Written by Bill Kelly
What can the NCAA basketball tournament tell you about your investment portfolio? As it turns out, quite a bit. For those of you who simply don’t care about the annual bracket ritual, it is quite easy to get you up to speed. The bottom line is that past performance is no guarantee of future results for most things in life. This has always been the stated regulatory case in investing and maybe basketball too. Let’s take the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers to prove this point. The fact that they have made it this far into the tournament has befuddled all but the less than one half of one percent of the more than tens of millions of ESPN bracket players who picked them to advance this deep into the annual contest. Assuming there is some information advantage here, and this group is the closest proxy to expertise, it’s no wonder that the experts sometimes look and feel very foolish.
Much has been written about hedge fund performance in 2017 and, more recently, for the first two months of 2018. Turns out that 2017 was a pretty good year for this space: absolute return composites went 12 for 12 in the win column, a streak that was last seen almost 15 years ago. It was also a good year for investment performance clocking in at about 12% (although the S&P-obsessed Financial Times might take issue) and industry assets under management reached a new all-time high of $3.6 trillion. The party continued in January where the underlying indices extended the win streak to 13 in a row and posted some of the best monthly numbers not seen since 2010. If only the longed-for higher rates and greater volatility would come back, God only knows how great this could really be!
Well we found out two days into February, when the 10-Year Treasury started flirting with 3% and volatility, once a lamb, proved to be a very angry lion. Fast forward to the end of the month and the league tables resemble the many busted brackets of the basketball enthusiasts. Needless to say, the win streak ended, and YTD performance went negative pretty much across the board. Managed futures got hit particularly hard, posting one of their worst months of all time depending upon whose category index you follow.