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The risk in hedge fund strategies: Theory and evidence from long/short equity hedge funds

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  • Fung, William
  • Hsieh, David A.

Abstract

Theory suggests that long/short equity hedge funds' returns come from directional as well as spread bets on the stock market. Empirical analysis finds persistent net exposures to the spread between small vs large cap stocks in addition to the overall market. Together, these factors account for more than 80% of return variation. Additional factors are price momentum and market activity. Combining two major branches of hedge fund research, our model is the first that explicitly incorporates the effect of funding (stock loan) on alpha. Using a comprehensive dataset compiled from three major database sources, we find that among the three thousand plus hedge funds with similar style classification, less than 20% of long/short equity hedge funds delivered significant, persistent, stable positive non-factor related returns. Consistent with the predictions of the Berk and Green (2004) model we find alpha producing funds decays to "beta-only" over time. However, we do not find evidence of a negative effect of fund size on managers' ability to deliver alpha. Finally, we show that non-factor related returns, or alpha, are positively correlated to market activity and negatively correlated to aggregate short interest. In contrast, equity mutual funds and long-bias equity hedge funds have no significant, persistent, non-factor related return. Expressed differently, L/S equity hedge funds, as the name suggests, do benefit from shorting. Besides differences in risk taking behavior, this is a key feature distinguishing L/S funds from long-bias funds.

Suggested Citation

  • Fung, William & Hsieh, David A., 2011. "The risk in hedge fund strategies: Theory and evidence from long/short equity hedge funds," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 547-569, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:empfin:v:18:y:2011:i:4:p:547-569
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Funga, William & Hsiehb, David A., 2013. "Hedge Funds," Handbook of the Economics of Finance, Elsevier.
    2. Zhang, Yue, 2015. "The securitization of gold and its potential impact on gold stocks," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 309-326.
    3. Candelon Bertrand & Ahmed Jameel & Straetmans Stefan, 2012. "Predicting and Capitalizing on Stock Market Bears in the U.S," Research Memorandum 019, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
    4. Fischer, Mario & Hanauer, Matthias X. & Heigermoser, Robert, 2016. "Synthetic hedge funds," Review of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 12-22.
    5. Nucera, Federico & Valente, Giorgio, 2013. "Carry trades and the performance of currency hedge funds," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 407-425.
    6. Wilkens, Marco & Yao, Juan & Jeyasreedharan, Nagaratnam & Oehler, Patrick, 2013. "Measuring the performance of hedge funds using two-stage peer group benchmarks," Working Papers 2013-18, University of Tasmania, Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, revised 01 Jun 2013.
    7. repec:eee:mulfin:v:40:y:2017:i:c:p:47-62 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. K. Stephen Haggard & (Grace) Qing Hao & Ying Jenny Zhang, 2012. "Are hedge funds guilty of manipulative short-selling?," Managerial Finance, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 38(11), pages 1048-1066, September.
    9. Gustavo Passarelli Giroud Joaquim & Marcelo Leite Moura, 2011. "Performance and Persistence of Brazilian Hedge Funds During the Financial Crisis," Brazilian Review of Finance, Brazilian Society of Finance, vol. 9(4), pages 525-548.
    10. El Kalak, Izidin & Azevedo, Alcino & Hudson, Robert, 2016. "Reviewing the hedge funds literature II: Hedge funds' returns and risk management characteristics," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 55-66.

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