Brad Lamensdorf and his HDGE ETF featured in Barron’s

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Look Who’s Shorting Deutsche Bank

Ranger Equity Bear is the only ETF that incorporates fundamental-driven stock selection. Here’s what it’s betting against now.

By CHRIS DIETERICH

It was a slap in the face to investors. After two full months of trading without a move greater than 1% in either direction in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index—a period in which the index hit multiple record highs—a sudden 2.5% one-day swoon earlier this month broke the calm. Wall Street strategists recently surveyed by Barron’s are more pessimistic about future equity returns than at any point since the wake of the technology bubble.

That means now may be an opportune time for investors to reacquaint themselves with bear funds, which employ short-sellers to bet against certain parts of the market. The funds are meant to guard portfolios against the brunt of sharp declines. It should be no surprise that this group has fared badly over the past few years as major stock benchmarks have rallied mightily.

But hedging, or protecting against, stock-market declines could be coming back into style. Though there are a handful of actively managed bear-market funds available to retail investors, the $198 million AdvisorShares Ranger Equity Bear exchange-traded fund (ticker: HDGE) is the only ETF that incorporates fundamental-driven stock selection to find its bearish bets.

Short-selling active managers earn their salt just like long-oriented stock pickers: beating the benchmark. The AdvisorShares ETF has tended to dart higher when markets tumble than its main rival, the ProShares Short S&P 500 ETF (SH), which is designed to move in the opposite direction of the S&P 500 each day. Take the period from late 2015 through early February, a bout of market duress that was kick-started by the Federal Reserve’s first interest-rate increase in nearly a decade. The actively managed AdvisorShares ETF rose nearly 26% as the S&P 500 fell 13%. This return roughly doubled that of the ProShares ETF over the same period.

Brad Lamensdorf

Name: Brad Lamensdorf
Age: Co-portfolio manager
Education: B.A., University of Texas
Hobbies: Sailing, fishing

Even if an investor isn’t interested in the bear-fund category, there are insights to be gleaned from managers who make a living betting against stocks. Barron’s sat down with Brad Lamensdorf, a co-manager at Ranger Alternative Management, which has been running the short-selling ETF since its launch in January 2011.

Given the ETF’s unique requirement for daily transparency, investors can take peeks into its portfolio each day for glimpses of its short positions. Here are excerpts from our chat with Lamensdorf about what stocks the ETF is betting against right now.

Click here for entire article including latest on HDGE holdings.