Paul SingerElliott Associates L.P. returned 13.4 percent in 2012, according to sources close to the matter. The fund, which was created by maven Paul Singer in 1977, had a 2012 that came in broadly in line with its own returns from previous years, but lagged the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) return of 16 percent for the twelve-month period.

The most recent news  surrounding the hedge fund is the large stake taken in Hess Corp. (NYSE:HSS), the oil an gas producer.

Elliott Associates is an extraordinarily opaque hedge fund, even as hedge funds go, and its low exposure to equities means it doesn’t have to disclose many of its positions to the public. That makes it difficult to tell exactly what the firm has its money in, and where it’s generating its returns from. Sources do indicate, in a broad way, where the firm lost money and where it made it in 2012.

Equities, along with distressed securities, event arbitrage, performing debt, private real estate equity, portfolio protection, and interest rate trades all performed well for the fund in 2012 according to sources, and each of those segments was profitable. Asset classes which performed poorly during 2012 included gold options and portfolio protection related to credit and equities.

The ten-year return of the Elliott Associates fund is impressive. The average annual return rate for the fund is was 13 percent since January 2003. In comparison, the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX), with Dividends reinvested, has returned just 8.5 percent annually. Treasury Bills have returned an average of 3 percent in the last decade, and Citigroup’s Investment grade bond index has returned just 6.8 percent.

Volatility in the funds returns has also been extremely low in the last decade. Sources indicate that the volatility of returns for Elliott associates was close to that of bonds over the last decade. The fund’s volatility, measured in standard deviations, has been significantly lower than that of the S&P 500 over the same period.

The returns from Elliott Associates is impressive, but it is difficult to delve into the numbers without knowing anything about the company’s investments. Some of the firm’s investments, like its position in distressed Lehman Brothers debt, are well known, and conform with the firm’s history of specializing in distressed company’s debt.

It is also well known that the firm got involved in Delphi automotive in recent years. That firm declared bankruptcy during the financial crisis, making it a Prime target for Elliott’s distressed debt experience. Sources assert that the hedge fund’s interest in Delphi Automotive is far from over, believing that there is still more value to be eked from the company.

One of the more interesting position the firm is known to be involved in is Argentinian sovereign debt. A fund controlled by Elliott was allowed to seize an Argentine Navy vessel last October after claiming it as collateral for a $350 million debt it said the government owed. It is clear that Elliott associates is currently involved in a battle with the Argentine government to reclaim the substantial debt owned by Elliott.

In a secretive world of hedge funds, it is difficult to point to any single entity and call it particularly opaque. For a big well known fund however, Elliott does a good job of keeping its numbers out of the hands of the media.