Investors in sports like to cite the industry’s relative insulation from the forces that usually roil markets. But the March performance of the JohnWallStreet Sports Stock Index showed the industry isn’t always untouchable, as the failure of a large hedge fund hammered many sports-dependent broadcasters and sent the index to its first down month of 2021.
The JohnWallStreet Sports Stock Index finished March at 1,637.71, down less than one percent from 1,640.37, where it finished February. The result is just the second time since August the benchmark sports index lagged the performance of the broader market, with the S&P 500 Index closing 4% higher in the period.
The Sportico index had been up more than 9% in the month two weeks ago, but those gains were wiped away with the liquidation of Archegos, a hedge fund run by Bill Hwang, a so-called Tiger Cub because he worked at hedge fund legend Julian Robertson’s Tiger Management. Archegos reportedly had $10 billion in assets in a handful of U.S. stocks secured by swap agreements that fell apart. FuboTV lost 37% of its value in the month while ViacomCBS surrendered 30% in March—and more than half its value from a peak of over $100 a share on March 22.
“Given the magnitude of its recent rally and Hwang’s leveraged position, this one turned into an utter rout once the selling began,” said David Russell, vice president of Market Intelligence at TradeStation Group. “It was all about Archegos needing to liquidate positions to cover losses. A classic margin call.”
Large investors hurt other index stocks in the month, too. Specifically, the Dolan family, who control a trio of publicly traded companies in the JohnWallStreet Index—Madison Square Garden Sports, Entertainment and Networks—and sparked big losses in all three. MSG Entertainment announced it was buying MSG Networks at a discount to Networks’ share price, a move that angered shareholders. MSG Entertainment lost 24% in March, MSG Networks was pared 11.3%, and MSG Sports, not part of the transaction but the owner of the Knicks and Rangers franchises the businesses are built on, shed 9.3%.
Sports betting hype failed in the month too, as six of the seven sports-betting-related stocks in the index fell. “We entered late March full of hopes that New York would move forward on sports betting, but now the winds may not be blowing favorably in Albany. Everyone just assumed sports betting would be a shoe-in across the country, especially because states are hurting for tax revenue after coronavirus. But it may not be panning out as smoothly as hoped,” TradeStation’s Russell added.
DMY Technology II, the SPAC that is buying sports data provider Genius Sports, fell the most of all betting-related stocks, dropping 23% in the month. The Genius Sports merger is expected to close by April 20. Overall, the Sportico index saw 27 of its component stocks post losses in March, compared to 13 enjoying gains.
A bright spot in the sports sector was NFTs. News that football-themed Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment entered a deal to create non-fungible tokens sent shares skyrocketing up 119% in March. Hall of Fame is a developer of real estate adjacent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The small cap stock was easily the index’s largest gainer in the month.
Looking at 2021 overall, sports stocks continue to perform well with the index up 15.4% year-to-date versus 5.8% for the S&P 500.
The JohnWallStreet Sports Index is a 40-stock index meant to reflect the state of professional sports. The index was launched at a level of 1,000 starting Aug. 1 as an equal-weighted benchmark, meaning each component begins as 2.5% of the index’s value. The index undergoes quarterly rebalancing, meaning starting tomorrow each of the component stocks are reweighted equally. There are no additions or subtractions from the index this quarter.