Breakout year for Asian macro hedge funds

Systematic risk has abated leading to a hedge fund investment trend towards markets being driven by stock picking.
Breakout year for Asian macro hedge funds

Long-short equity strategies have accounted for 70% of Asia-focused hedge fund closures this year, according to Eurekahedge data – higher than any year since 2008.

In contrast, Asia-focused macro hedge funds have accounted for 30% of launches and just 8% of closures this year.

Those figures suggest 2015 is a breakout year for Asia-focused macro funds, driven by a stronger appetite for low-beta strategies compared to long-biased long/short equity hedge funds.

Still, that breakout comes in a year which is seeing the appetite for hedge funds weaken. “The launch pipeline in Asia is looking quite slow compared to the same period last year” said Eurekahedge analyst Mohammad Hassan.

Long/short equity still accounts for 60% of Asia-focused hedge fund launches, and many of those funds have seen macro bets make a key contribution to performance this year.

“July and August were unique, there was a big opportunity to play foreign exchange and [equity index] options” said RWC Asia Opportunity Fund’s portfolio manager, Garret Mallal.

The $85 million RWC Asia Opportunity Fund runs a core fundamental equity strategy with a currency and commodities overlay to express the manager’s macro view

The fund notched up an 11.3% gain in August followed by a 2.1% decline in September which brought the fund’s return since its launch in May this year to 7.1%.

Mallal said that systematic risk has abated – as concerns about the impact of a rate rise by the US Federal reserve and China’s devaluation of the renminbi have eased – leading to a “trend to markets being driven by stock picking”.

“The portfolio today has little currency positions, primarily because the world is between a rock and a hard place” said Mallal.

“Over the next twelve months, I expect the bulk of returns will be driven by long/short equity” he added.

Asia macro’s stint in the spotlight may be coming to an end. Guard Capital’s Asia macro fund – launched last August – has been regularly cited by hedge fund investors as a standout performer this year.

Unsurprisingly – in a year when 42% of all hedge funds in Asia reporting figures to Eurekahedge have posted negative year-to-date returns – there are also a host of poor performers. For example, Cambridge Strategy’s Apollo emerging market macro strategy features among the worst hedge fund performers this year, declining 15.9% in the year to end September.

At the same time, Segantii’s Asia Pacific equity multi-strategy fund has consistently featured among the top performers – returning 33.3% in the year to October 2.

Asia ex-Japan focused hedge funds are up 4.28% year-to-date according to Eurekahedge data, outperforming all other regions. Eurekahedge’s Asia ex-Japan index was the only regional index which posted a gain in September.

The RWC Asia Opportunity Fund was launched in May following RWC Partners’ recruitment of Miami-based Everest Capital’s emerging market and frontier team, including Mallal. Those hirings followed Everest Capital’s closure of six hedge fund strategies in the wake of massive losses on a Swiss franc bet suffered by one of those six funds in January.

Schroders acquired a 49% stake in London-based RWC Partners in 2010.


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