Every afternoon ValueWalk provides an update on global market levels, economic news, and hedge fund news.

Market Levels

 * US: Dow: 12964.10 (-0.53%), S&P 500: 1376.92 (-0.59%), NASDAQ: 3007.56 (-0.79%)

* Europe: CAC: 3174.02 (-2.09%), DAX: 6671.22 (-0.91%), FTSE: 5744.55 (-0.01%).

* Asia-Pacific: Australia: 4362.70 (0.32%), China: 2378.68 (-0.09%), Hong Kong: 20995.01 (1.03%), India: 5332.40 (0.61%), Japan: 9588.38 (-0.82%).

* Metals: Gold: 1641.40 (0.11%), Silver: 31.78 (0.93%), Copper: 3.63 (0.04%)

* Energy: Crude Oil: 102.27 (-0.39%), Natural Gas: 1.91 (-2.26%)

* Commodities: Corn: 6.12 (3.03%), Soya Bean: 13.42 (0.36%), Wheat: 6.30 (2.31%)

* Currency: Euro (€) / US Dollar ($) (EURUSD): 1.3136 (-0.12%), British Pound Sterling (UK£) / US Dollar ($) (GBPUSD): 1.6055 (-0.20%), US Dollar ($) / Japanese Yen (¥) (USDJPY): 81.6350 (0.43%)

* 10 year US Treasury: 1.966% (-0.009)

Market and Economy News Update

U.S. markets decline: Markets fell on Thursday as investors remained on the edge following disappointing economic data and concern over Europe’s debt crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) closed below the psychologically-important level of 13,000, while the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) gave up 0.59 percent, to finish at 1,376.92. The NASDAQ (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) dropped 0.79 percent, to end at 3,007.56.

 Index of leading economic indicators rose in March: The U.S. index of leading economic indicators rose for a sixth month in March, up 0.3 percent last month after recording a 0.7 percent gain in February, the Conference Board said today. Economists were expecting a 0.2 gain.

Existing-home sales down in March:Sales of previously owned U.S. homes in March were down in March, with the National Association of Realtors reporting today, purchases dropped 2.6 percent in March to a 4.48 million annual rate from 4.6 million in February. Economists were looking for an increase to 4.61 million.

 U.S. consumer confidence rises: Confidence among U.S. consumers improved last week, with the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index at minus 31.4 in the period ended April 15, the highest level in four years, compared with minus 32.8 over the previous seven days.

 Oil declines below $103: Oil declined in New York as weaker than expected U.S. economic data revived fresh oil demand worries. Crude oil for May delivery declined 1.5 percent to $102.27 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent oil for June settlement ended the session at $118 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Company News Update

 * Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) reported fiscal third-quarter profit of $5.11 billion, or 60 cents per share, compared with $5.23 billion, or 61 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts were expecting a profit of 57 cents per share.

* Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF) reported first quarter net income of $1.4 billion, or $2.72 a share, up from $1.0 billion, or $2.21 per share, for the first quarter of 2011. Analysts were expecting the company to report earnings of $1.39 per share.

* Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) is being sued for $300 million by New York’s attorney general for intentionally underpaying sales tax in the state for seven years.

* The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE: BX) said net income dropped by 24 percent in the first quarter and stood at $432 million, or 39 cents a share. Analysts had expected earnings of 43 cents a share.

* Aon Corporation (NYSE:AON), the world’s largest insurance broker, has increased its dividend by 5 percent and authorized a $5 billion share buyback.

* Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU), the largest U.S. coal producer, posted first-quarter earnings of $172.7 million, or 63 cents a share, that beat analysts’ estimates. 

* Boston Scientific Corporation (NYSE:BSX) reported first quarter net income of $113 million, or 8 cents a share, compared with $46 million, or 3 cents a share for the first quarter of 2011.

* Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE:FCX) said first-quarter earnings fell 49 percent after labor-related problems halted operations at its Indonesian mine.

* First Horizon National Corporation (NYSE:FHN), Tennessee’s biggest bank, reported first-quarter 2012 earnings of 12 cents a share, missing the average analyst estimate by 1 cent.

* Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. (NYSE:SWK), the maker of power tools, reported first-quarter earnings of $121.8 million, or 72 cents a share, versus $158.7 million, or 92 cents per share, last year.

* Cypress Semiconductor Corporation (NASDAQ:CY), the San Jose, California-based maker of chips for hand held devices, reported a first-quarter net loss of $12.4 million, or 8 cents per share, compared with net income of $55.4 million, or 28 cents a share, a year ago.

* Rockwell Collins, Inc. (NYSE:COL) reported a 7 percent increase in second-quarter net income, but cut its 2012 revenue forecast.

* Danaher Corporation (NYSE:DHR) said first-quarter earnings soared 43 percent, but offered second-quarter guidance that was below street expectations

* Drug developer Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ACHN) was cut to “sell” from “neutral” at UBS AG.

Hedge Fund News Update

* According to latest data from Chicago-based research firm Hedge Fund Research, hedge fund assets jumped to new all-time highs after investors allocated a net $16 billion in the first three months of the year. Hedge funds now manage an estimated $2.13tn in assets, exceeding the previous record of $2.04 trillion set in mid-2011.

* Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS)is in negotiations with New York-based Asset Management Finance LLC, which is majority owned by Credit Suisse, to sell its Petershill fund that has stakes in some of the world’s most successful hedge fund managers.

* Pershing Square Capital, the $11bn hedge fund run by renowned activist investor Bill Ackman, is planning a $4bn public flotation for its Pershing Square Holdings in January 2013, and London Stock Exchange has emerged as the frontrunner for the listing.

* UBS AG has appointed Scott Molin, the former managing director and co-head of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.’s (NYSE:GS)cross asset sales group to hedge  funds, as managing director in its senior relationship-management team, and will mainly focus on hedge funds

* British hedge fund manager Man Group Plc’s (LON:EMG) systematic trading group is developing a computer-driven government bond fund. The yet to be launched Man Systematic Fixed Income fund, will be the fourth portfolio run by Man’s one-year old systematic strategies unit, and will try to identify and profit from dislocations in liquid government bond markets.

* Deutsche Bank’s former global macro chief, Kay Haigh’s Avantium Investment Management has seen its assets under management soar from US$200 million at launch just six months ago to US$600 million.

* The $24 billion Texas Permanent School Fund has recommended Blackstone Alternative Asset Management and Grosvenor Capital Management for a strategic partnership to manage a combined $2.5 billion hedge fund portfolio.

* New York-based alternative investment manager Fairhills Group has named Steven DiNunzio, the former CFO of Diamond Notch Asset Management, a multi-strategy hedge fund backed by BNP Paribas, as principal and chief financial officer.

* The $73 billion Ohio Public Employees Retirement System issued a request for proposals from hedge funds with at least $500 million in assets, for its new $450 million risk parity mandate.

* Canadian hedge funds had a rough month in March, with the Scotiabank Canadian Hedge Fund Index down 2.1 per cent last month. S&P500 was up 3.13 percent for the month.

* Baltimore-based asset management firm, Brown Advisory Inc., has bought a minority stake in hedge fund manager, CDK Investment Management LLC. CDK, which has offices in New York and London, should give Brown’s clients access to a wider range of hedge funds.

* New York-based hedge fund and private equity investor Tiger Global Management has invested $8 million in Iroko Partners, the world’s largest digital distributor of Nigerian movies and African music, and YouTube’s biggest partner in Africa.

* Commodity hedge funds managed by London-based Armajaro Asset Management have had a poor first quarter, amid volatile market conditions. The Armajaro STS Commodities Fund lost 10 percent in the first three months of the year.