Van Global Hedge Fund Index, a benchmark of hedge fund performance run by Van Hedge Fund Advisors International, rose 0.4% in March, net of fees, reversing a 0.2% decline in February, according to a preliminary report. Excluding fund of funds, the index rose 0.5% for the month. Within that universe, 63% of the more than 800 participating funds showed a positive return in March. However, only one-third of those funds managed to outpace the S&P 500, which posted a 1% gain.

The best performing hedge fund groups in March were emerging markets, distressed securities and market neutral-arbitrage, ringing up 1.3%, 1% and 0.7% gains, respectively. For the first quarter, hedge funds enjoyed a 0.9% spike, marking their second consecutive quarter of gains. That beats all major stock indices including the Dow, which lost 3.6%, the data revealed. The leading strategies for the quarter were distressed securities, up 4.5%, market-neutral, up 3.1% and short selling, which rose 1.7%.

Final March returns will be calculated at the end of April, based on a significantly larger pool of hedge funds, the report said.

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