Hedge funds reported the best first half since 2009 as equity managers capitalized on the surge in stocks.

Funds rose 5.7% from January through June, according to Hedge Fund Research Inc.’s asset-weighted index of managers. Equity funds were the best-performing broad strategy, gaining almost 9% in the period.

“It’s a stock-picking market, definitely,” Rob Christian, head of investment research at K2 Advisors, said on Bloomberg Television. The Federal Reserve’s surprise pivot on interest rates, taking a hike off the table for now and instead stoking expectations of a cut, has “been most favorable for equity long-short managers, and particularly managers with a growth tilt.”

The advance marks a turnaround from last year when the industry, pummeled by short bouts of volatility, saw its worst performance since 2011. But the gain pales in comparison to the S&P 500 Index, which returned almost 19% in this year’s first six months.

Activist hedge funds -- which tend to snap up portions of a company and pressure it to make changes -- rose 11.4% in the first half, according to HFR. They fall under the broader strategy of event-driven managers, which rose 6.6% this year. Bill Ackman, who had lost money for four straight years, roared back to life, gaining 45%.

Other big winners include David Einhorn, whose fund had its worst year in 2018 but is now up 18%. And Brevan Howard Asset Management’s hedge fund, which wagers around macroeconomic events, posted its strongest first half since 2009, building on last year’s rebound.

“Global macro has come back to life very quietly,” K2’s Christian said. Ex-Brevan Howard partner Ben Melkman saw his hedge fund, Light Sky Macro, beat his former employer this year, making 12.5% after two years of losses. Still, macro managers in general rose about 3% in the first half, remaining the worst-performing strategy, according to HFR.

Preliminary figures from the Bloomberg Hedge Fund Indices show that the industry gained 6.4% for the first six months and advanced 1.8% in June.

Spokesmen for the hedge funds declined to comment.

Bloomberg News.