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Hedge funds up 7 percent in 2019 but struggling overall

Hedge funds are gaining steadily this year but still lagging well behind the broader market.

The $3.2 trillion industry gained 7 percent through April, when the S&P 500 popped 17.5 percent, according to data released Tuesday by Preqin.

While hedgies like to blast comparisons between hedge fund performance and the S&P 500, Preqin’s data shows that even equity-focused hedge funds — the industry’s strongest sector this year — gained only 9.3 percent in that period.

“It’s hard to get an information advantage in long/short equity,” Don Steinbrugge, chief executive of hedge fund consultancy Agecroft Partners, told The Post, explaining why hedge fund investors may favor other strategies.

Still, there are winners. The funds that are outperforming include Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square, which is up nearly 40 percent this year. David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital has risen roughly 19 percent through April, according to a Bloomberg report. And Jason Mudrick’s self-named fund is up 32 percent, according to HSBC data.

The industry’s sagging gains come at a time when hedge funds have been desperate to prove their smart-money status after beating the S&P 500 once in the 10 years since the financial crisis.

Still, outflows have not come close to the levels seen during the crisis. From 2008 to 2009, $285.6 billion left the hedge fund industry, when it was roughly half the size it is today.

In fact, the industry cracked $3 trillion for the first time in 2016 and has grown to roughly $3.2 trillion despite net outflows of $116.4 billion from 2016 to the first quarter of 2019, according to data from HFR.

“Most hedge fund investors are content with performance,” Steinbrugge said. “A lot are looking for strategies uncorrelated to the market.”

That said, it’s also unlikely that there will be much new money added to funds.

“I think the industry is at its saturation point,” Steinbrugge said, noting that most new hedge fund investments come from redemptions from other hedgies.

“The bar to keep assets is raising every year,” he said.

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