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January 3, 201910:03pmUpdatedJanuary 3, 2019 10:03pm

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Hedge funds are thrilled to see 2018 in their rear-view mirrors.

As year-end returns for high-profile activist hedgies like Dan Loeb, David Einhorn and Bill Ackman trickle in, early fears about hedge fund returns getting clipped are being realized.

Its been a tough year for active managers, Don Steinbrugge, chief executive of hedge fund consultancy Agecroft Partners, told The Post.

The average hedge fund was down 6.7 percent in 2018, according to Hedge Fund Research data. Losses accelerated in the latter portion of the yearas the S&P 500 plunged 9.2 percent in December.

The S&P 500 for the year was down 6.2 percent in 2018.

While some equity-focused funds were able to end the year in the green such as the 2.4 percent gain at $2.7 billion fund Brahman Capital many faltered.

The average hedge fund is not very good, Steinbrugge said, referring to 2018 performances.

A case in point is Loebs Third Point, which lost 11 percent in 2018 following a particularly punishing December in which it shed 6 percent, sources confirmed to The Post afterThe Wall Street Journal first reportedthe news.

The fund, coming off an impressive 2017 with gains of 18 percent, waged ahighly publicized proxy fight against Campbell Soupin the latter of half of the year. While the fund was successful in getting two of its nominees on the board, the soup makers stock has fallen as it works to shed assets.

Its not a very good environment overall for activist funds, said Steinbrugge. Youre seeing money coming out.

But as bad as things were for Loeb, fellow sometimes-activist investor Einhorn of Greenlight Capital fared far worse.

Greenlight plunged 34 percent in 2018, thanks to ill-timed long and short bets. Last month it was ranked as the third-worst performing hedge fund, according to HSBCs weekly ranking of hedge funds.

It was the worst-ever loss in the funds 22-year history, eclipsing its 20 percent drop in 2015.

The fund has had a tough go in recent years as it has placed short bets on former Wall Street darlings such as Tesla, Netflix and Amazon.

While each of those names has had a tumultuous end to 2018, it was not enough to stanch the flow of red at Greenlight.

And there is likely no one more frustrated with 2018 than Ackman.

Following three consecutive years of losses and redemptions, Ackmans Pershing Square was up nearly 17 percent in September, only to end the year down 0.7 percent amid the broader fourth-quarter carnage. One of the firms funds eked out a narrow 1.8 percent gain, a source told The Post.

But while returns were relatively flat, the fund now manages $6.8 billion, down from a peak of nearly $20 billion in 2015.

Ackman had positioned 2018 as a turnaround year, ditching the firms money-losing $1 billion short bet against Herbalife, streamlining operations, and keeping a lower profile by favoring quieter momentum plays versus loud activist battles.

Representatives from the hedge funds declined to comment.

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