Hedge Funds, P.E. Buoy Harvard Endowment

Sep 10 2010 | 11:43am ET

Harvard University’s giant endowment began to turn things around in its last fiscal year, thanks in large part to its hedge fund investments.

The Cambridge, Mass., school’s endowment, the largest in the world at US$27.4 billion, returned 11% in the year ended June 30. That trailed the median return of institutional funds over the period tracked by Wilshire Associates, but it’s a whole lot better than the 27.3% it lost in the previous fiscal year.

The endowment’s absolute return investments chipped in a 15% return, while private equity returned 16%. Still, Harvard, one of the pioneer investors in hedge funds and private equity, is cutting back on its use of the asset classes, slashing its p.e. investments by more than 40% and cutting its use of outside managers by 20%.

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