Australian hedge funds (including offshore funds offered for sale in Australia) reported a positive 0.68 per cent return for the month of April, and a positive 1.67 per cent for the first four months of 2010. The top 10 funds, ranked by year-to-date performance, were offered by just six managers: London-based RAB Capital; Sydney’s Platinum AM; New York-based Ramius; and HCAP, a recently established Sydney-based manager. Each of these managers had two funds in the top 10. Ashton and FRM rounded out the list. The best performing strategies were fixed income with a 5.41 per cent return year-to-date, followed by multi-strategy with 3.27 per cent.

At the other end of the spectrum, investment strategies based on global macro/commodities/ futures struggled as a group with a minus 0.18 per cent return this year. However (and offering a useful lesson on the dangers of relying on averages), it is this sector that has produced three of the top 10 yearto- date performers: RAB’s Octane Fund, RAB’s Energy Fund, and HCAP’s Global Diversified Fund. Another interesting statistic is the range of returns between the top and bottom performing funds. Year-to-date performances range from plus 21.17 per cent (Ashton- Paulson Recovery Fund) to minus 16.38 per cent (Pengana Global Volatility Fund). In calendar year 2009, the range was plus 174.85 per cent (Naos Small Companies Fund) to minus 22.17 per cent (Everest Super Select Fund).

For investors wondering how many long-only managers are actually closet index-huggers, these hedge fund performances are potential game-changers when it comes to absolute returns. Speaking of game-changers, I am a subscriber to the idea that the iPad is a game-changer in the hedge funds analysis business. To me, it’s not that the iPad is such a big deal (as Tablet PCs have been around for quite a while), but it’s the massive support that the iPad appliations’ developer community has generated. In addition, media giants such as News Corporation are really embracing the delivery medium.

We are just seeing the early days of this. The only time that I have bought and read The Wall Street Journal is when visiting the US. It’s now available in full multi-media beauty for $18 a month. Each week’s The Economist is a mere $120 a year, which is 80 per cent off the newsstand price! Recently, I started thinking of hedge fund applications. At the moment, I sync hedge-fund manager newsletters and presentations to my iPad. I do a regular skim over performance tables and other hedge fund bits and pieces. However, I can see investors eventually using iPads to do manager due diligence. Somebody will write a DD App.

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