Total hedge fund assets around the world grew 34% in 2001, with investors placing $144 billion in additional assets in such vehicles for a total $563 billion, according to a report Merrill Lynch released earlier this month.

"Hedge funds were one of the fastest-growing assets classes among individual investors last year," said Phil Sieg, global head of segments at Merrill Lynch's international private client group. "Investor demand around the world for alternative investments has never been greater,: particularly among high-net-worth investors seeking diversification and reprieve from the volatile equity markets, Sieg said.

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