• Trend Following Managed Futures  

    In last week’s blog post, How Strong is Your House? Building Resilient Portfolios, we discussed how important it is to build an all-weather portfolio. Part of building a resilient portfolio is incorporating true diversifiers, such as managed futures, which offer little to no correlation to the broad markets.

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    There has been talk about the performance of hedge funds, and in particular CTAs/Managed Futures funds, in February when markets sold off for the first time in recent memory. People seem to be surprised that these strategies posted negative returns in February, while the S&P 500 was down 3.69%. I’d like to address why such a focus and such expectations are unjustified.

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    Many of you know us from our counter-trend models, which can act as a great complement to trend-following models, but this blog will be focused on trend following given the struggles they’ve had recently.

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    We are frequently asked how investors should analyze the performance of managed futures strategies. This is quite challenging due to the diversity of the strategies employed, and the non-constant exposure, both long and short, across one or more asset classes (i.e., stocks, bonds, commodities and currencies). Because of the lack of consistent exposure, a standard benchmark like the S&P 500 Index is sub-optimal, to say the least, but there are ways to suss out a manager’s value add.

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    2017 has seen equity markets steadily moving higher, volatility remaining at historically low levels, and trend-following managed futures strategies continuing to languish. Amid this backdrop, investors naturally ask if this has created a buying opportunity, with the expectation that markets, volatility, and trend-following should revert to longer-term averages. This is a reasonable question and expectation, but what really matters is whether investors can predict when this long-awaited mean-reversion will occur. Conventional wisdom says they can’t, but according to a recent article at ValueWalk, it appears the author believes timing managed futures allocations may be possible. In a recent whitepaper, they address “some of the potential benefits, challenges and opportunity costs” seen for investors who are “seeking to time managed futures allocations.”