West Palm Beach (HedgeCo.net) – In a preliminary hedge fund performance report for April 2009 and asset flows through March, Morningstar reported the largest one month-return since January 2006—bringing hedge fund returns into positive territory for 2009.
"Over the last two months, the bulls have dominated the markets, and stories of green shoots in the economy colored the financial media. The rally was led by higher-risk asset classes, including small-cap, financial sector, and emerging market stocks, as well as high-yield bonds and leveraged loans. Many hedge fund managers weren’t confident in the sustainability of the rally, and invested with a more conservative market exposure," said Nadia Papagiannis, Morningstar hedge fund analyst.
U.S. convertible bonds benefited from the trend toward higher-risk, low-credit-quality investments. According to the Merrill Lynch All U.S. Convertibles Index, these securities enjoyed their best month since 1987, with speculative-grade convertibles returning more than double the gains of investment-grade securities. The Morningstar Convertible Arbitrage Hedge Fund Index, the best-performing Morningstar hedge fund index this year, rose 5.1% in April and 12.5% year to date.
Also in the lower-quality field, the Morningstar Distressed Securities Hedge Fund Index increased 2.1% in April, the largest since the beginning of the credit crunch in mid 2007.
In emerging market equities, Eastern European countries produced the best returns in April, although this region is still recovering from its early 2009 nosedive. The only losers in April were the Morningstar Global Trend and Global Non-Trend Hedge Fund Indexes, which dropped 1.7% and 0.5% respectively.
According to Morningstar’s database, hedge funds overall continued to show a decline in outflows. In January, investors withdrew more than $29 billion from hedge funds, but February outflows totaled less than $6 billion, while March’s preliminary figure showed an even lower amount, at $3.6 billion. Despite the overall March trend of outflows, developed Asia equity hedge funds actually had net inflows of $4.1 billion in March, and investors were rewarded.