Private equity returns down 30 percent -- and that's the good news

For the past year, silver linings have been in short supply. Even as financial markets claw their way back up, the wealth lost has been neither forgotten nor completely recovered. In the private equity sector, the good news is that, frankly, the situation could have been worse. Though returns plunged, the asset class still outperformed the public equity markets.

A new analysis from alternative investment research firm Preqin puts the private equity industry's return at -30 percent for the 12 months ending March 31, 2009, a period that encompasses the bulk of the lows without the benefit of the upswing that followed. For the same year-long period, the S&P 500's return was -38.1 percent, with the MSCI Europe's at -49.9 percent and the MSCI Emerging Markets' return at -47.1 percent.