Morningstar reported a sharp decline in credit and equity markets as the U.S. government announced its stimulus package and financial stability plan. February saw a huge sell-off in U.S. and European bank stocks caused by concerns of financial health and nationalization.
U.S. bank stocks hit a 17-year low and spreads on corporate bonds widened, according to the report.
"Hedge fund managers, like other investors, are nervous about the efficacy and unpredictability of government involvement in the economy. They just don't know what the U.S. government will do next, and this uncertainty is wreaking havoc in the markets," said Nadia Papagiannis, Morningstar hedge fund analyst.
Widening spreads hurt hedge funds that invest in distressed debt, as lower-quality credits became cheaper. The Morningstar Distressed Securities Hedge Fund Index was one of the worst-performing category indexes, falling 4.1%. The Morningstar MSCI Specialist Credit and Relative Value Hedge Fund Indexes fell only 0.5% and 0.1%, respectively, as some areas of the credit market, such as leveraged loans, performed better than others.
Global non trend funds, those that make macro-economic bets, and global trend funds, those that bet on price trends in commodity and financial futures, showed mixed results in February. These funds took advantage of the rise in gold and the depreciation of the Japanese yen against the U.S. dollar, but volatility in other commodities such as oil caused declines.