FlyTitle: Hedge funds

Once the kings of capital markets, hedge funds have become a sideshow. Now many hedgies hope the slump will make them relevant again

曾经是资本市场之王的对冲基金已经沦为配角。现在,许多对冲基金希望暴跌能让它们再显价值

经济学人双语版-东山再起 Back in the game

HEDGE FUNDS have had a rotten decade. Star managers were once perceived to be infallible “masters of the universe” who made money for wealthy individuals and big institutional investors in both good times and bad. But steep losses during the global financial crisis of 2007-09 tarnished that reputation, and subsequent returns have failed to resurrect past success. The result has been a humbling comedown. Many of the hedge-fund industry’s biggest names—like Leon Cooperman, who ran Omega Advisors, and Eric Mindich, once the youngest-ever partner at Goldman Sachs—have thrown in the towel, returned investors’ capital and converted their hedge funds into family offices.

对冲基金经历了糟糕的十年。明星经理曾经被认为是战无不胜的“宇宙之主”,无论年景好坏都能为富人和大型机构投资者赚钱。但是,在2007至2009年全球金融危机期间发生的巨额亏损败坏了这种声誉,之后的回报也未能使重现过去的成功。其结果是令人沮丧的没落。行业里的许多最知名人士,例如经营欧米茄顾问公司(Omega Advisors)的利昂·库珀曼(Leon Cooperman),还有曾是高盛有史以来最年轻合伙人的埃里克·明迪奇(Eric Mindich)都已经洗手不干,将资本返还给投资者,并将他们的对冲基金转变为家族办公室。

These woes have been exacerbated by seismic shifts in the allocation of capital. As hedge-fund profits wilted, institutional investors—such as pension funds and university endowments, which make up the bulk of hedge funds’ clientele—saw little reason to pay meaty fees for mediocre performance. Investors turned to cheap index funds instead, or sought out the juicier returns dangled by private-equity and property funds. Having managed more capital than their private-equity peers for much of the past decade, by 2019 the hedge-fund industry was a fifth smaller than private equity (see chart 1). Index funds, or “passive” investors, have eclipsed both. The Bank for International Settlements, a club of central banks, estimates that almost half of the roughly $30trn invested in American equities is now passively managed.

资本配置的剧烈变化加剧了这些困境。随着对冲基金利润的萎缩,对冲基金的主要客户群——养老基金和大学捐赠基金等机构投资者——几乎看不到理由为平庸的业绩支付高额费用。投资者转向廉价指数基金,或寻求私募股权和房地产基金承诺的更丰厚收益。在过去十年的大部分时间里,对冲基金行业管理的资金规模都超过了私募股权机构,但到2019年,其规模已比私募股权小了五分之一(见图1)。指数基金(或“被动”投资者)让两者都黯然失色。据央行俱乐部国际清算银行估计,目前投资于美国股票的大约30万亿美元中,有近一半是被动管理的。

经济学人双语版-东山再起 Back in the game

Hedge-fund managers have long warned that these trends in investment allocation might pan out poorly for investors in a crisis. The financial-market chaos wrought by the pandemic has tested that claim, and hedge funds have been vindicated, though only partially. They have not made big gains. And they have experienced outflows: figures released by Hedge Fund Research on April 22nd suggest that these amounted to 1% of assets under management in the first quarter. Still, they have, so far, lost less than the market. And there are early signs that the crisis could benefit the industry in the longer term, if it causes investors to appreciate the benefits of hedging their equity exposure, and to shift away from illiquid assets.

