The Lyxor Hedge Fund Index was down -2.7% in August. 1 out of 12 Lyxor Indices ended the month in positive territory. The Lyxor Convertible Arbitrage Index (+3.3%), the Lyxor L/S Equity Variable Bias Index (-0.7%), and the Lyxor L/S Equity Market Neutral Index (-1.1%) were the best performers.
The deflation and growth scares, which built up over the summer, accelerated following the CNY devaluation. They morphed into a vicious cycle in the last week of August. With volatility reaching 55 and equities plunging by the hour, Monday 24 will from now on count among the major stress episodes used as reference. The bulk of the Lyxor Hedge Fund index was endured during that week. Event Driven funds were the main losers. Return dispersion was elevated. Losses in some heavy-weight funds hid decent performances among macro traders (CTAs and Global Macro). A milder pressure on credit and govies supported credit and fixed income arbitrage strategies. The L/S Equity space proved resilient apart from Asian and US long bias managers.
“Beyond a possible near-term rally, we expect moderate and riskier returns from traditional assets. Thus, we continue to strengthen our focus on hedge funds’ relative value approaches.” says Jean-Marc Stenger, Chief Investment Officer for Alternative Investments at Lyxor AM.
To the notable exception of Asian and US long bias funds, the L/S Equity strategy was remarkably resilient. Most funds had steadily reduced their net exposures over the summer, cautiously positioned ahead of the sudden end-of-August debacle. In Europe, Variable bias managers implemented efficient hedging strategies, with an increased number of single shorts. European managers, which generally missed the reflation trade early this year, regained all the lost ground over the summer. They even outperformed market neutral strategies. In contrast, Lyxor Asian managers suffered in August, down -2% in aggregate. Their dramatic cut in net exposure since June (-10%) limited the damages. US Long Bias also took a major hit, losing most of their beta.
Event Driven funds were the main losers, with a severe plunge across the board. The aggregate Event Driven performance was close to flat before the last week of the month. Until then, some losses were recorded in China and Resources related exposures. They were offset by positive earnings releases in few large corporate situations and by the favorable closing of several M&A deals. The last week of August unsettled both merger spreads and the pricing of corporate situations, including activist positions. Special Situation underperformed Merger Arbitrage funds, even adjusted from their market beta. The sudden widening of deal spreads and the depressed valuation levels of corporate situations will probably open a phase of recovery going forward.
The Lyxor L/S Credit Arbitrage index was only down -1.5%. The market turmoil infected credit markets but less than equities. Spreads had already meaningfully widened over the recent months. This kept managers on a very cautious footing, positioned on high quality and high grade issues, with increased diversification. As dispersion returned in the space, short opportunities also emerged - and not only in the energy segment. In particular weakening cross credit correlations provided fixed income arbitrage funds with greater relative value opportunities. The alpha produced by Credit strategies alleviated the adverse beta contribution.
High dispersion among CTAs in August. CTAs were up nearly +1% before the last week of August. With their long bond and USD positions along with their short commodities exposures, they were well hedged against the various risks being priced in. In particular: a slower global growth, a slower Fed normalization and the Chinese ripple effects on EM countries and resources. During the last week, a majority of funds remained reasonably resilient. However some heavy weight funds were substantially hurt on their remaining long equity holdings and on some of their long USD crosses. ST models outperformed thanks to a faster portfolio repositioning. We observe that, in aggregate, LT models cut their about 30% net equity exposure down to less than 10% over that week.
Heterogeneous returns among Global Macro, with losses in heavy weights. Until the last week of August the strategy remained resilient, with a slightly positive MTD return. While cautiously exposed to risky assets, their hedges had little efficiency in the sell- off. They were essentially hit in their equity and long USD positions, with limited cushion from bonds or safe havens. However, losses in large macro funds actually hide a more heterogeneous and favorable picture. After the sell-off, Lyxor Global Macro funds were on average 10% net long on equities (from 15% early August), with more than half of their equity positions in Europe. They continue to play commodities mostly in relative value. Overall they remain long USD, especially against EUR and GBP.