Soros Buys Gold as Record Prices Seen on Stimulus
Soros Fund Management Chairman George Soros (Thomas Peter/AFP/Getty Images)
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Monday, 19 Nov 2012 07:33 PM
Gold’s 12-year rally, the longest in at least nine decades, is poised to continue in 2013 as central bank stimulus spurs investors from John Paulson to George Soros to accumulate the highest combined bullion holdings ever.
The metal will rise every quarter next year and average $1,925 an ounce in the final three months, or 12 percent more than now, according to the median of 16 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Paulson & Co. has a $3.62 billion bet through the SPDR Gold Trust, the biggest gold-backed exchange-traded product, and Soros Fund Management LLC increased its holdings by 49 percent in the third quarter, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings show.
Central banks from Europe to China are pledging more steps to boost growth, raising concern about inflation and currency devaluation. Investors bought 247 metric tons through ETPs this year, exceeding annual U.S. mine output. While both sides said talks last Friday between President Barack Obama and Congress over the so-called fiscal cliff were “constructive,” the Congressional Budget Office has warned the U.S. risks a recession if spending cuts and tax rises aren’t resolved.“We see gold as a hedge against the follies of politicians,” said Michael Mullaney, who helps manage $9.5 billion of assets as chief investment officer at Fiduciary Trust in Boston. “It’s a good time to garner some protection in portfolios by having some real asset like gold.”
Gold advanced 10 percent to $1,723.79 in London this year, headed for a 12th consecutive annual gain, the longest streak in data compiled by Bloomberg going back to 1920. Prices reached a record $1,921.15 in September 2011. The Standard & Poor’s GSCI gauge of 24 commodities gained 1 percent and the MSCI All-Country World Index of equities climbed 7.9 percent. Treasuries returned 2.8 percent, a Bank of America Corp. index shows.
Bullion held through ETPs, the first of which listed in 2003, reached a record 2,603.7 tons on Nov. 16, valued at $144.3 billion. That exceeds the official reserves of every nation except the U.S. and Germany, World Gold Council data show. The SPDR Gold Trust alone holds 1,342.6 tons.
Soros increased his investment in the trust to 1.32 million shares in the third quarter, the most since 2010, a Nov. 14 SEC filing showed. The stake, with each share representing about a 10th of an ounce, is valued at $219 million. Prices advanced 59 percent since January 2010, when Soros called gold the “ultimate asset bubble.” Michael Vachon, a spokesman for the 82-year-old who made $1 billion breaking the Bank of England’s defense of the pound in 1992, declined to comment.
Paulson, who became a billionaire in 2007 by wagering against the subprime mortgage market, owns 21.8 million shares in the SPDR Gold Trust, making him the biggest shareholder, a Nov. 15 SEC filing showed. The 56-year-old raised his stake by 26 percent in the second quarter and his holding of about 66 tons exceeds the official reserves of nations from Brazil to Bulgaria to Bolivia.
The New York-based hedge fund company reduced its investments in Anglogold Ashanti Ltd. and Gold Fields Ltd., the third- and fourth-biggest producers. Armel Leslie of Walek & Associates, a spokesman for Paulson’s fund, declined to comment.
Paul Touradji’s Touradji Capital Management LP sold all of its 82,000 shares in the SPDR Gold Trust in the third quarter, according to an SEC filing. Lone Pine Capital LLC, the hedge fund run by Stephen Mandel Jr., cut its stake by 31 percent to 2.6 million shares, and Dan Loeb’s Third Point LLC lowered its bet by 10 percent to 130,000 shares, filings showed last week. Officials from all three companies declined to comment.
While some investors expect stimulus to devalue currencies, the median of eight strategist estimates compiled by Bloomberg show the U.S. Dollar Index, a measure against six major trading partners, will average 82.6 next year, from 81 now. Steven Englander, Citigroup Inc.’s head of G-10 strategy, said in an interview this month that the currency market is signaling it isn’t yet convinced the Federal Reserve will fulfill its pledge to pump record amounts of cash into the economy through 2015.
Third-quarter demand for gold fell 11 percent, the most since 2009, as China’s slowing growth curbed purchases, the London-based World Gold Council said Nov. 15. India, the biggest buyer in the quarter, consumed 24 percent less in the year’s first nine months as bullion priced in rupees reached a record in September. The Washington-based International Monetary Fund cut its 2013 forecast for world growth twice since July, to 3.6 percent.
While prices rose 24 percent since November 2010, the size of the futures market, based on contracts outstanding, fell 29 percent, bourse data show. The metal, down 4 percent from this year’s high, has yet to exceed previous records when adjusted for inflation, with its 1980 record of $850 equal to $2,398 today, data compiled by the Fed Bank of Minneapolis show.
Hedge funds and other large speculators pared bets on a rally in futures traded on the Comex bourse in New York by 29 percent since Oct. 9, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. They’re still holding a net-long position of 140,162 futures and options, about 10 percent more than this year’s average, and increased wagers by 7.7 percent last week.
The Fed said Oct. 24 it will maintain $40 billion in monthly purchases of mortgage debt and probably hold interest rates near zero until mid-2015. The European Central Bank said it’s ready to buy bonds of indebted nations and the Bank of Japan raised its asset-purchase program for the second time in two months on Oct. 30.
Gold rallied 70 percent as the Fed bought $2.3 trillion of debt in two rounds of quantitative easing from December 2008 through June 2011.
Investors buying bullion as a hedge against inflation and a weaker dollar generally earn returns only through price gains, increasing its allure as interest rates decline. It rose sixfold since the end of 2000, beating the 34 percent advance in the S&P 500, with dividends reinvested, and the 91 percent return on Treasuries. The Dollar Index fell 26 percent.
The first face-to-face meeting between Obama and leaders from Congress on the fiscal cliff yielded optimism and few details about how it would be resolved. The $607 billion of automatic spending cuts and tax increases is scheduled to take effect in January. U.S. equities and Treasuries rose Nov. 16 and gold futures were little changed.
Credit Suisse Group AG’s Tom Kendall, the most accurate gold forecaster tracked by Bloomberg over the past two years, sees prices averaging $1,880 in the fourth quarter next year and UniCredit SpA’s Jochen Hitzfeld, ranked second, expects $1,950. Deutsche Bank AG’s Daniel Brebner, the next most accurate, predicts $2,300 in the third quarter.
Options traders are also bullish, with the eight most widely held contracts conferring the right to buy at prices from $1,800 to $2,200 between November and March, Comex data show.
Central banks added to reserves for 19 consecutive months through August, the longest streak since 1964, IMF data show. Nations from Russia to South Korea to Mexico bought more to bring combined holdings to 31,461 tons, equal to about 18 percent of all the metal ever mined.
Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s largest producer, will report a 41 percent gain in profit to a record $5.04 billion next year, the mean of 10 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg shows. The Toronto-based company’s shares fell 27 percent this year and will gain 45 percent in the next 12 months, according to the average of 23 forecasts.
Analysts predict Newmont Mining Corp. and AngloGold Ashanti, the next-biggest, will also report the most profit ever next year.
“It looks as though global monetary stimulus is likely to continue, particularly in the wake of growing fiscal austerity,” said Alan Gayle, a senior strategist at RidgeWorth Capital Management in Richmond, Virginia, which oversees about $47 billion of assets. “That puts pressure on the monetary authorities to stimulate the economy and that will debase the currencies and put a bid under gold.”