Over the first three months of 2018, investors put more money into emerging market hedge funds than they took out for the fourth consecutive quarter, pushing industry assets to record heights.
The quarterly net inflows of $860 million, combined with three-month gains of just over 1 percent, resulted in a record high of $233.87 billion in assets across hedge funds investing in emerging markets, according to estimates by data firm HFR.
Industry assets under management have been growing steadily over the last eight quarters, despite quarterly outflows throughout the first half of that period. Last year, emerging market hedge funds gained 19.36 percent — well above the 7.84 percent return delivered by North American hedge funds over the same period.
Since February, however, emerging market funds have struggled to deliver a positive return. After three straight months of losses, HFR’s emerging market index was up just 0.08 percent for the year through April.
Kenneth Heinz, president of HFR, pointed to a strong dollar and U.S. interest rate adjustments, ongoing trade negotiations, climbing oil prices, and expectations surrounding geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and Korea as the major trends driving emerging market performance at the start of 2018.
“Continuing the trend from the prior quarter, increasing U.S. interest rates and inflation are likely to drive EM hedge funds’ outperformance and industry growth,” he said in a company statement Thursday.
Two bright spots within emerging markets so far this year, however, are the Middle East and North Africa. Hedge funds targeting the region are up 8.97 percent for the first four months of 2018, having delivered gains each month.
Last year, MENA hedge funds were among the worst performers within emerging markets, though the HFR MENA index’s 2017 gain of 9.45 percent still outperformed the overall hedge fund industry.
While the MENA hedge funds “led performance in an absolute sense,” Heinz noted that Chinese hedge funds have produced “strong outperformance” compared to Chinese equities. HFR’s China index was down by 0.51 percent for the year through April. By comparison, the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s composite index fell 6.8 percent over the same period.