January 10, 2011 – New York, NY – Hennessee Group LLC, an adviser to hedge fund investors, announced today that the Hennessee Hedge Fund Index advanced +3.04% in December (+10.05% YTD), while the S&P 500 increased +6.53% (+12.79% YTD), the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced +5.19% (+11.02% YTD), and the NASDAQ Composite Index increased +6.19% (+16.91% YTD). The Barclays Aggregate Bond Index declined -1.08% (+6.56% YTD) while the Barclays High Yield Credit Bond Index advanced +1.81% in December (+15.11%). Global financial markets finished 2010 on a positive note as global equity, commodity and credit markets all strengthened in December.
“Hedge funds experienced their best monthly gain of the year, advancing +3.04% in December. The strong month drove hedge fund performance to +10.05% for 2010,” said Lee Hennessee, Managing Principal of Hennessee Group. “The best performing strategies for the year were event driven, distressed, fixed income and emerging markets.”
“Hedge funds underperformed traditional equity benchmarks in 2010. However, based upon historical analysis, it is typical for hedge funds to underperform in markets driven more by momentum than equity fundamentals. Since March 2009, when the market bottomed, the Hennessee Hedge Fund Index is up +39%, while the S&P 500 +71%,” commented Charles Gradante, Co-Founder of Hennessee Group. “The real value of hedge funds is in risk-adjusted returns and downside protection. Since the beginning of the credit crisis in September 2008, the Hennessee Hedge Fund Index was up +16%, while the S&P 500 was down -2%. Hedge funds have also generated these returns with half the volatility.”
The Hennessee Long/Short Equity Index advanced +3.08% in December to finish the year up +9.11%. Economic activity continued to strengthen in December, and the S&P ended the year with its best December since 1987. The month's +6.5% gain represented almost half the index's appreciation for the entire year. Managers benefited from increasing net and gross exposure levels in order to participate in the continued market rally. For the year, many long/short equity hedge funds struggled to outperform on a relative basis due in large part to the “risk on and risk off” trading environment that characterized most of the year. Major macro themes such as the sovereign debt crisis and introduction of QE2 led to extreme levels of volatility and heightened correlations amongst stocks, making security selection very challenging, particularly for fundamentally based investors (See Hennessee Group’s “Hedge Funds Struggle with New Market Order” White Paper from October 2010). In addition, many managers were conservatively positioned for most of the year with net and gross exposures levels below historical averages, resulting in additional underperformance. With the equity markets trading at 13x 2011 earnings, many long/short equity managers believe equities are still reasonably valued and also remain attractive from a technical standpoint. That said, they are concerned about the numerous headwinds that could derail the economic recovery and market rally, and therefore remain cautious entering 2011.
“Managers have long-term concerns about the current U.S. fiscal policy. The U.S. is spending $1.60 for every $1.00 of tax revenue. This is not sustainable. Either taxes will have increase or spending has to decline. In reality, it will likely be a combination of both, but any result is not good news for the market as it will be a drag on economic growth,” commented Charles Gradante. “In the short term, the market seems to be overlooking this. Equities are reasonably priced resulting in the expectation that this rally will continue into 2011.”
Arbitrage and event driven managers posted gains in December as the Hennessee Arbitrage/Event Driven Index advanced +2.66%. In addition, arbitrage and event driven sub-strategy was the top performing sub strategy for the year, increasing +12.35% in 2010. In December and for the year, managers benefited from a tightening of credit spreads and a continued rally in risk assets. The Barclays High Yield Credit Bond Index advanced +1.81% in December (+15.11%) as spreads reached levels not seen since November 2007 despite an increase Treasury interest rates. High-yield issuance remained strong, and for the year, issuance has surged 50% to a record $353 billion. The Hennessee Distressed Index increased +3.14% in December (+14.76% YTD). Distressed managers experienced gains as long biased portfolios benefited from increased risk appetites of investors. In the U.S., the default rate ended the year at 3.3%, down from 4% at the end of the third quarter and from 14.1% a year earlier. For the year, several restructured companies emerged from bankruptcy and provided significant positive performance for hedge funds. The Hennessee Merger Arbitrage Index increased +2.55% in December (+7.17% YTD). Managers benefited from a market rally and continued deal activity. Global mergers-and-acquisitions activity for 2010 reached $2.74 trillion, up from $2.2 trillion in 2009, according to Dealogic. Credit markets continue to be supportive of deal making, and managers expect mergers to increase in 2011 as companies look past economic uncertainty to address long-term growth. The Hennessee Convertible Arbitrage Index advanced +1.36% (+10.44% YTD) in December. Convertibles followed equities and ended out the year with a strong performance in December. Credit tightened as investors continue to search for yield. Convertible valuations richened while the new issue calendar remained quiet.
