The largest gold fund players including hedge fund titan John Paulson stuck with their bullion bets in the second quarter, opting not to follow George Soros who further reduced his gold ETF holdings.
Famed gold bull Paulson held his ground with his $4.6 billion stake in the large gold exchange-traded fund SPDR Gold Trust in the second quarter, according to 13-F filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that provide the best insight into where hedge funds are placing their bets.
Eric Mindich's Eton Park Capital slashed his shares in SPDR Gold Trust to 813,000 in the second quarter from 2.3 million in the previous quarter. However, the firm raised his stake in the gold ETF's call options to 8.7 million shares from 6 million shares during the quarter.
Others including billionaire financier George Soros and activist investor Barry Rosenstein's Jana Partners trimmed their holdings in gold as bullion extended its rally to a record 11th quarter in Q2.
Paul Touradji, who runs one of the world's largest commodities-oriented hedge funds, sold his entire stake of SPDR Gold Trust worth about $25 million during the quarter.
Gold prices barely reacted to the news, with spot gold up 0.3 percent at $1,769.71 an ounce by 6:29 p.m. EDT.
"Paulson basically is putting his money where his mouth is. He believes that gold is earmarked to move substantially higher," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott, which manages $54 billion in assets.
"With the Fed saying it is likely to keep interest rates low for a couple more years, it is basically advertising to the market that ... we are going to maintain a highly accommodative monetary policy which is a dollar-debasing position" that usually benefits gold, Luschini said.
(Gold performance in Q2: r.reuters.com/rab33s )
In early August, sources familiar with Paulson's firm told Reuters that performance of his firm, Paulson & Co, was down sharply for the year after poor performance in July. The news fueled speculation that Paulson might have trimmed his position in SPDR Gold Trust.
Analysts, however, said that Paulson and other hedge funds would continue to prefer their highly liquid gold investment amid market turmoil and double-dip recession worries, even as gold has rallied as much as $300 to a record $1,813 an ounce on Aug 11 in just the last 1.5 months.
SOROS CUT BULLION HOLDINGS FURTHER
Soros, who dumped almost his entire $800 million stake in bullion in the first quarter, further reduced his investment in SPDR Gold Trust by 13 percent to just over $6 million.
Activist investor Barry Rosenstein's Jana Partners trimmed its holdings in gold, cutting his holding in the SPDR Gold Trust to 153,666 shares from 203,531 shares at the end of the first quarter.
Touradji Capital Management sold his entire stake of SPDR Gold Trust worth about $25 million during the quarter. He continued to hold stakes in the shares of gold mining companies.
Gold rose for a record 11th consecutive quarter in the three months to June, hitting a record at $1,575 an ounce in May, Reuters data showed.
Prices have tumbled from May's record amid the biggest commodities slump since late 2008, a move partly triggered by news Soros' bullion fund was selling precious metals -- and fueling fears other big funds were also seeing a peak.
Gold ended the second quarter up around 5 percent, as spot gold prices were $70 higher to end at $1,499.60 an ounce on June 30. The SPDR Gold Trust rose around 4.4 percent.
Investors are required to release breakdowns when they file so-called 13-Fs with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The deadline for these filings, which show a manager's investment in publicly traded U.S. stocks, is on August 15.
And while they mostly look backward, they could indicate who best anticipated the recent tumult.
(This story is corrected in the second paragraph to delete reference to Eton Park's Eric Mindich holding stake in SPDR, along with Paulson according to 13-F SEC filings. Mindich changed his stake according to 13-F SEC filings.)
(Reporting by Frank Tang; editing by Jim Marshall and Bob Burgdorfer)