Trading on the Frontier

Terry Flanagan

Long/short trading strategies still prevail for some—especially trading the frontier markets.

Hedge funds, who are most characterized by their abilities to capture gains trading on the long and short side, have been in constant pendulum swing since the financial crisis of 2008. Four or three years ago, the industry’s reputation was battered, followed by an incremental incline, then ebbed downhill again in 2011.

For some hedge funds, staying true to one of the vehicle’s original strategies—the long/short equity fund—have led to some recent wins.

Wermuth Asset Management, a German-based asset manager, specializing in Russian alternative investments, reported success utilizing long/short equity trading in both a developed market, the U.S., and their home frontier market, Russia.

The firm’s Quant Strategy Eastern Europe fund, emerged as one of the few long/short funds that reported positive gains in Russia, up 1% at the end of 2011, and has reported a 17% return since inception in 2005. The Russian benchmark, the joint Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange and the Russian Trading System (MICEX-RTS) index, reportedly fell 22% for the year.

Subsequently, the firm’s long/short strategy for U.S. equities—the Wermuth Quant Global Strategy– resulted in a 9% gain. Wermuth experienced an average 32% gain in the fund since they started trading the U.S. market in 2007.

Despite individual firm gains, globally, long/short equity managers recorded the heaviest withdrawal among various hedge fund strategies in 2011, accounting for $5 billion of the $9.4 billion outflows through November 2011, according to hedge fund data provider Eurekhedge.

The Dow Jones Credit Suisse Hedge Fund Index also reported that long/short equity lost nearly 8% in 2011, versus a more modest lost of nearly 3% for other systematic strategies, such as managed futures.

Perhaps a key to Wermuth’s success has been a systematic mindset to investing—both utilizing quantitative top-down proprietary models to identify trends, as well as bottom-up fundamental research.

A spokesperson from the firm would not comment for this story; citing no further information would be of value.

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