ProShares is launching the first 130/30 ETF strategy (see Pensions & Investments article, Nasdaq article). The 130/30 ETF (CSM) will track the Credit Suisse 130/30 Large-Cap index. The Credit Suisse 130/30 index was developed by Andrew Lo (CIO of AlphaSimplex Group) and Pankaj Patel (director of quantitative research at Credit Suisse). The ETF has an expense ratio of 95 bps, with a strategy that will offer "investors a transparent, low-cost means of achieving 130/30 beta and, potentially, alpha superior to what a comparable long-only large-cap strategy would deliver over the long run." A First Trust 130/30 Large Cap ETN (JFT) based on the 130/30 strategy was released just over a year ago (see previous post, MarketWatch article).

Not familiar with 130/30 strategies? Basically, the strategy uses leverage to short poor performing stocks and then uses the proceeds, along with initial capital, to purchase shares that are expected to do well. If is a form of the general 1X0/X0 long/short strategy, although the 130/30 ratio funds have seem to generate the most interest, producing a 130% long, 30% short strategy. Investors using the strategy will often mimic an index such as the S&P 500 when choosing stocks for the strategy. You can find additional descriptions of the 130/30 strategy here and here. Lo paper here.

Keep in mind that with such strategies the managers must pick stocks to go both long and short. Often there is feeling that you are market neutral, given that you have both long and short positions, but this is not the case. While traditional hedge fund might utilize a long/short strategy that makes them market neutral (beta close to zero), the 130/30 strategy is usually compared to a benchmark, such as the S&P 500, giving 100% exposure to the benchmark. As a result, the strategies are sometimes referred to as beta-one strategies. Furthermore, if the manager gets it wrong in either, or both directions, you may end up losing more than expected. As with most funds, good management is essential, regardless of the strategy.

Given the market beta exposure, these funds are useful if you have a positive market view and you believe that the fund manager can generate alpha from the short portion of the portfolio. If your view is neutral or negative, a hedge fund with an appropriate strategy might be better. If you have a positive market view but are not confident that your manager can generate alpha from short selling, then a long-only fund, or index fund, would be best. Keep in mind that such funds also trade more often, making them less tax efficient compared to traditional long-only index funds.

Note/Update: As a follow-up, I just ran across an excellent article at Greenfaucet that also provides details about the ProShares launch, and the success, or lack of success of the 130/30 funds. Check it out here.