QE and political risk drives investors to CTAs

Thu Jun 14, 2012

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Comment by Joy Dunbar, Editor of Absolute UCITS


"Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation" - Milton Friedman, economist

Down the ages, one blunt instrument that many governments have used to tackle their sovereign debt problems has been inflation – to burn away the real value of what they owe.

So it is not surprising to see critics complaining that the Bank of England has resorted to printing money, or so-called quantitative easing, to tackle the UK sovereign’s debt pile – as have the central banks in other developed economies, led by the US.

One consequence of this has been to indirectly 'tax’ the wealth of those who saved and 'transfer’ the benefit to those who have excessive debts. This transfer has had, and will continue to have, an impact upon the retirement and long-term savings market.

For savers, extreme volatility in the equity markets has not whetted their investment appetite and inflation is the parasitic ant eating away at their nest egg.

The asset management industry has of course responded to the demands of investors. And money has flowed to diversified multi-asset vehicles – often now including allocations to hedge funds and specialist sector equities, previously the domain of only professional investors.

However, the more liquid strategies of the macro and CTA market are also increasingly being seen as a form of inflation protection and a potential diversifier in portfolios – and Act 40 funds in the US or UCITS-compliant vehicles in Europe means that they are moving into mainstream distribution retail markets.

In the past year, some of the largest investment flows have been into the more liquid macro/CTA strategies – to asset managers like Winton, Aquila and Aspect (which manages a white labeled managed futures fund in partnership with Skandia).

The strength of these strategy areas has been highlighted by many platforms indicating that they are about to launch CTA funds as investor demand increases – a point highlighted recently by the ML Alternative UCITS Barometer.

While uncertainty in the markets continues because of political intervention, these sorts of macro and CTA strategies will continue to receive investor demand. Only when we reach calmer waters may investors start moving back to equity markets. 

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ISSN: 2151-1845 / CDC10004H