Worst Year for Hedge Funds in a Long Time ~ market folly

Friday, September 26, 2008

Worst Year for Hedge Funds in a Long Time

Well, that's stating the fairly obvious, now isn't it? But, here are the cold hard facts. Hedge funds who we all adored for their dominating performance figures over the past few years are now struggling to stay positive on the year. It's no longer a question of "How much will we dominate this year?" But, instead, "Can we scrape by?"

Case in point: We've already seen the closure of Ospraie's $3 billion commodities fund after it lost 40% this year, which I wrote about here. This just goes to show that even those who had learned from some of the best can be brought to their knees. Dwight Anderson, manager of Ospraie, had learned from both Julian Robertson and Paul Tudor Jones, legends in their respective strategies.

Next, we've got word that even more typically dominant funds are struggling now more than ever. Ken Griffin's Citadel has seen their Kensington fund down 15% for the year, as of a week ago. This multistrat fund hasn't had a losing year since 1994. All this comes at a time when I noted that Citadel is trying to start a $1 billion macro fund. And, I can't blame them. Although many macro funds have had a rough summer, they are still up on the year. And, I think you'll see that macro funds will be the longer term winners as we continue to see an evolving financial landscape.

Stevie Cohen's SAC Capital is also down 3.5% this year. Well, at least his multistrat fund is. This is his fund's worst year since 1992.

I recently wrote that Boone Pickens' BP Capital has lost nearly $1 billion so far this year. I also wrote about Harbinger Capital being up 42% at one point earlier this year, only to find themselves up only 2% for the year. Then there's TPG-Axon, who hasn't had a losing year since 2005. They're down 18% year-to-date as of last week.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Take all the performance figures I've divulged above and compare them to my hedge fund performance update written at the beginning of September.

Hedge funds are struggling, 401k investors are struggling, and the economy is struggling. The financial landscape is changing and look for numerous hedge fund redemptions and possible liquidations to sprout up in the coming months. There has already been a massive outflow of cash from the hedge fund space as investors become nervous. I expect this trend to continue, and so do the hedge funds. After all, why else would they have set aside an estimated $600 billion in cash accounts to cover these outflows?

It's beyond obvious at this point, but only the strongest will survive.

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