Evaluation of US and European hedge funds and associated international markets : a risk-performance measure approach
Brand, Wilhelmine Helena
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The 2007–2009 financial crisis led to a decrease in consumer and investor confidence worldwide (SARB, 2008:2). Along with the weakened business sentiment and consumer demand, tightened funding conditions in financial markets, increased inflationary pressures, and declining global manufacturing activities, the world economic recession that followed the collapse of the world financial sector led to an estimated wealth destruction of approximately US$50 trillion (SARB, 2008:2; Aisen & Franken, 2010:3; Karunanayake et al., 2010). Apart from this estimate, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also projected that the global bank balance sheets in advanced countries suffered losses of approximately US$4 trillion during the period 2009–2010 (Aisen & Franken, 2010:3). As a result, investors have become more risk-adverse (Guiso et al., 2013:1), and the consequences of the financial crisis, made insurable profitable investment decisions extremely difficult as market volatility tends to increase during crises periods (Karunanayake et al., 2010; Schwert, 1989:83). With the financial environment in distress, some fund managers consider equities as the preferred asset class to protect the purchasing power of their clients (Ivan, 2013). However, the studies of Ennis and Sebastian (2003) and Nicholas (2004) found evidence that hedge funds will outperform equity markets during a downswing in financial markets. In addition, hedge funds are considered market-neutral due to these investment funds’ unrestricted investment flexibility and more efficient market timing abilities (Ennis & Sebastian, 2003). Hedge funds are also considered to be more unconventional assets for improving portfolio diversification (Lamm, 1999:87), where the variation of investment strategies available in a hedge fund has the ability to satisfy investors with several different risk preferences (Shin, 2012). Still, a number of previous studies have debated conflicting evidence regarding the performance of hedge funds and the persistence in outperforming other markets. This led to the objective of this study; to evaluate the risk-adjusted performance of US and EU hedge funds compared to the associated world equity markets over the 2007–2009 financial crisis. The evidence from this study confirmed the dominance of hedge funds over the CAC 40, DAX, S&P 500 and Dow Jones, from 2004 to 2011, emphasising that the performance of the US and EU hedge funds would overshadow a normal buy-and-hold strategy on the world equity markets under investigation. Overall, the Sharpe-, Sortino-, Jensen’s alpha-, Treynor- and Calmar ratios illustrated that US hedge funds outperformed both EU hedge funds and the associated equity markets over this period. The presence of non-normality among the return distributions led to the use of the Omega ratio as the proper benchmark, which also confirmed the outperformance of US hedge funds over EU hedge funds and associated world equity markets.