Hedge funds around the world fled positions in energy stocks, bonds and futures last week just in time to miss this week’s whipsaw moves in oil, according to data from two banks.
Funds dropped their long and short positions in energy stocks, bonds and futures in the week ending Sept. 16 “more than any other time in recent months”, and more than any other sector of the economy in the last 20 days, according to notes by Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan respectively.
It could be a sign that hedge funds, which often discover trading ideas from market trends, are finding it too tough to bring in the kind of paydays they received from the surge in oil prices earlier this year.
The move in positions in energy came just before oil jumped nearly 3% on Wednesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an escalation of the war in Ukraine and then slid almost 4% on news that crude oil and gas supplies had risen in the United States.
And on Friday, oil prices hit their lowest since January as recession fears gripped world markets. Brent crude is still up about 12% in the year to date.
Hedge funds that trade with systematically programmed algorithms did not necessarily short the market but rather, vacated their positions because of a lack of any trend in the prices of oil, gas and other energy products, said David Gorton, the founder and chief investment officer of DG Partners, with $2.85 billion under management.
His firm had an “amazing run” trading energy futures the first quarter but eventually, the trend ended.
“Our commodities exposure is the lowest it’s been in years. In June, markets reversed hard and commodities have been chopping down and sideways ever since. For a trend follower that’s a nightmare and why the model got out,” said Gorton.
DG Partners is up 5.2% so far this month and 37% for the year, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The momentum that fueled a stable upward rise in oil prices has changed, said another manager who oversees more than $100 billion and for compliance reasons wished to remain anonymous.
Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing insights delivered right to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Sign up today.