A hedge fund is a lightly regulated investment fund that is typically open to a limited range of investors who pay a performance fee to the fund's investment manager.
Every hedge fund has its own investment strategy that determines the type of investments it undertakes and these strategies are highly individual. As a class, hedge funds undertake a wider range of investment and trading activities than traditional long-only investment funds, and invest in a broader range of assets including long and short positions in shares, bonds and commodities. As the name implies, hedge funds often seek to hedge some of the risks inherent in their investments using a variety of methods, notably short selling and derivatives.
In most jurisdictions, hedge funds are open only to a limited range of professional or wealthy investors who meet criteria set by regulators, and are accordingly exempted from many of the regulations that govern ordinary investment funds. The net asset value of a hedge fund can run into many billions of dollars, and the gross assets of the fund will usually be higher still due to leverage. Hedge funds dominate certain specialty markets such as trading within derivatives with high-yield ratings and distressed debt.