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Flash Performance Report: Who’s Up, Who’s Down?

It’s been a year that many hedge fund managers would like to forget.

With a few days of trading left to go, 2011 is shaping up to be a mediocre year for many hedge funds. A large number of them are straddling the break-even point, give or take a gain or loss of single-digit percentage points. However, a number of hedge funds figure to finish the year with outsized gains or losses.

Available data are incomplete at this point. Although a number of funds have reported their results through mid-December, a large number haven’t. And, of course, many of the largest, most high profile funds do not generally report to the databases that tend to make the rounds among a short list of reporters. (After year-end I’ll get the performance stats of even the most secretive funds from our trusty cast of reliable sources.)

So, with these caveats out of the way, the best performer for 2011 among high profile firms is shaping up to be Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund (RIEF), one of two institutional quant funds run by Jim Simons’ Renaissance Technologies. It was up 33.29 percent through December 16. This is its biggest gain since 2006, when the fund returned nearly 21 percent. Last year it was up 16.5 percent. The fund was created to generate gross annual returns of 400 to 600 basis points above the S&P 500 over rolling 3- to 5-year periods. So obviously it has been delivering big-time for at least the past two years.

Brevan Howard BH Macro fund is up more than 12 percent through December 16. Throughout the year, the London-based fund founded by Alan Howard has been structured to do better when the global markets go down. It is still very bearish. It told clients in its most recent monthly letter that the combination of spending cuts and tax increases is likely to push the U.S. economy into recession in 2013. It said recent moves by the European Central Bank imply a deterioration in the risk profile of the ECB’s own balance sheet. In the U.K., it said “a sustained period of above-trend GDP growth appears unlikely in the next five years.”

Also in Europe, Stratus Fund Ltd., a $4 billion French hedge fund managed by Capital Fund Management, is up 16.8 percent through December 16. The fund is a quantitative multi-strategy fund.

Of course, the biggest loser this year among the most high profile funds is John Paulson. Most of his funds were down more than 25 percent through November, led by Paulson Advantage Plus, down more than 47 percent. According to published reports, it is down 52 percent through December 16. Paulson Advantage Fund—which is not leveraged like Advantage Plus—was down about 35 percent for the year. Paulson International Fund was down more than 13 percent year-to-date.

Until recently, Paulson’s big bet on gold prevented losses from deteriorating further. However, in the monthly period ended December 20, Paulson Gold Fund lost more than 11 percent, and is now down 10.5 percent for the year.

MLM Macro Fund Ltd., which lost money every month this year, was down more than 36 percent through December 20. It started out in 1986 as a futures specialist. Its first product was an actively managed diversified futures program. Two years later, it launched the MLM Index, which it calls the first price-based benchmark for managed futures.

Another lousy performer is Altis Fund Ltd, founded in 2001 by Zbigniew Hermaszewski, Natasha Reeve-Gray, Alex Brunwin and Stephen Hedgecock. It was down more than 30 percent through December 20 after losing 20.8 percent through the first half of the year. As of the end of May, the multi-strategy firm, which trades mostly futures, options and foreign exchange, had $1.48 billion under management.

London-based Sloane-Robinson is also having a rough year. At least four of its funds are down between 21 percent and 24 percent through December 14.

MLM Macro Peak Partners Offshore, a macro fund, is off more than 34 percent. This is especially troubling, given that the funds of the most notable macro managers—Caxton, Tudor and Moore—are up or down only slightly for the year.

A number of well-known long-short managers are down by double-digit rates as well this year. They include London-based Crispin Odey, whose $2.4 billion Odey European fund is off nearly 23 percent through December 14. He is said to have been very bullish since the beginning of the year.

Another large London-based fund, Lansdowne UK Equity Fund, is down more than 20 percent through the middle of the month.

Mark Kingdon’s M. Kingdon Offshore lost 19 percent while Lee Ainslie’s Maverick Fund Ltd. is off 14.8 percent.

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