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More hedge funds closed last year than any time since 2008

Fees fell in 2016 as investors pulled cash from firms.

More hedge funds closed in 2016 than in any year since the financial crisis as investors moved money to larger firms and withdrew assets.

Liquidations totaled 1,057 last year, the most since 2008, according to data released Friday by Hedge Fund Research Inc. Though assets managed by the industry rose slightly to $3.02 trillion during 2016, at the end of the year there were 9,893 funds managing that cash, including funds of hedge funds — the fewest since 2012.

The data rounds out a sobering year for hedge funds, which have come under fire from pension funds objecting to their high fees and poor performance. The average fund hasn’t beat the S&P 500 Total Return Index, a measure that includes reinvested dividends, since 2008.

The underperformance has continued into 2017. The HFRI Fund Weighted Composite Index rose 2.2% in the first two months of the year, lagging behind the 5.9% gain for U.S. stocks.

Investors have pulled back from hedge funds, which had $70.2 billion in outflows last year. The sour sentiment is slowly translating into better terms for allocators: the average hedge fund management fee fell slightly to 1.48%, and the average performance charge dropped 10 basis points to 17.4%.

Large, established funds benefited from tumult in the industry. Only 19% of hedge funds managed more than $1 billion at the end of 2016. They controlled 91% of the industry’s cash, a small increase from last year. Firms with more than $5 billion under management oversaw almost 70% of the industry’s assets.

This shift is leaving emerging managers behind. In another post-crisis record, fewer funds started in 2016 — 729 — than at any point since 2008. In 2015, 968 funds started.

© 2017 Bloomberg

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