Hedge fund managers and all the related hangers-on (like service providers and journalists) are lovers of freedom and liberty, but especially they love democracy.

At Hong Kong's GAIM conference, the audience was given proportional representation in a session hosted by AsianInvestor's Jame DiBiasio. Via electronic polling, the audience reacted to a number of questions about the credit crunch, investment opportunities and politics.

Scrutinising the results and adding their two cents worth was a panel of wise elders from the alternatives community: Kirby Daly, head of sales and capital introductions at Newedge Group; Ed Rogers of Rogers Investment Advisors; and Jonathan Field of the hedge fund administration wing of HSBC.

Acting on the notion of the wisdom of crowds, this experiment in democracy brought forth:

Best/most profitable growth for hedge funds in 2008

Greater China, 29.2%

Japan, 20.8%

India, 19.4%

Asean, 15.3%

Australia
15.3%

The panel says:

Daley: "I think Asia-ex-Japan is going to hit road bumps this year"

Rogers: "This selection represents the best of the worst"

Best performing Asia ex-Japan strategy this year?

Volatility. 56.9%

Equity long/short, 21.5%

CB arbitrage, 9.2%

Stat arbitrage, 3.1%

Activist, 6.2%

Merger arbitrage, 3.1%

Field: ôThere's a lot more volatility in addition to what's already come. However, as an administrator long/short is a gift.ö

Rogers: ôA lot of allocators come here looking for long/short, but this is going to be a great year for [volatility] hedge funds like Artradis.ö

DiBiasio: ôAs AsianInvestor wrote at the beginning of this year, æViva VolatilityÆ.ö

What will be the total size of global write-downs associated with the subprime crisis?

$250 billion, 4.4%

$500 billion, 35.3%

$ 750 billion, 25%

$1 trillion, 14.7%

More than $1 trillion, 20.6%

Field: ôA trillion û itÆs a load of money but weÆll get away with it."

Rogers: ôI go with a trillion too û this smells worse than the savings and loans crisis did.ô

Daley: ôStay away from financials for a very long time. WeÆre nowhere near finished.ö

How long will the crunch continue?

3 months, 4.1%

6 months, 13.5%

1 year, 50%

More than 2 years, 32.4%

Rogers: ôIt's not till we hit rock bottom that we figure out how long this will take to work out. When Warren Buffett decides to buy an investment bank with his $35 billion in cash, that will be a good sign.ö

Daley: ôI donÆt think housing will bottom out in the US till 2009, and that needs to happen before recovery. The FedÆs recent move to help broker/dealers was important. Someone told me it was an 'effing good trade' to swap subprime into Treasuries."

Best currency returns over in next 12 months?

US$, 13.7%

EUR, 16.4%

GBP, 0.0%

JPY, 15.1%

RMB, 49.3%

Other, 5.5%

Field: ôThe trend is going to continue with the RMB, and that will help the West.ö

Rogers: ôSooner the RMB floats the better. The world needs China's liquidity.ö

Which asset class will generate the best returns in the next 24 months?

Brics equities, 23.1%

US Reits, 4.6%

US financial stocks, 24.6%

Global credit, 18.5%

Global private-equity buyouts, 10.6%

Asia funds of hedge funds, 18.5%

Rogers: ôJapanese funds of funds would be my number one; in two years time there will be significant rebound in financials û but they may not bottom for another 12 monthsö

Daley: ôBrics equity benefited from the liquidity over several years, and that now has to be paid back.ö

Field: ôI voted for Asian credit. People we talk to canÆt wait to get stuck in.ö

Japan is going to become:

A vital integrated part of North Asia growth story, 27%

Switzerland û old, rich, stable, aloof, boring, 49.2%

Shorn of working age people, an economic satellite of China, 23.8%

Daley: ôThe only thing that can save Japan is if there is a sea change, and the reform element split from the existing political parties.ö

Rogers: ôItÆs a $5 trillion economy. To think it will become irrelevant is plain silly.ö

Will pollution drive hedge funds from Hong Kong?

Yes, 47.1%

No, 52.9%

The next president of the United States will be?

Hilary Clinton, 12.5%

Barack Obama, 54.7%

John McCain, 26.6%

Ron Paul, 3.1%

Al Gore, 3.1%

Rogers: ôI think so much damage will be done in the Democrats' camp that McCain ends up becoming president.ö

Field: ôObama. In the UK we get all this over within three weeks. Last year the UK changed its government and didn't even have an election. The other day, I phoned into a talk radio station to complain about how people were going on and on and on..."