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The world's biggest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, posted a 14.6% return for its flagship fund in 2018. The fund was one of the few to post big gains in a year where hedge funds were on average down about 6.7%. In a year where hedge funds saw bad performance and a surge in shutdowns, a few firms managed to avoid the carnage. The world's biggest hedge fund, $160 billion Bridgewater Associates, was one of them.  Bridgewater's flagship fund, Pure Alpha, posted a 14.6% return net of fees in 2018, according to a person familiar with the firm's performance.  The fund was one of the few to post big gains in a year where hedge funds were on average down about 6.7%, according to the HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index.  Billionaire hedge fund manager David Einhorn posted his worst year ever, and Dan Loeb's Third Point also struggled.  Bridgewater's founder, Ray Dalio, has said the economy is at "the seventh inning of the short-term debt cycle" and that the next financial crisis will play out more slowly than the last one in 2008. Speaking to Business Insider's CEO Henry Blodget in December, he said: "They're tightening monetary policy. Asset prices are fully priced. And we're in the later stages of a long-term debt cycle, because the capacity of the ability of central banks to ease monetary policy is limited." Also read: A surge in shutdowns, lagging performance, and slashed fees: Hedge funds have had a brutal 6 months Here are the hedge-fund managers to watch in 2019 as the industry battles poor performance A storm is brewing in the hedge-fund business. Here are 5 major changes coming to the industry in 2019. It's 'something you really can't model for': The sudden prospect of a Trump impeachment has hedge funds scrambling Join the conversation about this story »