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Hedge Funds - Directional Or Tactical Strategies

The largest group of hedge funds uses directional or tactical strategies. One example is the macro fund, made famous by George Soros and his Quantum Fund, which dominated the hedge fund universe and newspaper headlines in the 1990s. Macro funds are global, making "top-down" bets on currencies, interest rates, commodities or foreign economies. Because they are for "big picture" investors, macro funds often do not analyze individual companies.

Here are some other examples of directional or tactical strategies:

  • Long/short strategies combine purchases (long positions) with short sales. For example, a long/short manager might purchase a portfolio of core stocks that occupy the S&P 500 and hedge by selling (shorting) S&P 500 Index futures. If the S&P 500 goes down, the short position will offset the losses in the core portfolio, limiting overall losses.

  • Market neutral strategies are a specific type of long/short with the goal to negate the impact and risk of general market movements, trying to isolate the pure returns of individual stocks. This type of strategy is a good example of how hedge funds can aim for positive, absolute returns even in a bear market. For example, a market neutral manager might purchase one hardware company and simultaneously short another, betting that the former will outperform the latter. The market could go down and both stocks could go down along with the market, but as long as the former outperforms the latter, the short sale on first company will produce a net profit for the position.

  • Dedicated short strategies specialize in the short sale of overvalued securities. Because losses on short-only positions are theoretically unlimited (because the stock can rise indefinitely), these strategies are particularly risky. Some of these dedicated short funds are among the first to foresee corporate collapses; the managers of these funds can be particularly skilled at scrutinizing company fundamentals and financial statements in search of red flags.
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