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Best And Worst Hedge Fund Long Stock Pickers

The five top hedge fund long stock pickers with long U.S. equity AUM over $3 billion produced 10.7% average annual alpha in the past three years (through October 2015).  The five bottom hedge fund long U.S. equity stock pickers had negative alpha averaging -6.5% during the same period. Both lists contain well-known and well-followed managers with a combined long U.S. equity AUM over $100 billion. These rankings overcome the flaws of simplistic performance measures by using a persistent and hence predictive metric of alpha.

Ranking Hedge Fund Long Stock Pickers

Fund rankings usually focus on absolute or relative nominal returns. Reliance on such simplistic measures, frequently mislabeled as “alpha,” is hazardous for allocators and consultants and typically leads to picking yesterday’s winners, who tend to become tomorrow’s losers: high-beta funds in bull markets and low-beta funds in bear markets.  To overcome these flaws, AlphaBetaWorks calculates returns independent of risks taken – AlphaReturn – the performance a fund would have generated if markets had been flat. A true measure of security selection skill, AlphaReturn is strongly predictive of future stock picking performance.

To the extent a fund derives significant returns from long equity holdings, our approach helps allocators and consultants avoid losses and unhappy clients. Furthermore, absent this approach, mindless followers of famous funds are headed for disappointment.

Top and Bottom Five Hedge Funds by Stock Picking Return

A comparison of nominal long hedge fund portfolio performance to market indices is misleading, since a portfolio may be taking dramatically different risks. It follows that equating outperformance relative to S&P500 with alpha is wrong. Under this simplistic approach, leveraged market ETFs generate positive alpha in up years and negative alpha in down years – a flawed result and a dangerous criterion for investment decisions.

Adjusting returns for the factor (systematic) risks taken to generate them is required to identify stock picking return and, correspondingly, stock picking skill.

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Below we list the top and bottom long U.S. equity stock pickers among the hedge funds that can be analyzed using regulatory filings:

NameAlphaBetaReturnAlphaBetaScoreAlphaReturnAlphaScoreBetaReturnBetaScore
Harbinger Capital Partners LLC15.4595.0415.3895.4-0.0149.92
Icahn Associates Holdings LLC9.0980.1911.1185.92-2.0123
PAR Capital Management, Inc.8.3295.5610.9398.85-2.6912.48
Longview Asset Management LLC14.0997.029.4087.534.4998.83
ValueAct Capital Management LP3.2974.016.7390.06-3.523.9

Hedge Funds with the Highest Long U.S. Equity Stock Picking Returns and > $3B AUM, 3-yr CAGR

NameAlphaBetaReturnAlphaBetaScoreAlphaReturnAlphaScoreBetaReturnBetaScore
Bridgewater Associates LP-9.051.86-8.154.28-0.9928.03
Omega Advisors, Inc.-8.290.22-7.191.25-1.1416.06
Pershing Square Capital Management LP-5.3625.15-5.8325.010.2856.73
Axiom International Investors LLC-2.6216.93-5.830.713.1794.05
Paulson & Co., Inc.-5.0514.65-5.6310.720.5761.94

Hedge Funds with the Lowest Long U.S. Equity Stock Picking Returns and > $3B AUM, 3-yr CAGR

There are familiar fund names on both lists, with a combined $112 billion in long AUM.  While these funds’ reported returns will differ from those above due principally to factor (systematic) sources (market / sector betas, et cetera), international holdings, fixed income positions, derivatives, and shorts, AlphaReturn is a clear and predictive measure of stock picking skill reflecting returns in excess of passive risks taken. Unlike nominal returns, Sharpe Ratios, and other returns-based measures (which revert), AlphaReturn reflects what investors pay fees for: performance independent of risks taken. What’s more, both positive and negative AlphaReturns tend to persist.

The tables above also show several related skill metrics. For example, AReturn is return from market timing, and AlphaBetaReturn is total active return combining security selection and market timing. The Scores above, such as AlphaScore, quantify return consistency using a scale of 0 to 100: 0 corresponds to consistently negative returns; 100 to consistently positive.

The following charts show cumulative AlphaReturns of the best and worst 3-year long U.S. equity stock pickers from the above group. Portfolio AlphaReturns in blue compare to the peer group of all hedge funds’ long U.S. equity portfolio in gray:

Hedge Fund Long Stock Pickers

Harbinger Capital Partners LLC: Risk-adjusted Return from Security Selection (AlphaReturn), Long U.S. Equity Portfolio

Hedge Fund Long Stock Pickers

Bridgewater Associates LP: Risk-adjusted Return from Security Selection (AlphaReturn), Long U.S. Equity Portfolio

Conclusions

A comparison of nominal long hedge fund portfolio performance to market indices is misleading and can lead to allocators selecting high-return funds that are, in truth, merely high risk. Since systematic fund risk varies, the assumption that outperformance relative to S&P500 is alpha is wrong. In a rising market, allocators and consultants who make these mistakes are likely to allocate to the most aggressive managers, rather than the most skilled. In a flat or declining market, these mistakes are revealed, leading to losses, pain, and embarrassment.

The solution is using skill analytics that discriminate among the different levels of systematic risk, like AlphaBetaWorks’ AlphaReturn (among others), which reveals managers with investment skill likely to generate future alpha.

The information herein is not represented or warranted to be accurate, correct, complete or timely.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Copyright © 2012-2015, AlphaBetaWorks, a division of Alpha Beta Analytics, LLC. All rights reserved.
Content may not be republished without express written consent.

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