A Hedge Fund is a lightly regulated private investment fund charging a performance fee and typically open to only a limited number of investors.
The term is not tightly defined, but is used to distinguish such funds from retail investment funds that are available to the general public. An example of such retail funds in the US are Mutual Funds. Retail funds tend to be highly regulated, limited to holding -- being long of -- a specific range of financial assets such as bonds, equities or money market instruments. Retail funds tend to have a restricted ability to borrow, leverage or hedge their investments, though they may have a limited ability to hedge via derivative contracts.
Hedge funds are limited only by the terms of the contracts governing the particular fund. Hedge funds may be either long or short assets and may enter into futures, swaps and other derivative contracts. In this way, hedge funds are able to follow more complex investment strategies intended to profit from market volatility or from falling market.
Because of the substantial risks involved in unregulated, complex and leveraged investments, hedge funds are normally open only to professional, institutional or otherwise accredited investors. This restriction is often implemented though limits on investor numbers or minimum investment amounts.
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