Billionaire investor George Soros reported Monday that his investment company, Soros Fund Management, has taken large positions in gold stocks. This is even as other big-time investors, including John Paulson who cashed in big on the last bull market in gold, sold some of their stake in the yellow metal. Someone’s going to be right and someone else is not.
The return to gold was accompanied by a return to gold mining. Soros bought 1.05 million shares of the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (NYSEMKT: GLD) and 19.42 million shares of Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE: ABX). These were valued at for $123.5 million for the ETF and $263.7 million for Barrick. It is unknown what he paid for these during the first quarter.
So, is Soros betting on gold or gold bugs? He once called gold the “ultimate bubble,” and gold bugs have been selling a story for a long time now about gold’s safe haven status when equity markets are weak and volatile. Gold, they say, offers a better chance at profit than many other investments in times like this. And with negative interest rates affecting some 20% of global markets, the argument for investing in gold gains added force.
Combined with his gold buying, Soros also reported put options on 2.1 million shares of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEMKT: SPY). That move is worth $431.3 million and more than offsets the other side of his bets on gold.
Assuming Soros hasn’t changed his mind about gold’s bubble status, it seems to us more likely that he has bet on demand for the one global reserve currency that investors turn to when dollars, euros, yen and yuan offer little in the way of returns. Soros may not be especially fond of gold, but if that’s where the returns are, then that’s where he’ll go.
Barrick stock traded up about 2.6% on Tuesday, at $19.38 in a 52-week range of $5.91 to $19.50. The consensus price target on the stock is $16.46.
The Gold ETF (GLD) traded up 0.5%, at $122.40 in a 52-week range of $100.23 to $123.96.
The S&P 500 ETF (SPY) traded down 0.2%, at $206.32 in a 52-week range of $181.02 to $213.78.
Both Barrick and GLD set their 52-week highs on May 2. SPY has dropped about 0.5% since the same date, and posted its 52-week high on May 20, 2015.