Fed Sparks Rally in Risk Assets; Hedge Funds Post Gains

October 10th, 2012
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Contributed by: Company Press Release
Hennessee Group LLC, an adviser to hedge fund investors, announced today that the Hennessee Hedge Fund Index increased +1.26% in September (+5.03% YTD), while the S&P 500 gained +2.42% (+14.56% YTD), the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced +2.65% (+9.99% YTD), and the NASDAQ Composite Index increased +1.61% (+19.62% YTD). Bonds were also up, as the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index increased +0.14% (+4.00% YTD).

“Despite generally disappointing economic data in the US, the Fed’s announcement of additional monetary stimulus encouraged investors to increase risk tolerance and led to a market rally,” commented Charles Gradante, Managing Principal of Hennessee Group. “Over the long term, managers are concerned that the global economy seems incapable of growing without constant liquidity from central banks. Current monetary policy is extreme and untested, and it is likely to have negative long-term ramifications. However, until then, ‘don’t fight the Fed’ is still the rule.”

“While we still do not know if quantitative easing will spur real growth, it is pretty clear that one of consequence of all of this liquidity will be currency depreciation. With most major central banks around the world now pursuing such policies, it may become a race to the bottom,” commented Charles Gradante. “One of the results will be the appreciation of hard assets in terms of the currencies of these countries. Managers continue to hold meaningful positions in gold as a hedge against this currency debasement.”

The Hennessee Global/Macro Index advanced +1.10% (+3.32% YTD) in September. Global equity markets posted gains for the fourth consecutive month in September, with all regions contributing positive performance. The MSCI All-Country World Index ended the month up +2.93% (+10.71% YTD). International hedge fund managers posted gains, as the Hennessee International Index advanced +1.12% (+5.61% YTD). The ECB's declaration of support and bond-buying program has lessened the risk for the Euro zone in the short term. However, managers are cautious as the debt crisis in Europe remains unresolved and the economy is stagnating. Emerging markets were positive, outperforming developed markets for the first time since February, as the MSCI Emerging Markets Index gained +5.84% (+9.41% YTD). Hedge fund managers benefited, as the Hennessee Emerging Market Index advanced +3.57% (+2.59% YTD). Managers remain bullish on emerging markets as inflation appears contained and many countries are in the process of easing monetary policy. Macro managers posted losses in September, as the Hennessee Macro Index declined -1.63% (+1.69% YTD). Performance was mixed as sharp reversals in key themes led to losses for many managers. Managers experienced losses in fixed income as markets traded lower. Treasury positions were lower across the board as yields increased. Managers generated gains long equities as equity markets were up across the globe. Commodities were positive as the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index was up +1.70% (+5.56% YTD) for the month of September amid expectations that global central bank measures to stimulate economic growth may improve manufacturing. Gold was a major beneficiary of the quantitative easing programs announced during September, increasing +7.73% (+16.00% YTD). The commodity rally started to stall at the end of the month, raising concerns about whether gains will continue. The US dollar was generally weaker due to the additional stimulus, as the U.S. Dollar Index declined -1.43% (-1.65% YTD). The Euro strengthened +2.59% (-0.73% YTD) again the US dollar, breaking key technical levels and squeezing short positions.

“Hedge funds performed well in September. They were able to capture a portion of the upside due to increased net exposures. Shorting and hedging continues to be a drag on performance,” said Lee Hennessee, Managing Principal of Hennessee Group. “We are encouraged by an improvement in hedge fund performance over the last couple months. Correlations have declined, and managers are being rewarded for good stock selection.”

Equity long/short managers were up in September, as the Hennessee Long/Short Equity Index advanced +1.51% (+5.13% YTD). The rally in the US equity markets continued in September and was fueled by the Federal Reserve decision to implement QE3. The S&P 500 was up +2.42% for the month, despite experiencing a -1.3% decline in the last week of the month on softer economic data and renewed European sovereign debt concerns. Managers began increasing exposures in July as they gained comfort that Europe would avoid implosion in the short term and have benefited from a market rally in August and September. While managers have generated significant gains on the long slide of the portfolio, they continue to have difficulty shorting. Managers report that “the tide has been raising all ships in this low volume, ‘climb-the wall-of-worry’ rally, despite the deepening uncertainty of the global economy and the slowing pace of earnings growth.” Managers report that many companies with deteriorating fundamentals have rallied more than the market over the past several quarters, resulting in short squeezes. However, managers are reluctant to reduce short exposure due to many risks that are present. Most managers feel that the markets will continue to rally due to stimulus, but are concerned that fundamentals are not improving. In the US, earnings forecasts continue to be revised lower. In addition, there is major political uncertainty with the Presidential election in November. The year-end ‘fiscal cliff’ is also a major risk and unless it is dealt with effectively, it could push the country back into recession in 2013. Managers are struggling to participate with the upside of this Fed driven rally, while being conservatively positioned until there is clarity on global growth and key fiscal issues in the U.S. and Europe. Better economic news and less political uncertainty in the U.S. would likely lead managers to significantly increase net exposures.

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