about 3 years ago • 3 mins
Several stock-picking hedge funds enjoyed stellar returns in 2020 (see Related Content, below). And many are quietly confident that they’ll repeat that success this year, with a favorable environment creating a wealth of opportunities both to back companies’ shares and – in spite of Reddit’s opposition – to sell them short as well.
Pandemic-powered volatility made last year one of the best in a decade for many stock-focused hedge funds: several posted gains of more than double the US S&P 500 index’s 16% return.
While volatility has been relatively muted by contrast in 2021 so far, another factor looks to be on the stock-pickers’ side: increasing stock dispersion. Put simply, individual stock prices aren’t moving much in tandem – creating outperformance opportunities for those able to make judicious investment choices.
Hedge funds are hoping that ultra-low interest rates, economy-boosting stimulus packages, and normality-restoring vaccine rollouts will push selected stocks much higher. And they reckon the best buying opportunities are likely to be found outside the US, where valuations are currently sky-high.
On the short side, meanwhile, retail investors’ enthusiasm may be creating an environment rich in targets to bet against. Short-selling hedge funds are also eyeing up some of last year’s best-performing stocks – especially those with particularly high share prices relative to their profits and with business models that might not hold up once people begin to return to their pre-pandemic routines.
If last year’s big winners manage to replicate their success this year, then they’ll do it through the following stocks, among other things. These might provide you with a few ideas to investigate for inclusion in your own portfolio.
Calixto Global Investors, which returned 47% last year, is betting big on two Japanese firms: Demae-Can, which controls a third of the country’s food delivery market, and Outsourcing Inc, a staffing specialist gaining ground after several smaller competitors went bust last year. On the short side, Calixto is betting against companies in the software, ecommerce, and mobile gaming sectors.
Hampton Road Capital Management also returned 47% last year and lists Nexstar Media Group as one of its top picks for 2021. Nexstar, the US’s largest local TV company, pays a steady dividend, while its valuation multiple – its market value relative to next year’s earnings – is in the single digits, versus 25x for the S&P 500 overall. Hampton Road is also shorting a basket of stocks popular among retail investors but with weak fundamentals.
Marlowe Partners, which posted a 37% gain last year, is backing three rather different companies. CVS Group, one of the largest veterinary services providers in the UK (not to be confused with the American healthcare firm), is benefiting from increasing pet ownership amid the pandemic. Fluidra, a Spanish swimming pool builder, is benefiting from a construction and maintenance backlog. And Callaway Golf is benefiting from an ongoing influx of socially distanced golfers currently underserved by rival sports firms.
Last but not least, Clearfield Capital Management, which returned 21% last year, has invested in two European payments companies, Nexi and Worldline as the pandemic accelerates a long-term shift away from cash. Clearfield also has a big position in Dufry, a Swiss operator of duty-free stores which recently agreed a joint venture with Alibaba aiming to bolster its presence in China.
Disclaimer: These articles are provided for information purposes only. Occasionally, an opinion about whether to buy or sell a specific investment may be provided. The content is not intended to be a personal recommendation to buy or sell any financial instrument or product, or to adopt any investment strategy as it is not provided based on an assessment of your investing knowledge and experience, your financial situation or your investment objectives. The value of your investments, and the income derived from them, may go down as well as up. You may not get back all the money that you invest. The investments referred to in this article may not be suitable for all investors, and if in doubt, an investor should seek advice from a qualified investment advisor.