“Although Germany benefits from a weaker Euro, managers fear that the EU one trillion-dollar bail out fund will not be enough to handle future problems,” commented Charles Gradante. “A potential result could be that Germany will force a restructuring of the monetary union to have parallel authority to regulate fiscal discipline resulting in macro-economic uncertainty and global market disruption." (See Hennessee Group’s "Is This the Tip of Iceberg?" White Paper from February 2009)
The Hennessee Global/Macro Index advanced +2.70% in December (+9.32% YTD). Positive global markets helped drive gains as the Hennessee International Index climbed +2.64% during the month (+12.08% YTD) and the Hennessee Emerging Markets Index gained +2.83% (+13.65% YTD). For the year, despite the fact that global stock markets faced multiple sovereign debt scares in Europe and worries about a double-dip recession in the U.S., global markets posted gains. In Europe, positive performance was driven by Germany and England, while the PIIGS (Portugual, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) detracted from performance. In Asia, several markets posted strong gains, but the largest economies, China and Japan, experienced declines. Emerging markets were strong, and managers remain optimistic on the longer term outlook. The Hennessee Macro Index advanced +3.27% for the month (+7.96% YTD). Macro funds were a top performing strategy in December as they experienced one of their best months of the year. Managers profited from positions in long equities, long precious metals and other commodities, long oil, short the U.S. dollar, and short Treasuries. For the year, commodities have been a major source of profits as the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index rose +16.8% in 2010. Gold, a common hedge fund position, ended the year up +29.8%. Silver and palladium were also significant gainers, up +83.8% and +97.3%, respectively. Oil prices stayed in a narrow band between $68 and $92 a barrel, but ended the year up +15%. Throughout the year, managers made gains in currencies by being short the euro and long the yen. The European debt crisis battered the euro, which declined against the U.S. dollar.
“Some macro managers are short silver going into 2011 after silver outperformed most major commodities in metals and agriculture,” Commented Charles Gradante. “Silver was up 84% in 2010 while gold increased +30%.” (See Hennessee Group’s “Silver Poised to Outperform Gold” White Paper from March 2009).
* For a more in depth monthly review of the economy, capital markets, and hedge fund performance and strategies, the Hennessee Group offers the monthly Hennessee Hedge Fund Review (www.hennesseegroup.com/hhfr/).
About the Hennessee Group LLC
Hennessee Group LLC is a Registered Investment Adviser that consults direct investors in hedge funds on asset allocation, manager selection, and ongoing monitoring of hedge fund managers. Hennessee Group LLC is not a tracker of hedge funds. The Hennessee Hedge Fund Indices® are for the sole purpose of benchmarking individual hedge fund manager performance. The Hennessee Group does not sell a hedge fund-of-funds product nor does it market individual hedge fund managers. For additional Hennessee Group Press Releases, please visit the Hennessee Group’s website. The Hennessee Group also publishes the Hennessee Hedge Fund Review monthly, which provides a comprehensive hedge fund performance review, statistics, and market analysis; all of which is value added to hedge fund managers and investors alike.
Description of Hennessee Hedge Fund Indices®
The Hennessee Hedge Fund Indices® are calculated from performance data reported to the Hennessee Group by a diversified group of over 1,000 hedge funds. The Hennessee Hedge Fund Index is an equally weighted average of the funds in the Hennessee Hedge Fund Indices®. The funds in the Hennessee Hedge Fund Index are derived from the Hennessee Group’s database of over 3,500 hedge funds and are net of fees and unaudited. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This material is for general information only and is not an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any security including any interest in a hedge fund.