Adam Sarhan Reuters & CNBC.com Quote: Paulson Holds to Gold ETFs in First Quarter, Profits as Prices Rise
Prominent hedge fund manager John Paulson held on to his ETF bullion holdings in the first quarter of this year, profiting from an early surge in gold prices before the market tanked, a regulatory filing by his company showed on Tuesday.
It was the first time Paulson had retained his position in the SPDR Gold Trust [GLD 150.35 0.61 (+0.41%) ] since the second quarter of 2011. He slashed his holdings in the world’s largest gold ETF in two earlier quarters due to what analysts suspected were client redemptions.
Other major fund managers with positions in SPDR Gold, including billionaire financier George Soros, also turned positive on the ETF during the first quarter, some raising their holdings sharply.
Paulson & Co owned 17.3 million shares in SPDR Gold at the end of March 31, virtually unchanged from Dec. 31, a regulatory filing to the U.S. Securities &
Exchange Commission showed.
The gamble resulted in a paper gain of nearly $180 million for the company as the value of its ETF holdings rose to $2.81 billion from $2.63 billion amid rising bullion prices.
The spot price of gold [XAU= 1548.80 4.70 (+0.3%) ], which tracks trades in bullion, jumped 11 percent in January as the market appeared on course to test September’s record highs above $1,920 an ounce.
The rally, however, lost steam abruptly, with gold falling a cumulative 4 percent in February and March before finishing the quarter up nearly 7 percent. The sell-off has deepened since, taking gold to below $1,545 an ounce by Friday’s close, down more than 1 percent for the year.
Analysts read the first quarter filing by Paulson as a sign that the hedge fund manager, a well-known gold bull, has not lost his faith in the precious metal as a long hedge against inflation.
Paulson has to date been the biggest holder of SPDR shares, using them to hedge currency exposure, while other managers such as David Einhorn and Daniel Loeb have favored more-discrete investments in physical bullion.
Still some expected him to join the herd and cut some of his holdings in gold before the second quarter was through.
“There’s absolutely no question in my mind that large institutions have been net sellers in gold over the past two weeks,” said Adam Sarhan at New York’s Sarhan Capital. “The fact that Paulson has been coming under a lot of pressure on his other holdings may force him to liquidate as well.”
During the first quarter, Paulson was also bullish in outlook in his outlook for gold-miners such as Barrick Gold Corp [ABX.TO 36.18 0.95 (+2.7%) ] andIAMGold Corp [IMG.TO 9.77 0.29 (+3.06%) ], accumulating more shares in the companies.
Soros, Others Add to ETFs
Billionaire financier George Soros increased his position in SPDR Gold to nearly $52 million in the first quarter from $13 million previously.Last year, Soros, who had called gold “the ultimate bubble”, had largely dumped his stake in the ETF before the metal ran up to a record peak of $1,920.30 per ounce in September.
Other major institutional investors, including PIMCO and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, also boosted their GLD holdings during the quarter.
Eric Mindich’s Eton Park Capital, which held only SPDR gold options during the fourth quarter, was back to holding to common shares as well.
Overall holdings in the SPDR Trust rose just over 8 percent in the first quarter, after a 2 percent gain in the fourth, according to data obtained from SPDR’s website. Gold ETF holdings increased as the price of bullion rose more than 6 percent in the first quarter.