Hedge fund managers have been under pressure of late, criticized for charging high fees (paywall) while often failing to outperform inexpensive index trackers. But investors in hedge funds that bet on cryptoassets have less reason to gripe: these funds are comfortably beating broad measures of market performance.
As usual with cryptocurrencies, the returns are mind boggling. Crypto hedge funds have gained 1,641% in the year to November, according to data-tracking firm HFR. The funds in HFR’s index hold a portfolio of assets like bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, as well as tokens from initial coin offerings (ICOs).
A value-weighted index of the 10 biggest cryptoassets has gained a mere 1,226% over the same period, according to the HOLD 10 Index. A measure of bitcoin prices provided by CME Group—the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate—is up 857%.
The funds’ bumper performance could be explained by their investments in ICOs, which blend aspects of digital tokens with crowdfunding. Just about every government watchdog has warned investors to think twice before investing in them. But despite their slippery legal status, some ICOs have recorded immense gains, either on their own merits or often simply because the tokens are denominated in ether, which has gained more than 6,000% in price this year.