Major hedge funds are scrambling to prevent financial wipeout


Computer monitor with trading software.

 The stars of the biggest hedge funds are losing their shirts as analysts fear a major financial wipeout is imminent.From Ken Griffin’s Citadel, to Israel Englander’s Millennium Management, one big name after another is racking up negative returns lately, amid bad bets in a saturated market.  “Some sectors of the fund industry are crowded and competing with other investment vehicles,” said Nicholas Tsafos at EisnerAmper, who advises hedge funds.There’s also a wide disparity lately in returns among managers chasing similar investment strategies. “That alone should cause the number of closures to increase, as bad managers get fired and money is recirculated into those managers that do better,” said Don Steinbrugge, managing partner at Agecroft Partners, a hedge fund consulting and marketing firm. As hedge funds fall like dominoes (and returns underperform the S&P 500), managers also blame a sharp rise in stock market volatility and low interest rates. Although there are still more launches than failures — and as new money was infused into hedge funds in the first half of 2018 — nervous investors have pulled $10.1 billion from hedge funds through October, according to eVestment. “We remain bearish, as investor positioning does not yet signal ‘The Big Low’ in asset markets,” said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Merrill Lynch, summing up overall investor sentiment in the firm’s latest fund survey. Analysts are forecasting a surge in redemptions, especially toward year end, as more clients pull money out of losing funds. The news is hardly good for a parade of managers at some of the biggest hedge funds. According to industry reports, November was a bone-crushing month for David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital, which saw a 3.6 percent loss; Steve Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management, which took a 5 percent hit; Citadel, which absorbed a 3 percent loss; Millenium Management, which ran into the red by 2. 8 percent; and Dmitry Balyasny’s Atlantic Global Fund, with a decline of 3.9 percent and firm-wide job cuts of 125 after losses and withdrawals eliminated $4 billion in assets. And each day brings more depressing news. Most recently, hedge fund closures included Brenham Capital, Brenner West Capital Partners, Tourbillon Capital Partners LP, Highfields Capital Management and Criterion Capital Management.