56%
August 2017 year-to-date 3.29% 9.92% 10.40% 16.02% 3.64%
5 year annualised returns 7.68% 11.96% 11.93% 12.67% 10.24%
5 year annualised volatility 5.18% 9.77% 9.53% 10.37% 9.69%
5 year Sharpe Ratio (RFR = 1%) 1.29 1.12 1.15 1.13 0.95
3 year annualised returns 3.61% 6.94% 7.25% 8.46% 4.42%
3 year annualised volatility 5.31% 10.32% 10.10% 11.01% 10.09%
3 year Sharpe Ratio (RFR = 1%) 0.49 0.58 0.62 0.68 0.34
2 year annualised returns 5.72% 11.47% 11.95% 11.96% 10.43%
2 year annualised volatility 5.47% 10.16% 9.75% 10.88% 9.89%
2 year Sharpe Ratio (RFR = 1%) 0.86 1.03 1.12 1.01 0.95

Source: Eurekahedge

Figures 2a-2c look at the aggregate performance numbers for long short equity hedge fund managers that operate with a sector specific bias. For the purposes of this piece, we will look at three key sub-sectors that have contributed strongly to underlying market performance – financials, healthcare and IT.

US equity long short hedge funds investing with a bias towards the technology sector posted the best returns, up 11.93% as of 2017 August year-to-date. Health care focused hedge funds were another beneficiary of the Trump rally, raking in gains of 9.30% as market bought into healthcare/pharma stocks following the defeat of Hillary Clinton who was expected to ramp up regulations on this sector. Hedge funds focused on US financials have also posted solid gains, up 4.53% (outperformance relative to the average North American long short equity hedge fund) for the year as Trump’s de-regulation mantra pervaded into the financial sector as well.

Figures 2a-2c: Performance of sector focused US long short equities hedge funds

US Equity Hedge Funds

US Equity Hedge Funds

Table 2: Performance of sector focused US long short equities hedge funds

US Financials Focused Long Short Equity Hedge Funds US Healthcare Focused Long Short Equity Hedge Funds US Technology Focused Long Short Equity Hedge Funds SP 500 Financials SP 500 HealthCare SP 500 Information Technology
2008 (19.79%) (9.02%) (30.52%) (56.95%) (24.48%) (43.68%)
2009 25.97% 27.38% 44.02% 14.81% 17.07% 59.92%
2010 8.97% 10.22% 17.39% 10.83% 0.71% 9.13%
2011 (5.81%) 5.87% -0.62% (18.41%) 10.18% 1.33%
2012 20.37% 13.64% 8.09% 26.26% 15.19% 13.15%
2013 19.27% 24.62% 16.64% 33.21% 38.74% 26.23%
2014 6.60% 12.30% 1.65% 13.10% 23.30% 18.19%
2015 11.28%