In a year marked by a difficult cycle of navigating steep equity market declines in Japan and Emerging Asia, the benchmark HFRX Asia with Japan Index posted a narrow gain of +0.4 percent in 4Q11 to end 2011 with a decline of -5.2 percent, mirroring the performance of the broad-based HFRI Fund Weighted Composite Index and topping the Nikkei 225 and the Shanghai Composite Index by 1,200 and nearly 1,700 basis points (bps), respectively. The recently launched HFRX Korea Index posted a gain of +4.8 percent for 4Q11 and, despite declining -7.5 percent for the full calendar year, also topped the benchmark Kospi Index by nearly 350 bps for 2011.
Global investors reduced capital invested in the Asian hedge fund industry by $1.04 billion in 4Q11, the first quarterly net outflow to Asian hedge funds since 1Q10. For the full year 2011, Asian hedge funds experienced a net inflow of $6.6 billion, representing a +7.5 percent increase in total AUM in these funds, bringing total estimated capital in Asian hedge funds to $82.1 billion to conclude the year. Contrary to trends across the global hedge fund industry, two-thirds of the new capital invested in Asian hedge funds in 2011 went to Equity Hedge strategies, with Event Driven and Relative Value Arbitrage also experiencing net increases in capital. While the largest sub-strategy for Asian hedge funds continues to be Equity Hedge: Fundamental Growth, funds executing on Distressed, Market Neutral and Event Driven: Multi-Strategy have experienced capital increases, while AUM dedicated to Macro and Activist funds has declined over the past year.
The total number of Asian hedge funds has also continued to increase, ending 2011 at nearly 1,100 funds, a gain of 4 percent for the year, and growth which has been consistent across both Emerging and Developed Asia. In addition, the number of funds choosing to locate in Asia also increased for the year, with China, Singapore and Australia all showing increases, while the number located in the US declined for the year. The percentage of Asian-focused hedge funds located in China increased to 28.6 percent in the second half of 2011, while the percentage located in the US declined to 26.4 percent.
“2011 was a challenging year for Asian hedge funds not only as a function of complexities associated with Asian inflation, natural disasters and speculation on currency policy, but also as related to assessing the potential impact that the European sovereign debt crisis could have on Asian trade, financial market liquidity and currency levels,” says Kenneth Heinz, president of HFR. “The increased proliferation of specialised, Asian-located funds executing on uncorrelated, market neutral strategies and the relative performance benefits these offer are likely to attract capital from both Asian and global investors as cyclical risk tolerance increases in 2012.”