The popularity of hedge funds, particularly among institutional investors, propelled total assets under management to a record $2 trillion in the first quarter, according the latest report from Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research Inc.

Not only did total assets under management eclipse the previous record of $1.93 trillion set back in the second quarter of 2008, but steady inflows and the stock market's strong recent performance has pushed hedge fund assets up more than 50% from the nadir of the U.S. economic crisis in the first quarter of 2009.

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