Each morning for the past month or so, money manager Ashok Ahuja would wonder why his treasured
would sell off after early upticks.
The announcement Friday that Stanley Druckenmiller and Nick Roditi, respected managers for the famed hedge funds led by
, were resigning after losing $5 billion in the Nasdaq market this year may give him that answer. Ahuja, who runs
, is thinking it was Soros'
getting out of some of its Qualcomm shares.
Quantum Fund manager Druckenmiller says he had started selling tech stocks four weeks ago, a factor that likely contributed to the market's historic volatility. But with Soros now preparing to convert Quantum to a lower-risk fund operation with less long/short stock picking, traders and other pros were figuring the firm had completed most of the painful liquidation of once highflying technology stocks.
"There's going to be volatility no matter what, but it looks like he took his pain. He's not going to bail and bail (out of the market)," says Jay Suskind, the head Nasdaq trader at
. "The Street's not too worried about that."
Ahuja says typically, a fund as sophisticated and liquid as the Soros operation would be out of most of those names. "I would guess it (the selling) is over. In any watershed event like this, 80% to 90% of the selling is already done."
In addition, Soros says the fund has raised sufficient cash to meet redemptions from investors not wishing to stay with the new
Quantum Endowment Fund
, which will invest in less speculative equity positions. This may keep other holdings from being dragged down much further by the fund's selling.
So Soros, Druckenmiller and Nick Roditi join the ranks of smart-money legends who, against their traditional investment styles, chased a momentum-driven market into an oncoming train.
closed up his
fund last month after seeing losses in tech stocks and other core holdings.
list of Soros holdings as of Dec. 31, 1999, managers Druckenmiller and Roditi had accumulated stocks that performed like the 1962 Mets. Among them: Qualcomm, which has fallen about 40% since Jan. 1;
, down 35%;
, off 33%; and
, an Internet highflier that has been grounded 20% since Jan. 1.
Soros also has about $15 million invested in
, which has already fallen from a 52-week high of 16.
In chasing the kind of performance that carried stocks such as Qualcomm and
to quadruple-digit appreciation last year, Druckenmiller also had the misfortune of owning stalwart
, which is down 40% since the beginning of the year.
What also may be done is the era of the mammoth macro hedge funds that took major positions in the market, often moving it in the process. "The lessons to take away from this are that you can't be too big," says Barry Colvin, the head of research at
, a hedge fund consulting firm. "There's a whole new breed of hedge fund managers that focus on individual areas."
Jim Gillies of
agreed. "We track 1,400 funds and most of them did well because they were small enough and nimble enough to get out of stocks," he said, without causing much damage on the way. Funds such as Roberston's Tiger and Soros' Quantum have long outgrown that ability.
Quantum famously missed the 1999 tech rally, jumping in later that year. "Tech paid off for them a little in 1999, but they weren't in before that," Tremont's Colvin said.
And after a strong January, Nasdaq stocks started to sag, then crumble, leaving the large funds to figure a way out. "They came late to the game and tried to be heroes," said one hedge fund executive. "But you can't be a hero in this kind of market."