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* Third Point, Greenlight Capital, T2 show strong gains
* Paulson & Co fund performance mixed
* Hedge funds lagged S&P 500 in first quarter
By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Katya Wachtel
BOSTON/NEW YORK, April 4 (Reuters) - A handful of prominent hedge fund managers reported strong first quarter results after the industry recorded dismal returns in 2011, but only a few managed to top the performance of the rallying U.S. stock markets.
Daniel Loeb's Third Point Partners fund gained 7.1 percent during the first three months of the year while his Third Point Ultra fund jumped 10 percent, a person familiar with the numbers said.
Loeb's New York-based hedge fund saw positive returns across its portfolios in March, with the Third Point Ultra fund the best performer for the month, gaining 2.3 percent.
David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital clocked in with a 6.9 percent gain through the first quarter, another person familiar with the numbers said.
On average, hedge funds rose about 2.3 percent in the first three months of this year, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch research analysts.
While those returns may put a smile on the faces of investors still bruised from industry-wide losses in 2011, the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index easily beat hedge funds in the first quarter, gaining 12 percent.
Still, for some people who lost a lot of money last year, the quarter was particularly satisfying. Whitney Tilson's T2 Partners surged 23.6 percent, the manager said.
And John Paulson, whose performance has been closely watched on Wall Street and beyond, reported to his investors that his Paulson Enhanced fund climbed 13.3 percent.
But the news was not universally good at Paulson's $24 billion shop, with gold stocks weighing on a number of portfolios.
The Advantage fund slipped 1.05 percent in the first quarter while its levered cousin, the Advantage Plus fund, dipped 2.23 percent. Paulson's Gold fund, in which he is the largest investor, fell 13.41 percent in March as gold stocks fell to their lowest in recent history. For the year, the Gold fund is off 6.37 percent.