Chasing Fund Returns is a Very, Very Bad Idea

How does a fund earn over $500 million in management fees yet lose over $1 billion for investors since inception? No, sorry.  It’s not a hedge fund.  It’s a mutual fund:  the Marketfield Fund, arguably the poster child for returns chasing in the liquid alts space. Here’s the background. The Marketfield Fund was launched in July 2007 and outperformed the S&P 500 by a cumulative 34.5% during the crisis. As one of a handful of long/short mutual funds, it stood to benefit from the rise of liquid alts in the years following the crisis. From mid-2008 through the end of …

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Smart Money Insights: Weekly Brief Apr 11

The start of the second quarter saw equity markets decline – continuing a pattern, the S&P fared better than pretty much any other index.  The whipsaws in the market this year are taking a big toll on active investors.  In March, the average large cap fund underperformed the S&P by almost 800 basis points on an annualized basis – a record going back to 1998 – and less than 20% outperformed the index – also a record low.  In some areas, like growth funds, the numbers were far worse.  Hedge funds continue to have problems with crowded trades, and technical …

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Smart Money Insights: Weekly Brief Apr 4

In the words of one hedge fund manager, “At least it’s over.”  This is the typical refrain about the first quarter – for many, what was supposed to work, didn’t.  Small mistakes led to punishing losses.  “Prudent” de-risking in February locked in losses after six weeks of relentless market declines and caused many managers to watch in disbelief as the markets recovered by the end of the quarter.  “Short covering” and unwinding of popular trades inflicted larger than expected losses on some preeminent fund managers.  Here’s a recap of what was working and what wasn’t: Recession Risk is Down Hedge …

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Smart Money Insights: Weekly Brief Mar 21

If March ended today, the first quarter of 2016 would look like a “yawner”: the S&P 500 index rose modestly, emerging markets and commodities bounced nicely after a terrible 2015, some of last year’s gains on the dollar reversed (which eases pressure on corporate profits), and bonds performed nicely in a world of slowing economic growth and aggressive monetary easing. Completely absent from this narrative is the violent churn beneath the surface and the damage to many investment portfolios. In that context, it’s worth revisiting some of the drivers of market volatility this year. Is the US heading into recession? …

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Smart Money Insights: Weekly Brief Mar 14

The widespread reversal of losses through mid-February continued over the past week. The S&P 500 rose 3% and is up over 10% from the trough. Oil closed above $38 per barrel, up over one third from the lows and close to flat YTD. Emerging market stocks were up 9% on the week and are now up 3% this year. The most important, and least understood, event last week was the market’s reaction to the ECB’s significant expansion of quantitative easing. In addition, MLP investors got some bad news and many investors are starting to focus on the severity of Italy’s …

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Why Apple is NOT a Top Ten Holding of 93% of Hedge Funds

To infinity and beyond Buzz Lightyear   A recent report by Goldman Sachs describes Apple (AAPL) as a “Very Important Position” (top ten holding) for 47 hedge funds. Overlooked is that fact that it’s not a significant position for 93% of the hedge funds in the survey and represents only a 1-2% overall allocation, less than its weighting in the S&P 500. Further, three years ago it was in fact a top ten holding of 109 hedge funds, so more than half decided to cut back. What happened? Perhaps the real question is, “how cheap is AAPL today?” Carl Icahn, …

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Smart Money Insights: Weekly Brief Mar 7

It’s been an interesting few weeks, to say the least. Equities have recovered, but gains have been very uneven. Some macroeconomic fears have abated, or at least moved off the front page. In this weekly update, we check in on some of the major themes over the past several weeks, such as the likelihood of a US recession, the next move in central bank policy, whether China will devalue, the likelihood that oil has bottomed, or whether there will be contagion from energy sector high yield bonds. Is the US heading into recession? (update from Feb 22) In the first …

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Is Warren Buffett a Value Investor?

  The best business to own is one that over an extended period can employ large amounts of incremental capital at very high rates of return. Warren Buffett The quote above is a far cry from value investing as described in such canonical works as Graham and Dodd’s Security Analysis (1934). Those works tended to focus on asset rich companies – especially firms with easy to value assets like cash and working capital. The idea was to buy shares at a significant discount to intrinsic value. A lousy company with easy-to-value assets of $100 per share might still be a …

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Smart Money Insights: Weekly Brief Feb 29

Here’s the second weekly brief. First of all, thank you to Harvest Exchange for welcoming us into the community; our How Smart is Smart Beta? post was very well received. As a follow up to the topics from last week, recession fears have abated somewhat (hedge funds have been right so far…) and the news flow about China has been a little calmer (brief update below). The big story last week was about Brexit – whether the UK will vote in a referendum in June to separate from the EU.   If you didn’t catch it, you might enjoy our post …

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When a Client Asks, “What is Brexit?” Here’s Your Quick Guide

As we discussed in a post on Market Psychology and the Investor Narrative, the markets get very volatile when a new, large and unfamiliar risk surfaces. Brexit, or the possibility that the UK will decide to exit the European Union, is one such risk. Will it happen? Right now opinion polls are roughly 50-50, and market participants are putting the probability at 40-50% of a yes/Brexit vote on the upcoming referendum on June 23, 2016. So, when a client calls and asks for an explanation, here’s your short primer: Basic points: The European Union consists of 28 member states. Member …

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