对冲基金经理一直以来警告说,投资配置的这些趋势在危机期间可能对投资者不利。疫病大流行造成的金融市场混乱已经证实了这一说法,而对冲基金则证明了自己——尽管只是在一定程度上。它们也没有取得重大收益,而且还经历了资金外流:对冲基金研究公司(Hedge Fund Research)4月22日发布的数据表明,外流资金占第一季度管理资产的1%。然而到目前为止,它们的损失仍少于市场。而且,有早期迹象表明,如果这场危机令投资者意识到对冲股票敞口并远离非流动资产的好处,那么从长远来看可以使该行业受益。

How you think hedge funds have performed during the market turmoil depends on how stern a test you apply. If you think their purpose is to make steady returns, regardless of how markets fare, then most have failed. On average, the value of their portfolios has fallen by 10.5% (see chart 2). But they have at least beaten the market: the S&P 500 fell by 20% in the first three months of the year. True, average annualised returns of the S&P 500 in the past five years, at 4.6%, still beat those of the average hedge fund, at 3%. But the goal for most institutional investors is not to achieve the juiciest returns; it is to generate good returns that are steady and low-risk. If hedge funds beat the market during times of stress, they become a source of portfolio diversification that is useful to endowments and pension schemes.

如何评价市场动荡期间对冲基金的表现,取决于采用多严苛的测试。如果你认为它们的目标是不论市场整体情况如何都要取得稳定的回报,那么它们大多数都失败了。平均而言,其投资组合的价值下降了10.5%(见图2)。但它们至少打败了市场:标普500指数在今年前三个月下跌了20%。诚然,标普500指数在过去五年中的平均年化回报率是4.6%,仍然击败了对冲基金的平均3%。但是,大多数机构投资者的目标不是获得最大的收益,而是产生稳定而低风险的良好回报。如果对冲基金在压力时期击败了市场,它们就成为了投资组合多元化的一个来源,这对捐赠基金和养老金计划很有用。

经济学人双语版-东山再起 Back in the game

By and large, machines have done better than humans. Around a third of hedge-fund assets are managed in so-called “systematic” funds, which write investment rules based on historical-data analysis and use algorithms to execute trades. On average, these have done best: systematic investors have seen the value of their assets slip by only 2.1% this year. The Medallion fund, the flagship fund run by Renaissance Technologies and set up by Jim Simons in 1988, was up by 24% in March. By contrast, discretionary funds, which are run by human managers picking and choosing trades, are down by 12.7%.

总的来说,机器比人的表现好。对冲基金资产中约有三分之一由所谓的“系统化”基金管理,这些基金根据历史数据分析编写投资规则,并使用算法执行交易。平均而言,它们的表现最好:系统化投资者今年的资产价值仅下降了2.1%。大奖章基金(The Medallion Fund)是由文艺复兴科技公司(Renaissance Technologies)管理的旗舰基金,由吉姆·西蒙斯(Jim Simons)于1988年创立,到3月增长了24%。相比之下,由人类经理选择交易的全权委托基金下跌了12.7%。

Systematic-fund managers offer a few explanations for their better relative performance. Carter Lyons of Two Sigma, one such fund, claims that systematic investments have done well because they can diversify more. “A systematic fund may take several thousand positions, whereas a discretionary manager may only have 100.” That helps keep systematic portfolios’ losses down when markets are tumbling. Others claim that consistency has helped. “The great thing about systematic processes is that they stick to their knitting,” says Luke Ellis, the chief executive of Man Group, the third-biggest hedge-fund manager in the world. Some of its discretionary funds have done well, but its best performing ones have been systematic.

系统性基金经理就其相对较好的表现给出了一些解释。双西格玛(Two Sigma)就是此类基金之一,该公司的卡特·里昂(Carter Lyons)称,系统性投资之所以表现不错,是因为它们可以更好地分散投资。“系统性基金可以持有几千个头寸,而全权委托经理可能只有一百个。” 当市场动荡时,这有助于降低系统性投资组合的损失。其他人则称一致性有所帮助。“系统性流程的优势在于它们坚持规则。”全球第三大对冲基金经理曼集团(Man Group)首席执行官卢克·埃利斯(Luke Ellis)说。该公司的一些全权委托基金业绩不错,但表现最好的是系统性基金。

Some bets have come off better than others. Macro strategies, which place bets on economic developments, have fared best on average, down just 2%. But Bridgewater Associates, a big macro fund, has done poorly, brought down by its risk-parity strategy.

