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Hedge funds rally in Q1, powered by gains in equities

Published 2024-04-03, 06:04 a/m
Updated 2024-04-03, 06:09 a/m
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 30, 2023.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Carolina Mandl

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hedge funds capped the first quarter with gains across different strategies, as a rally in stocks, some commodities and the dollar helped the industry weather a less shiny period for bonds, investors said.

Fundamental equities long/short hedge funds were up 6.28% in the first quarter, while systematic long/short funds posted gains of 11%, according to a Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS)' prime brokerage report that tracks hedge funds globally. Hedge funds focused on technology rose 11.3%, it added.

The S&P 500 advanced 9.09% in the quarter. Investors typically consider the hedge component that hedge funds should provide amid turmoils alongside performance at good times.

"So far it has been a very good start to the year for hedge funds," said Ryan Lobdell, head of marketable alternatives at consultancy Meketa, adding that portfolio managers have increased exposure to rallying assets. "There has been an increase in the trendiness of equities and commodities."

Stocks rallied in the first quarter mainly due to the outlook that interest rates have reached a peak.

The quarterly results come on top of a year of positive performance. Hedge funds posted gains of 8.12% last year, lagging far behind the 24% posted by the S&P 500.

This year, the rally has broadened beyond the so-called Magnificent Seven – Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Meta (NASDAQ:META) Platforms, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) and Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA.O) -- to sectors such as energy, financials and industrials.

"With greater market breadth and increased dispersion, it’s generally easier to find shorts that aren’t just moving up in price along with everything else," said Anders Hall, chief investment officer at Vanderbilt University.

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Portfolio managers have also juiced up returns with an extra dose of leverage in portfolios, investors said.

Among strategies that worked: Fresh record commodities prices for copper, gold and cocoa also helped strategies such as CTAs (commodity trading advisers) and macro hedge funds, investors said. Bearish bets on European power markets and milling wheat yielded gains of 8.6% for AQR's Heliz strategy.

Multi-strategy hedge funds, which trade multiple assets in different ways, have also had a good start.

After lagging rivals last year, Schonfeld's flagship fund Strategic Partners ended the quarter with a 6.2% gain, a source said.

Citadel had a positive performance in all its funds strategies, with the flagship Wellington up 5.75%, according to a separate source.

Exposure to emerging markets has also paid off for some. Macro hedge fund Discovery, led by "Tiger cub" Rob Citrone, posted a 17% net gain, a source said, driven by long positions in Latin America and short bets in China.

A more tepid corner of the market for performance was fixed income, as U.S. Treasuries yields have risen on the outlook that the Federal Reserve will take longer to cut rates.

Citadel's Global Fixed Income fund rose 2.05%, underperforming the firm's other three funds, a source said.

"Global fixed income was particularly challenging given increasing rates," said Hall. I'd consider a small gain to be a victory in many cases."

Hedge fund Performanc

e - Q1

Schonfeld 6.2%

Strategic

Partners

Citadel 5.75%

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Wellington

Discovery 17%

Coatue 6.6%

Bridgewater 15.9%

Pure Alpha

18%

Third Point 8%

Offshore

Third Point 8.7%

Ultra

Citadel 6.3%

Global

Equities

Citadel 7.6%

Tactical

Trading

Citadel 2.05%

Global Fixed

Income

Schonfeld 5.9%

Fundamental

Equity

AQR Helix 8.6%

Strategy

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