Managers and investors have been flocking to a raft of conferences this year all over the world that...
Managers and investors have been flocking to a raft of conferences this year all over the world that have focused on alternative investments.
At the International Investment conferences in South Africa, Geneva and Dubai, ways to make money by non-traditional means were the main talking points.
And it's not all talk either ' Close Asset Management has launched a healthcare and leisure property fund, Gartmore is considering launching its first retail fund of hedge funds next year and the alternative investment players continue to churn out new launches every week.
But what, on the surface, appears to be bullish behaviour in a bear market is probably in fact a case of everyone looking for a light at the end of the tunnel.
At all the conferences there have been three underlying questions that show the level of uncertainty in the markets.
People want to know when the markets will bounce back; if they will be as strong as they were; and where to put their money until then. The answers do little to make the way more clear.
No one really knows when the markets will bounce back. Industry gurus have been saying that it will be six to 12 months for the last two years.
Will they be as strong as they were, when they recover? Here at least there is a consensus ' they won't be. Although whether that consensus is informed by hard data or simply a fear of being overly optimistic again remains an open question.
The third answer comes back to the bullish interest in alternative products that has been shown at conferences around the world. The view seems to be that property, hedge funds and capital protected products currently make the most inviting investments.
But if, as many industry gurus are saying, capital protected products are one of the most sensible places to place money in the current long bear market, then that must mean the bear is set to continue.
But we are already in one of the longest bear markets of the 20th century. If an investor invests in a capital protected product that matures in five years then they are predicting the longest bear market ever ' and by a long way.
So the fact that flocks of people at conferences around the world are looking at the pros and cons of alternative products may have less to do with their merits and more to do with finding an alternative to the doom and gloom that traditional products could face for a long time.
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