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Hedge funds haul in USD34.9bn in February

Date: Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Author: Wendy Chothia, HedgeWeek

The hedge fund industry raked in USD34.9 billion (2.0% of assets) in February 2011, the heaviest inflow on record, according to BarclayHedge and TrimTabs Investment Research. Industry assets stand at USD1.73 trillion, the highest level since October 2008.

“Flows are doubtless following performance,” explains Sol Waksman, founder and President of BarclayHedge. “The Barclay Hedge Fund Index posted an increase in each of the past seven months, and it didn’t hurt that February is historically the best month of the year for new hedge fund subscriptions. Meanwhile, public pension plans — many of which are underfunded — are devoting much more capital to the hedge fund space.”

Meanwhile, the record inflow in February might bode ill for the performance of hedge funds in the next year.  The increase in the Barclay Hedge Fund Index in the 12 months following an inflow of USD25+ billion averages just 2.6%.  In contrast, the average increase in returns in the 12 months prior to a USD25+ billion inflow clocks in at a handsome 14.2%.

“Investors of all stripes tend to chase fat returns, and investment vehicles of all kinds tend to perform relatively poorly once everyone under the sun is enamoured of them,” explains Vincent Deluard, Executive Vice President of Research at TrimTabs.  “Inflows are historically heaviest when asset prices are dear, while some strategies constrain managers. There are only a handful of deals on which a merger arbitrage fund can capitalise.”

Funds of hedge funds hauled in USD7.3 billion (1.3% of assets) in February, the heaviest inflow since March 2008, while commodity trading advisors (CTAs) raked in USD7.5 billion (2.5% of assets), the heaviest inflow since June 2009.  Meanwhile, hedge fund investors are exhibiting a stronger appetite for risk.  All six equity hedge fund strategies received assets in February.

“Competitive currency depreciations, soaring commodity prices, disasters in Japan, revolution and war in the Middle East, and debt crises in Europe make for a tragic and bearish landscape,” notes Deluard.  “Market participants nonetheless keep peppering equities with cash, and that might explain why market corrections have proven so shallow and brief.”