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

Hedge fund launches climbed to 260 in the three months that 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 were also fewer funds shutting their doors in the third quarter of this year. Hedge fund liquidations fell slightly to 168 in the quarter from 177 in the second quarter.

In the first nine months of the year, 585 funds liquidated, a decline of 32% over a year earlier.

HFR attributed the improved environment for startups 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%.

Both management and incentive fees charged by funds of hedge funds declined for the quarter.

Alison Bisbey Colter writes for Investors' Dealers Digest.

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