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On the economics of hedge fund drawdown status: Performance, insurance selling and darwinian selection


  • Sevinc Cukurova

    () (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

  • Jose M. Marin

    () (IMDEA Social Sciences Institute)


In this paper we study the drawdown status of hedge funds as a hedge fund characteristic related to performance. A hedge fund's drawdown status is the decile to which the fund belongs in the industry's drawdown distribution (at a given point in time). Economic reasoning suggests that both the current level and the past evolution of a fund's drawdown status are informative of key fund aspects, including the manager's talent, as well as fund investors' assessment of the fund, and, hence, are predictive of future performance. The analysis delivers four completely new insights on hedge funds. First, the presence of insurance selling (shorting deep out-of-the-money puts) in the industry is large enough to make portfolios of low drawdown funds weak performers, in general, and bad performers in times of turmoil. Second, the market operates a Darwinian selection process according to which funds running large drawdowns for a prolonged period of time (survivers) are managed by truly talented traders who deliver outstanding future performance. Third, a completely new dimension of risk arises as a distinctive feature of hedge funds: risk conditional on survival is tantamount to outstanding performance. Fourth, drawdown status analysis raises serious concerns about the role played by other hedge fund characteristics {such as total delta{ on fund performance and casts doubts on the validity of some performance evaluation measures {such as the Calmar and Sterling ratios{ that are widely used in practice.

Suggested Citation

  • Sevinc Cukurova & Jose M. Marin, 2011. "On the economics of hedge fund drawdown status: Performance, insurance selling and darwinian selection," Working Papers 2011-04, Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (IMDEA) Ciencias Sociales.
  • Handle: RePEc:imd:wpaper:wp2011-04

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stephen Brown & William Goetzmann, 2001. "Hedge Funds With Style," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm21, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Apr 2008.
    2. Baquero, Guillermo & ter Horst, Jenke & Verbeek, Marno, 2005. "Survival, Look-Ahead Bias, and Persistence in Hedge Fund Performance," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 40(03), pages 493-517, September.
    3. Titman, Sheridan & Wei, K. C. John & Xie, Feixue, 2004. "Capital Investments and Stock Returns," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(04), pages 677-700, December.
    4. Francesco Franzoni & José M. Marín, 2006. "Pension Plan Funding and Stock Market Efficiency," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(2), pages 921-956, April.
    5. Marcos Mailoc López de Prado & Achim Peijan, 2005. "Measuring Loss Potential of Hedge Fund Strategies," Finance 0503010, EconWPA.
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    More about this item


    drawdowns; hedge funds; fund characteristics; return predictability; darwinian selection; insurance sellers; survival;

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G19 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Other
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors

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