Quant Hedge Fund AQR Shows Losses YTD, Pulls IPO

According to the New York Post, not only has famed hedge fund AQR, operated by former Goldman trader Cliff Asness, shown a 6% fall in value, but some investors are seeking to redeem funds, which says they have lost faith in the manager’s strategy. As a result, the fund has scuttled its plans for an initial public offering.

The story also reports that some other big-name quants, like James Simon’s Renaissance Technologies, also had a poor October and claims that the Goldman quant fund Global Alpha, is being wound up.

From the Post:

AQR Capital Management, the giant Greenwich-based hedge fund, has been forced to shelve its planned initial public offering after a dismal performance caused several large investors to pull their cash from the firm’s $38 billion fund, The Post has learned.

AQR Capital Management, run by former Goldman Sachs trader Cliff Asness, saw its flagship fund drop 3 percent in October, according to the fund’s investors.

The performance leaves the AQR Absolute Return fund down roughly 6 percent for the year, compared with a 4 percent return for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

Recent performance has caused several large investors to begin withdrawing their capital, which could force AQR to start selling positions to raise cash.

AQR, which helped pioneer the statistical arbitrage trading, is not alone.

Quantitative trading powerhouse Renaissance Technologies, run by billionaire Jim Simons, was down 1 percent in October, according to an investor.

Ironically, Asness helped launch Goldman Sachs Global Alpha fund, which was pummeled by the summer’s credit crunch and is now slowly winding down.

The claim that AQR “helped pioneer statistical arbitrage” which presumably came from AQR itself, is ludicrous. AQR was founded in 1998. Derivatives trading firms O’Connor & Associates and CRT were practicing statistical arbritrage in the mid 1980s and I’m not certain even they would consider themselves to have pioneered it, merely to be among its leading practitioners in their heyday.

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  1. Anonymous

    In all seriousness, Yves – Do you trust BB to select the right moves to keep the market stable?

    If the market loses faith in the BB, look out below.. revisiting 5k on the dow isn’t implausible..

  2. Yves Smith

    Anon of 3:39 PM,

    I agree we have the possibility of a very serious meltdown if the financial system continues to lose equity and credibility.

    In all fairness to Bernanke, he inherited a complete mess. And unfortunately, he appears to have been too responsive to critics who thought he might be too “academic” and seems to get a lot of his information from people on Wall Street (at least that is the impression given in recent WSJ story on his decision-making).

    The lesson that is generally taken from the Depression is that the Fed should have provided increased money supply. However, according to this comment by Paul Krugman in the New York Review of Books, it’s not accurate. He notes earlier in the article that the Fed does not control money supply directly, merely the so-called “monetary base”:

    In interpreting the origins of the Depression, the distinction between the monetary base (currency plus bank reserves), which the Fed controls directly, and the money supply (currency plus bank deposits) is crucial. The monetary base went up during the early years of the Great Depression, rising from an average of $6.05 billion in 1929 to an average of $7.02 billion in 1933. But the money supply fell sharply, from $26.6 billion to $19.9 billion. This divergence mainly reflected the fallout from the wave of bank failures in 1930–1931: as the public lost faith in banks, people began holding their wealth in cash rather than bank deposits, and those banks that survived began keeping large quantities of cash on hand rather than lending it out, to avert the danger of a bank run. The result was much less lending, and hence much less spending, than there would have been if the public had continued to deposit cash into banks, and banks had continued to lend deposits out to businesses. And since a collapse of spending was the proximate cause of the Depression, the sudden desire of both individuals and banks to hold more cash undoubtedly made the slump worse.

    The implication is that the real danger in the public no longer putting their money in banks, due either to loss of faith in the banking system or by getting into a deflationary crisis where interest rates are so low that no one has any incentive to put their money in banks.

    Now consider the modern world. We now have a tremendous amount of credit creation that takes place outside the banking system, via what Mohamed El Erian called “liquidity factories.” They include investment banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds. Due to deregulation, the system is more highly geared than before.

    So what happens? Even banks that aren’t impaired get cautious about lending. Investors quit putting their money in anything having to do with structured credit. They get more nervous about hedge funds. And investment banks shrink their balance sheets, both due to damage to their equity bases and new found caution.

    The result? I can’t imagine it won’t shrink money in supply, properly measured. It will at least severely decrease the velocity of money.

    That suggests the most important course of action is to try to restore faith in the sorts of financial activity that have become discredited (although CDOs are such a dubious invention I don’t see how it is possible to salvage their now-deserved bad reputation). For instance : a ot of structured credit is sound. How do you restore confidence in it?

    In my thinking, the Fed should be focusing much more on how to create greater transparency and what needs to be done to the ratings process so people will believe ratings again so that investors can make sound decisions. But that will take a lot of though, and will also step on a lot of toes. We probably need to have the train wreck to get the powers that be to address the real problems.

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