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Bloomberg recently did a good cover on what hedge fund managers are looking out for in 2017. The general consensus is clear; the market is uncertain, and world events are causing markets to react in unexpected ways.
“You’re going to have to take way more risk today in order to try to make outsize gains versus a year ago,” -Hanif Mamdani, PH&N Absolute Return Fund
I found the article to be pretty insightful, with a handful of key take-aways. To make it easier for my readers, I’ve broken up the article into easy-to-digest sections, and added some charts and examples to make it clearer. Here we go:
1. Distressed Energy Companies
Hedge funds specializing in purchasing companies that are on the verge of collapse, actually profited from the rise in oil prices last year. Companies that were in the red started to turn profitable, and after purchasing companies at ultra-cheap prices, these assets were starting to bring in significant capital gains for hedge funds. Even though oil has risen significantly, hedge fund managers still see the potential for more gains.
On the technical side, the Oil & Gas sector is still on an uptrend. It is prudent to remain bullish when the market is still trending up. It’s interesting that XES has broken out of a wedge, and looks to be gathering bullish momentum.
In the longer term, oil & gas companies seem to be picking up momentum.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to give a talk at the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) on the Offshore & Marine sector, and Keppel Corp was one of our top picks.
2. “Global Macro Deceleration”
Some hedge fund managers are positioning themselves for the worst. For example, a border tax in the U.S could “cause a global depression and a major equity market decline,” says Carlson Capital’s Black Diamond Thematic Fund. They’re waiting for commodities to “correct meaningfully” (meaning a decline in commodity prices), and looking to scoop up good stocks at the bottom of the market decline.
Traditionally, sector rotation strategists have sworn by investing in stocks like semiconductors, industrials and miners during full-blown bear markets. These stocks are famous for having high volatility and are not for the faint-hearted. A famous example, Caterpillar Inc, is shown below:
Heavy industrials like Caterpillar Inc tend to move cyclically with the economy. Notice the 6 big swing it has had since 2012!
3. Long High-Yield Corporate Bonds Amidst Rising Interest Rates
Some hedge funds are betting on higher-yield corporate bonds rising during this period. High-yield bonds typically have both a short maturity and high coupon rate. With interest rates expected to rise in the coming decade, bond prices are likely to fall and bond holders will actually be worse off (Economics 101!). However, with the shorter maturity, higher-yield corporate bonds become more attractive as they are less exposed to the beating by rising interest rates. Bearing in mind these ideas, it is understandable why these have been attractive to institutional investors in the past year.
I’ve inserted a little-known ETF, “HYG”, a high-yield corporate bond ETF that tracks the prices of high-yield corporate bonds. You can see that the bear trend sharply reversed at the turn of 2016 and has been rising steadily since. The uptrend is still in force, and some hedge fund managers are looking to speculate on a variety of interest-rate products.
What They’re Saying:
In summary, what we notice to be the consensus about the market in 2017 is this:
- Heightened interest rate, inflation rate, and economic volatility
- Renewed interest in unconventional investment strategies
That being said, it’s important to keep yourself updated and continually learning about financial markets. In such a unique market climate, it would serve you well to continue reading up and knowing what market participants are paying attention to.
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