Net Exposure

The difference between a hedge fund's long positions and its short positions

What is Net Exposure?

Net exposure underlines the difference between a hedge fund’s long positions and its short positions. Once calculated, the net exposure of a fund is presented in a percentage. It will display the fund’s risk with regard to market fluctuations.

Generally, the lower the net exposure, the less risk the hedge fund manager is undertaking in terms of market fluctuations. However, when leverage is used, such an assumption becomes a bit more complicated.


Net Exposure


Overall, the net exposure calculation will provide insight into whether a fund’s trading book is exposed to market fluctuations. Dependent on the results, the fund manager will need to adjust the net exposure depending on its investment outlook, which can be bullish, bearish, or neutral. The three terms refer to the market sentiment and involve investors’ attitude with regards to anticipated price development within a market.

To expand, if investors are expecting upward price movements in the stock market, the sentiment is said to be bullish. On the other hand, investors expecting downward price movement are referred to as a bearish market sentiment. A neutral market sentiment means investors aren’t expecting either direction.

Calculating net exposure is useful for investors to analyze a fund’s risk in relation to market fluctuations and to evaluate the fund manager’s performance.



  • Net exposure is the difference between long positions and short positions within a fund. It exemplifies a fund’s risk based on market fluctuations.
  • It can either be net long exposure or net short exposure.
  • Net exposure is useful in evaluating a fund manager’s performance.


Calculating Net Exposure

To calculate net exposure, you subtract one position within the hedge fund from the other. To explain further, you will need to subtract the short percentage from the long percentage. For example, if a fund is 70% long and 30% short, you can calculate the net exposure by subtracting 30% from 70%. which will equal a net exposure of 40%.

From there, a fund can then be said to demonstrate either a net long exposure or a net short exposure. In order for the fund to achieve a net long exposure, the percentage that is invested in long positions must be above the percentage invested in short positions. Contrastingly, a fund shows a net short exposure when the percentage of its short positions is higher than its long positions. In the case that short and long positions are equal, the net exposure is zero.

It is important to underline that net exposure should not be confused with gross exposure. Gross exposure is the total sum of the long positions and short positions. For example the 70% + 30% would equal a gross exposure of 100%. If the gross exposure is over 100%, it means there is some kind of leverage being used.


Importance of Net Exposure

Net exposure is important to understand for multiple reasons. Firstly, as a fund manager, understanding how to calculate the net exposure of a fund can be critical when considering long-short strategies. Choosing the correct strategy will affect the fund’s performance and your performance as the manager.

Secondly, as an investor, it is important to understand the net exposure of a fund because it helps with understanding the risks associated with the fund with regard to market fluctuations. Thirdly, as an investor, understanding the net exposure of a fund, can also help in analyzing the fund manager’s performance. If the net exposure is good, that means the manager is performing well too.


Practical Example

You are curious about a fund manager’s performance in relation to ABC Hedge Fund. In order to analyze their performance, you decide to look at the fund’s net exposure. A fund’s gross exposure is 100%, specifically 80% long and 20% short.

In order to calculate the net exposure, you subtract 20% from 80%. It equals a net exposure of 60%. In such a case, the hedge fund demonstrates a net long exposure, and the fund manager is performing appropriately.


More Resources

CFI is the official provider of the global Capital Markets & Securities Analyst (CMSA)™ certification program, designed to help anyone become a world-class financial analyst. To keep advancing your career, the additional CFI resources below will be useful:

  • Bullish and Bearish
  • Financial Exposure
  • Hedge Fund Strategies
  • Long and Short Positions

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