Nearly half of hedge fund managers anticipate a difficult year ahead for the sector, according to a survey by accounting firm Rothstein Kass.

The survey, of 400 hedge fund managers representing 771 hedge fund vehicles found that roughly 48% expect a difficult year, with nearly 40 percent expressing concern that the U.S. could enter a double-dip recession.

The findings suggest that amid ongoing economic uncertainty, hedge fund managers continue to find opportunity, as slightly more than 66% of respondents indicated that they plan to raise assets by 25% or more this year. Nearly one-third of the hedge fund managers polled do not plan to use leverage in 2012, while over half intend to use less than two-to-one leverage this year.

“In the months following the global economic meltdown, many observers predicted doom for the hedge fund industry, with some anticipating that a more aggressive regulatory agenda and challenging market conditions would lead to significant attrition,” said Rothstein Kass co-CEO Howard Altman, principal-in-charge of the firm’s Financial Services Group. “At that time, Rothstein Kass stood out as one of the few voices that forecast that the hedge fund community would emerge from the crisis stronger than ever. Our confidence was instilled over decades spent working closely with the sector, and was reinforced by our long-standing view of the industry’s institutionalization. This year, our research shows an industry that continues to benefit from institutional asset flows and efforts to enhance transparency. At the same time, managers are cognizant of the challenges that lie ahead, as legislative efforts move from theoretical to reality.”

Over 70% of the survey participants reported assets under management under $500 million, with the remainder reporting assets under management in excess of $500 million. The survey findings suggest that increasing asset flows from pension funds and other institutional investors continue to fuel demand for enhanced transparency. Nearly a third of the hedge fund managers polled believe that investor due diligence will take six or more months to complete.

Regulatory developments also weigh heavily on managers, as over half indicated concern about the scope and frequency of reporting requirements. Over 40% suggested that they are concerned about the staffing and resources that will be required to comply with enhanced reporting requirements. Approximately 30% of funds with less than $100 million of assets under management have registered with the SEC, according to the research.

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