As all sportsmen know, if youÆre going to go a goal behind in football (US: soccer), the preferable time to do it is in the first five minutes of the match, and not at the end during extra time.

In the first month of 2008, hedge funds fell, with the RBC Hedge 250 Index down by 1.82% and MSCI Hedge Invest Index falling 2.27%.

However, the MSCI World Index fell 7.7% on the month and the MSCI Emerging markets shed 12.6%. In that context, the hedge funds didnÆt do so badly.

Our resident panel of half-time experts cast their eyes over the playing field.

ôIt's the team who scores most goals that wins,ö says Peter Douglas of hedge fund consultant GFIA in Singapore. ôJanuary sorted the men from the boys and even revealed a little bit of pure alpha here and there. The range was from double digit losses, which for many funds may mean an early bath; through to a more typical minus four to minus six which, given the state of the markets, was still a result; to a small number of positive numbers, for example Komodo, and Artradis, who will be vying for the man of the match award.ö

EurekahedgeÆs hedge fund index fell 3.1%, one of its lousiest monthly performances in recent years. EurekahedgeÆs Japan index was down 3.1% and the Asia ex-Japan index fell by 6.6%.

ôA game of two halves: thatÆs not quite the right analogy,ö says Mark Reinisch, a director at fund of funds firm Financial Risk Management. ôAgain it was a month where headline numbers, do not tell the full story. We are in a liquidity squeeze and volatility and uncertainty are up. As a consequence, the traders did well in January while those focusing on fundamentals and value suffered some losses. That said, an industry where the average was down 2%-3% when world equity markets were down 7%-10% is doing something right.ö

Indian hedge funds had the worst January in the Asia region, down by 11.5%. Greater China funds were down by 8.3% and the best local geographical performance was from Australia/New Zealand which fell by 5.8%.

Looking at hedge fund strategies in Asia, fixed income did best, with a drop of just 0.28%, and long/short was the laggard, falling by 8.00%.

ôAll in all, I would say the industry did a fair job of managing a very greasy ball on an appalling pitch,ö added Douglas, [and with a line of patter like this, he really should be managing Exeter City]. ôConditions for the rest of the year are likely to remain very tricky, and the difference between the first team and the reserve bench is likely to become much clearer by the year end.ö