At midyear, U.S. hedge fund assets had jumped $102 billion to nearly $1.4 trillion. Although that’s shy of the roughly $1.7 trillion hedge funds managed in 2008, our biannual Billion Dollar Club survey shows, it’s still about $300 billion more than the nadir three years ago. The first half was so bullish that a couple of the highest flyers—Third Point and Davidson Kempner Capital Management—even closed off funds to new investment.
Hedge funds seemed firmly on their way back until the market collapse of August, which has stretched into autumn. The AR Composite Index was barely above water, up 0.41% at the end of August.
With markets so out of whack, it’s no surprise that the biggest names in hedge funds keep cashing it in, starting with Stanley Druckenmiller last year. This summer, George Soros decided to turn his fund into a family office, and in September, Bruce Kovner announced he would retire and turn Caxton Associates over to his lieutenant, Andrew Law. It is somewhat dispiriting that the giants are leaving the game, but their protégés are picking up the slack. Notably, an alum of Druckenmiller’s Duquesne Capital Management launched a fund, PointState Capital, which quickly amassed $5 billion. That made PointState one of the biggest gainers in this month’s survey.
Despite the grim financial news, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of panic in the air, as was the case three years ago at this time. One reason may be that hedge funds have turned so risk averse. Leverage is low, cash is king and the losses have so far been manageable.
Investors seem to be taking something of a wait-and-see attitude. Redemptions, while at a 12-month high in September, so far are running well below the 2008 period. In September, forward redemptions, as measured by GlobeOp Financial Services, were only 3.11% of assets it administers, compared with 19.27% in November 2008.
At this writing, it’s still too early to judge what will happen on September 30, when many would have to put in redemptions for the end of the year. But a massive outflow seems unlikely. Even if more of the legends retire, their investors will have to go somewhere.