West Palm Beach (HedgeCo.net) -While previous research has confirmed the widely held belief that emerging funds tend to outperform older and larger funds, hedge fund performance in 2008 saw a partial reversal of that trend, according to PerTrac Financial Solutions in its third annual study that examines hedge fund returns, volatility and risk, based on age and size.
“Last year was a difficult one for hedge funds of all ages and sizes, but once again we saw younger funds outperforming older ones, confirming our findings from earlier studies,” said Meredith Jones, managing director at PerTrac. “However, when it comes to hedge fund performance as a function of fund size, we saw a reversal of the trend established from 1996 through 2007. During 2008, funds with the least assets actually performed the worst, while larger funds posted better returns.”
As in past studies, PerTrac conducted two different analyses: one based on a fund’s asset size, and the other based on a fund’s age. Monthly hedge fund returns were compiled from leading hedge fund databases and analyzed using the proprietary PerTrac Analytical Platform software. In each analysis, funds were re-categorized into one of three assets under management (AUM) size groups: up to $100 million; $100 million to $500 million; and over $500 million. The funds were also categorized into one of three age groups: up to 2 years; 2 to 4 years; and over 4 years. The mean fund return was calculated for each group in each month, creating three size-based monthly indexes and three age-based monthly indexes. Various risk and return statistics were calculated on the returns of each index to evaluate historical performance, and Monte Carlo simulations were run on each index to indicate probable ranges of future returns and drawdowns.
Small Hedge Funds Underperformed Larger Funds for the First Time Since Beginning of Study Data.
The study reveals that small funds averaged a loss of -17.03% in 2008, while medium-sized and large funds fared better, with average losses of -16.04% and -14.10% for the year, respectively. However, over the full history of the indexes, from 1996 through 2008, small funds performed best, with an annualized return of 13.05% versus 9.99% for medium-sized funds and 9.28% for large funds. Along with its stronger returns, the small fund index also showed greater volatility over the 13-year period with an annualized standard deviation of 6.96% versus just 5.92% and 6.05% for the medium-sized and large fund indexes, respectively.
“There are several possible reasons why small funds underperformed their larger peers for the first time ever in 2008. Due to losses across the board, hedge funds experienced heavy redemption requests last year. Larger funds generally have more cash on hand and greater access to lines of credit than small funds, better enabling them to handle redemption requests without compromising their portfolios’ performance,” noted Jones. “The recent market crash also appears to have prompted a ‘flight to quality’ among investors, with surveys indicating that hedge fund investors have become more interested in larger, more ‘institutional’ funds. So it’s likely that smaller funds had to deal with relatively greater redemptions than did their larger peers. We also noted a larger differential in the number of large managers reporting in both the prior and current studies, with a larger percentage of small managers participating in both updates. As a result, there is heavier survivor bias in the large fund group. Other possible reasons include infrastructure considerations, greater reliance on beleaguered prime brokers, and larger redemptions from poor performers pushing more managers into lower asset bands.”
“However, one year does not make a trend,” concluded Jones. “It will be interesting to see whether the small funds’ underperformance in 2008 proves to be a short-term exception to the rule or the start of an official trend.”
Young Funds Continued to Outperform Older Funds in 2008
An examination of the relationship between fund age and performance revealed no surprises for 2008. Hedge funds with the shortest track record continued their trend of superior performance last year as the young fund index lost -11.31% for the year compared to much larger losses of -19.46% and -17.85% by the mid-age and older fund indexes, respectively. Over the full history of the indexes from 1996 through 2008, young funds have generated an annualized return of 15.74% while mid-age and older funds have trailed with annualized returns of 11.48% and 10.12%, respectively. Young funds have also fared best from a risk perspective over the long term; the young fund index has produced an annualized standard deviation of just 6.47% over the 13-year period while the mid-age and older fund indexes have proved more volatile with annualized standard deviations of 7.11% and 6.72%, respectively.
The new study is the latest in a growing body of research produced by PerTrac Financial Solutions for the investment community. The company is devoted to advancing the study of hedge funds and other investments by publishing original research as well as providing free access to their PerTrac Analytical Platform software to academic professors, students, and selected researchers through the PerTrac Educational Use Program.
Editing by Alex Akesson
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