The impact of illiquidity risk on hedge fund returns has been discussed in many studies before. A new research paper published by Ronnie Sadka, Boston College suggests that hedge funds with a significant load on illiquidity risk outperformed low-loading funds by 6.5% annually in the period 1994 - 2009. He also estimates liquidity risk betas for different strategies and explains practical implications for risk management and manager selection.
Liquidity risk and portfolio returns
Analyzing 12-month portfolios of hedge funds in the Lipper/TASS database, Sadka shows that a high-liquidity-loading portfolio has the highest annual average return of 10.61%, compared to a low-liquidity-loading portfolio return of 3.93%. He finds that returns generally increase with the liquidity-loading of a portfolio. The results using this methodology imply that illiquidity risk does not only pay a risk premium, but can also be used as a predictor of hedge fund performance.
Liquidity beta or manager skill?
Sadka believes that illiquidity premiums account for large parts of the return considered manager alpha. His approach to proxy for the liquidity factor indicates that hadge fund alpha drops by about 11% once controlling for liquidity risk.
Sadka concludes that "...Liquidity risk also explains a considerable amount of the alpha of dif......................