NEW YORK (HedgeWorld.com)–Hedge funds tracked by Standard & Poor’s finished the year strongly with a return of 1.41% in December, bring the year’s return to 11.1%, as measured by the S&P Hedge Fund Index.

The best performing S&P category in December was the Directional/Tactical Index, which contains futures, global macro and long/short equity fund strategies. That index returned 2.59% in December and 15.29% for the year.

The S&P Event Driven Index was the lead performer for the year, posting a return of 16.4%. The Event-Driven Index, which contains merger arbitrage, distressed and special situations strategies, returned 1.54% in December.

The S&P Arbitrage Index returned negative 0.05% in December and 1.6% during the year.

A separate but related index, the S&P Managed Futures Index, zoomed 4.67% higher in December, finishing the year with a return of 8.85%.

Hedge fund returns paled in comparison to equity markets. The S&P 500 stock index returned 5.24% in December and 28.68% in 2003. The MSCI EAFE Index returned 7.77% in December and 35.28% in the year.

Meanwhile, the Lehman Brothers Aggregate Bond Index returned 1.02% in December and 4.1% in 2003.

PBarr@HedgeWorld.com