Anthony Lawler Opalesque Industry Update - GAM's October performance update reports that October was an eventful month with continued policy uncertainty in Europe and the US, corporate earnings broadly disappointing and super-storm Sandy disrupting the US East coast and US markets. Global markets were generally weaker with commodities and equities delivering negative returns for the month. The MSCI World index was down 0.6% in US dollar terms.
Hedge funds delivered mixed results in October but in aggregate closed in negative territory. The HRFX Global Hedge Fund index lost 0.5%, bringing its year-to-date performance to 2.1%. At the strategy level, event driven, global macro and relative value approaches all posted negative returns according to the HFRX strategy indices. Equity hedge managers had a positive month, helped by gross and net exposure levels well below long-term averages.
Anthony Lawler, Portfolio Manager at GAM, said: "Policy uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic was arguably a dominant factor influencing global markets in October. Investors and corporates remain hesitant to invest and hire when the policy, tax and regulatory framework is in flux. Europe is debating its way toward a hoped 'muddle through' solution. However, there are still numerous country-specific hurdles to clear. In the US, investors face the dual uncertainties of the election and the fiscal cliff. Given these unknowns, they generally remained cautious or de-risked their portfolios by selling during October. Notably even sovereign bonds, that are commonly perceived as safe havens, sold off with UK gilts, US treasuries and German bunds all producing negative price moves for the month."
October was a challenging month for many managers and this included trend following CTAs. These managers in aggregate held portfolio positions that typically act balanced, as they were positioned long bonds, a bearish bet, against long equities and long energy, bullish bets. In October all three of these positions moved together and resulted in a negative month for CTAs.
Lawler added: "A number of hedge fund managers across strategies turned more positive after the Fed's QE3 announcement in September. In October, these managers' more bullish views proved generally unhelpful for those long risk assets outside of structured credit. But constructive and risk-on positioning did continue to help managers of structured credit positions and some relative value managers, where we continue to see solid out-performance. That said, at the end of October many hedge funds have slightly reduced risk going into the US election, but they stand ready to add risk back on once a clear result emerges."