Hedge fund managers found it a little easier to hang out their own shingles in the third quarter.

New hedge funds launches increased to 260 in the three months ended in September, an increase of nearly 30% from 201 in the second quarter, according to data released Wednesday by Hedge Fund Research.

For the trailing 12-month period, 945 funds have launched, the highest 12 month total since the period ending in the second quarter of 2008.

There are also fewer funds shutting their doors in the third quarter of this year. Hedge fund liquidations fell slightly to 168 in the third quarter of this year from 177 in the second quarter.

In the first nine months of the year, 585 funds liquidated, a decline of 32% over the same period in 2009.

HFR attributed the improved environment for start-ups to strong capital inflows and a return of investor risk tolerance.

The third quarter of 2010 marks the fifth consecutive quarter in which hedge fund launches have exceeded liquidations.

The largest number of new funds employ what HFR classifies as “equity hedge” or “macro” strategies; the least popular strategies for new managers were “event driven” and investing in other hedge funds.

HFR said new launches are more consistently conforming to investor preference for liquidity and lower costs. The average incentive fee fell by 11 basis points to 19.0%, the second largest quarterly decline in incentive fees since 2008, while the average management fees remained at 1.58%. Both management and incentives fees charged by fund of hedge funds declined for the quarter.

“The trends in new hedge fund launches clearly reflect powerful dynamics currently reshaping the landscape of the industry and redefining the relationship between investors and managers,” HFR President Kenneth J. Heinz said in a press release.