有些下注方式比其他的更好。平均来看,押注经济发展的宏观策略表现最好,仅下跌了2%。但大型宏观基金桥水基金(Bridgewater Associates)因受到其风险平价策略的拖累而表现不佳。

At the bottom of the heap are activist funds, which buy stakes in companies in the hope of changing their strategies or management. These were down 16.8% on average at the end of March. Activists may have suffered as a result of loading up on shares at lofty valuations earlier in the year. According to Lazard, an investment bank, activists deployed $2.8bn of capital per week in February. With corporate deals off the table and shareholder meetings postponed, they might spy fewer opportunities to take on company bosses.

表现最差的是维权基金,它们购买公司的股份,以期改变其战略或管理。这些基金到3月底平均下跌了16.8%。这可能是因为它们在今年早些时候以高昂的估值购入股票。据投资银行拉扎德(Lazard)称,维权基金在2月每周配置了28亿美元的资本。随着公司取消交易并推迟股东大会,它们能挑战公司老板的机会更少了。

Varied though their performance has been, hedge funds still look appealing when compared with many private-equity funds. The pandemic seems likely to pose the most financial danger to highly leveraged businesses—precisely the type of firm that private-equity funds tend to invest in. Buy-out firms themselves do not disclose returns, but some of their investors—like banks—must. Last month one of America’s largest lenders admitted to writing down its private-equity investments by 20% in the first quarter.

尽管业绩参差不齐,但与许多私募股权基金相比,对冲基金仍然具有吸引力。疾病大流行似乎可能对高杠杆业务构成最大的财务风险——而这正是私募股权基金倾向于投资的公司类型。收购型公司本身并不披露回报,但它们的一些投资者(如银行)必须披露。上月,美国最大的贷款机构之一承认在第一季度将其私募股权投资减记了20%。

Another drawback of private equity may prove to be its illiquidity. Pension funds and university endowments have outgoings that are more or less fixed. Stable cash flows in normal times meant that they became more comfortable with illiquid assets. Few will be prepared for a situation in which the economy is shuttered and pension contributions and tuition payments dry up. Large institutional investors might face an unprecedented need for cash.

私募股权的另一个缺点可能是流动性不足。养老基金和大学捐赠基金的支出大体上是固定的。正常时期稳定的现金流使得它们更能够接受流动性较差的资产。没有几家基金会对经济停滞、养老金和学费枯竭的情况有所准备。大型机构投资者可能面临前所未有的现金需求。

It is still too soon to know which funds will navigate the crisis best, let alone how the pandemic will reshape investment decisions in the longer term. “Returns in March will end up being just one piece of the puzzle,” says Mr Ellis. Many investors claim they are using the turmoil to make long-term bets that may not have lifted returns yet. But the early signs are that hedge funds might not come out too badly. The pendulum seems likely to swing back towards holding liquid assets, and hedge funds appear to be doing well enough that they might benefit from the reallocation.

要判断哪种基金能最好地度过危机还为时过早,更不用说大流行病在长期会如何重塑投资决策了。埃利斯说:“到头来,3月份的回报只是拼图中的一片罢了。” 许多投资者称自己正利用此次动荡来做一些长期押注,到目前为止可能还没能提升回报。不过早期迹象表明,对冲基金的表现可能不会太糟糕。钟摆似乎很可能再度转向持有流动资产,对冲基金的表现似乎足够好,可能会从资金再分配中受益。

If hedge funds were once a flashy way to generate extra returns for rich individuals, they have since become more pedestrian—reliable sources of diversification for big institutional investors. In turbulent times, perhaps that is enough. ■

如果说对冲基金曾经是为富人创造额外回报的一种花哨的方式,它们如今已变得更加平平无奇——成了大型机构投资者多元化投资的可靠来源。在动荡年代,也许这就足够了。