The Best And Worst Of January: Managed Futures

by: Brian Haskin

Managed futures mutual funds and ETFs bounced back in January after having a tough month in December. In the first month of 2016, managed futures funds, including "CTAs" (commodity trading advisors), averaged gains of 2.05%. This, in a month when U.S. stocks, commodities and high-yield bonds all saw large drawdowns. Managed futures strategies have often been referred to as "crisis alpha", and January's performance shows why they have been labeled as such.

Over the three years ending January 31, funds in the category generated average annualized returns of +3.36%. These returns were comprised of -1.79% annualized alpha and 0.58 beta relative to Credit Suisse Managed Futures Liquid TR USD Index.

Top Performers in January

The three best-performing managed futures mutual funds in January were:

  • Equinox Systematica Macro Fund Inst (MUTF:EBCIX)
  • Equinox IPM Systematic Macro Fund Inst (MUTF:EQIPX)
  • Equinox MutualHedge Futures Strategy Fund A (MUTF:MHFAX)

Equinox Funds dominated the managed futures category in January, occupying all three of the top spots. EBCIX, EQIPX, and MHFAX generated respective one-month gains of 6.81%, 6.17%, and 6.09% in January, greatly outperforming the category average of 2.05%

Of the three funds, only MHFAX has been around for at least three years, and its three-year annualized returns through January 31 stood at +4.64%, ranking in the top 30% of the category. The fund's three-year Sharpe ratio, a measure of risk-adjusted returns, was 0.51, compared to 0.34 for the category. Its three-year standard deviation, measuring volatility, stood at 9.69%, compared to the category average of 9.01%. MHFAX's three-year alpha of -1.79% was equal to the category average, while its beta of 0.73 was higher than the category's 0.58.

Category leader EBCIX and #2 fund EQIPX launched in June 2014 and July 2015, respectively. EBCIX had one-year returns of 6.02% through January 31, ranking in the top 8% of the category. EQIPX was launched too recently for annual returns, but its six-month gains through January 31 stood at 4.69%, ranking in the top 6% of the category.

Worst Performers in January

The three worst-performing managed futures mutual funds in January were:

  • Catalyst Time Value Trading Fund A (MUTF:TVTAX)
  • Forward Commodity L/S Strategy Fund Inst (MUTF:FCMLX)
  • Dunham Alternative Strategy Fund Inst (MUTF:DNASX)

TVTAX was by far January's worst-performing managed futures fund, returning -7.02%. The fund, which launched in November 2014, had one-year returns of -13.93% through January 31, ranking in the bottom 7% of the category.

Although they were the second- and third-worst performers in the category, FCMLX and DNASX's January losses were considerably lighter than that of TVTAX, at 2.95% and 2.96%, respectively. Both FCMLX and DNASX launched long enough ago to have three-year returns, alphas, betas, Sharpe ratios, and standard deviations: FCMLX had three-year annualized losses of 2.61%, with a three-year alpha of -5.99%, beta of -0.03, a Sharpe ratio of -0.19, and standard deviation of 11.03%. DNASX's respective stats were -1.42%, -1.09%, 0.42, -0.24, and 5.54%.

Past performance does not necessarily predict future results.

Jason Seagraves contributed to this article.