The risk in hedge fund strategies: Theory and evidence from long/short equity hedge funds
Theory suggests that long/short equity hedge funds' returns come from directional as well as spread bets on the stock market. Empirical analysis finds persistent net exposures to the spread between small vs large cap stocks in addition to the overall market. Together, these factors account for more than 80% of return variation. Additional factors are price momentum and market activity. Combining two major branches of hedge fund research, our model is the first that explicitly incorporates the effect of funding (stock loan) on alpha. Using a comprehensive dataset compiled from three major database sources, we find that among the three thousand plus hedge funds with similar style classification, less than 20% of long/short equity hedge funds delivered significant, persistent, stable positive non-factor related returns. Consistent with the predictions of the Berk and Green (2004) model we find alpha producing funds decays to "beta-only" over time. However, we do not find evidence of a negative effect of fund size on managers' ability to deliver alpha. Finally, we show that non-factor related returns, or alpha, are positively correlated to market activity and negatively correlated to aggregate short interest. In contrast, equity mutual funds and long-bias equity hedge funds have no significant, persistent, non-factor related return. Expressed differently, L/S equity hedge funds, as the name suggests, do benefit from shorting. Besides differences in risk taking behavior, this is a key feature distinguishing L/S funds from long-bias funds. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
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