Hedge funds were up 3.02% in 2012, according to the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch investable hedge fund composite index, trailing the S&P 500 which was up 11.52% as of December 28, 2012.
Convertible arbitrage and event-driven funds were the best performers, up 7.10% and 5.47%, respectively. Market neutral funds were the biggest losers, down 4.81% for the year.
According to BofAML analyst Mary Ann Bartels, market neutral funds sold market exposure to 3% from 4% net long over the monitored period; equity long/short funds aggressively sold market exposure to 19% from 27% net long, well below the 35-40% benchmark; while macros bought the S&P 500, NASDAQ 100 and U.S. dollar; maintained their shorts in 10-year Treasuries; added to their shorts in EM and EAFE exposures; and sold commodities to a net short for the first time since August 2012.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission data shows large speculators bought the S&P 500 and Russell 2000 futures but sold the NASDAQ 100.
Agriculture speculators sold everything—soybean, corn and wheat—while metals speculators bought copper and palladium, sold silver and platinum and remained flat gold.
Large energy specs bought crude, heating oil and gasoline but added to their shorts in natural gas while forex speculators partially covered the yen and the U.S. dollar while buying the euro to a net long for the first time since August 2011.
Interest rates specs bought 10- and 2-year Treasuries while selling 30-year Treasuries to flat.