John Paulson, who runs the giant Paulson & Co. Inc. hedge fund, has significantly reduced his stakes in key financial holdings as of the end of the third quarter, according to regulatory filings, likely as a reaction to increased regulatory scrutiny over the industry.

Paulson's reduced his stake in Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) from 168-million shares to 138-million, and cut his exposure to Citigroup (NYSE: C) from 507-million to 424-milion.

Paulson also lowered his stake in Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) from 17.5-million shares to 15.5-million, and also reduced his stake in JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) from 7-million shares to 5-million.
Paulson entirely eliminated his 1.1 million shares in Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS).

Like George Soros, Paulson has maintained a big position in gold as a hedge against weakening US dollar.
Paulson retained his 31.5-million shares of the SPDR Gold Trust (ETF) at the end of the third quarter (valued at more than $4-billion).

On the whole, as of Sept. 30, 2010, Paulson held 80 stocks valued at $22.9-billion. The top sectors as that date comprised financials (34.2 percent); basic materials (14.8) and health care (8.2).

The five largest individual holdings were Spider Gold Shares (NYSE: GLD), 17.6 percent of the total portfolio; AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE: AU), 8.28 percent; Bank of America, 7.88 percent; Citigroup, 7/24 percent; and Hartford Financial Services Group (NYSE: HIG), 4.41 percent.

Brand new additions to the portfolio included Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC); MacAfee Inc. (NYSE: MFE); Genzyme Corp. (NASDAQ: GENZ); Liberty Media Corp. Interactive Common S (NASDAQ: LINTA); Symantec Corp. (NASDAQ: SYMC); Potash Corp. Of Saskatchewan Inc. (NYSE: POT); BMC Software Inc. (NYSE: BMC); Quad/graphics Inc. (NASDAQ: QUAD); Teradata Corp (NYSE: TDC); Netapp Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP); International Tower Hill Mines Ltd (NYSE: THM); Quest Software Inc. (NASDAQ: QSFT): Alberto-Culver Co (NYSE: ACV); Brocade Communications Systems (NASDAQ: BRCD); Beazer Homes USA Inc (NASDAQ: BZMD)

Aside from Goldman Sachs, Paulson also sold out Exxon-Mobil (NYSE: XOM); Apache (NYSE: APA); Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN); DIRECTV Group (NYSE: DTV); Macerich Co. (NYSE: MAC); Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S): Casey’s General Store (NASDAQ: CASY); Hyatt Hotels (NYSE: H).

Paulson’s stock picks became widely followed on Wall Street after his bet against subprime mortgages just prior to the housing market collapse.