A Match Made in Heaven

Revisiting Kat’s Managed Futures and Hedge Funds: A Match Made in Heaven

From the paper:

“The benefits of allocating to alternatives with a sizable percentage allocated to managed futures are quite compelling. As the contribution to alternatives increases, all four moments of the return distribution benefit:

1) Mean return increases
2) Standard deviation decreases
3) Skewness increases
4) Kurtosis decreases

Overall, our analysis is best summarized by the following quote from Dr. Kat (regarding his own findings almost 10 years ago): “Investing in managed futures can improve the overall risk profile of a  portfolio far beyond what can be achieved with hedge funds alone. Making an allocation to managed futures not only neutralizes the unwanted side effects of hedge funds, but also leads to further risk reduction. Assuming managed futures offer an acceptable expected return, all of this comes at quite a low price in terms of expected return foregone.”


In November 2002, Cass Business School Professor Harry M. Kat, Ph.D. began to circulate a Working Paper entitled Managed Futures and Hedge Funds: A Match Made In Heaven. The Journal of Investment Management subsequently published the paper in the First Quarter of 2004. In the paper, Kat noted that while adding hedge fund exposure to traditional portfolios of stocks and bonds increased returns and reduced volatility, it also produced an undesired side effect – increased tail risk (lower skew and higher kurtosis). He went on to analyze the effects of adding managed futures to the traditional portfolios, and then of combining hedge funds and managed futures, and finally the effect of adding both hedge funds and managed futures to the traditional portfolios. He found that managed futures were better diversifiers than hedge funds; that they reduced the portfolio’s volatility to a greater degree and more quickly than did hedge funds, and without the undesirable side effects. He concluded that the most desirable results were obtained by combining both managed futures and hedge funds with the traditional portfolios. Kat’s original period of study was June 1994-May 2001. In this paper, we revisit and update Kat’s original work. Using similar data for the period June 2001-December 2011, we find that his observations continue to hold true more than 10 years later. During the subsequent 10.5 years, a highly volatile period that included separate stock market drawdowns of 36% and 56%, managed futures have continued to provide more effective and more valuable diversification for portfolios of stocks and bonds than have hedge funds.