Hedge funders and traders made big mistakes around the Brexit (more on this here) referendum because they bet on the outcome they preferred, not the reality of the vote. Computer based trading strategies did quite well however, because they tuned out the emotion of vote and focused on actual market trends. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Equity hedge funds fell 2.1% on Friday alone, according to data from Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research. The losers generally appear to have been hedge funds too heavily weighted toward cyclical stocks such as airlines or financial stocks that were hard hit in the selloff.
Yet for one set of computers that form strategies about the markets, such sentiment wasn’t even considered.
This fund category, sometimes called commodity trading advisors, or CTAs, uses customized trading algorithms to spot market trends and place bets on futures and other derivatives. Most of the models didn’t factor in British election polls, bookmakers’ odds or the political-tea leaf reading that swayed other investors looking for an edge.
In the weeks leading up to the Brexit vote, the trading models at many of these firms adopted a defensive pose. They favored high-quality government bonds, gold and safer currencies like the yen, while mostly avoiding riskier bets like oil and emerging markets.
That positioning paid off after Brexit caused the pound and more volatile assets to plunge as Thursday’s results came in. Société Générale’s CTA Index gained 1.5% on Friday. AQR Capital Management LLC, Fort and Welton Investments Partners LLC were among the big gainers.