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Hedge funds post narrow June gain to close H1 up 1.7 per cent

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Hedge funds posted a narrow gain last month to conclude the first half of the year up 1.7 per cent.

The HFRI Fund Weighted Composite Index posted a gain of 0.05 per cent for June, according to data released by HFR.

Hedge funds overcame conservative positioning in the final days of the month, as June ended on a note of optimism with regard to the European sovereign debt crisis. Macro losses partially offset gains in equity hedge, event driven and relative value strategies. June marks the conclusion of a positive, but muted, first half of the year for the hedge fund industry, with the HFRI Fund Weighted Composite gaining 1.7 per cent for 1H12.

Hedge funds had gained nearly five per cent in the first two months of the year before posting three consecutive months of decline, including a decline of 2.4 per cent in the volatile month of May.

Indicative of the wide dispersion of hedge performance in 1H12, three of the four main hedge fund strategies posted gains higher than the broad-based composite. Fixed income-based relative value arbitrage strategies posted a gain of 0.9 per cent for June and 4.3 for the 1H12; relative value strategies have produced consistent, non-directional arbitrage gains, posting positive monthly performance in 36 of 42 months since January 2009.

Equity hedge strategies posted a gain of 0.9 per cent in June and 2.1 per cent for 1H12; broad-based June gains were offset by weakness in energy/basic materials and short bias sub-strategies. Equity hedge strategies traded in a volatile range in 1H12, gaining nearly 7.0 per cent in the first two months of the year, before experiencing a sharp decline of 4.6 per cent in May.

Event driven strategies posted a gain of 0.1 per cent in June and 2.4 per cent for 1H12. Corporate transaction activity remained steady for the quarter, and all ED sub-strategies posted gains for 1H12, despite specific transaction volatility, disappointing performance of several equity IPOs and continued regulatory and shareholder pressure on financial institutions.

Macro funds posted a decline of 1.6 per cent for June, reducing macro performance in 1H12 to a decline of 0.6 per cent. Macro weakness was concentrated in systematic CTA strategies, which posed a June decline of 3.0 per cent, reversing most of the prior month’s gain of 3.6 per cent.

Emerging markets hedge funds posted a gain of 0.6 per cent in June to end 1H12 with a gain of 1.1 per cent, while fund of hedge funds posted a decline of 0.50 per cent in June, also ending 1H12 with a gain of 1.0 per cent.

“Hedge fund performance in the first half of 2012 reflects the challenging and volatile environment created by the combination of slowing global growth, persistently low levels of investor risk tolerance and the wide-ranging impacts of the European financial crisis across asset classes and global regions,” says Kenneth J. Heinz, president of HFR. “The broad based gains concentrated in relative value arbitrage and event driven strategies reflect not only defensive positioning with regard to the European sovereign debt crisis, but caution with regard to regulatory and shareholder reaction to developments at specific financial institutions. Performance also reflects continued evolution of the hedge fund industry toward lower equity market beta strategies; we expect hedge fund industry growth to continue along these dynamics in coming quarters.”

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