Soros Sees Gold Prices on Brink of Bear Market

Nicholas Larkin, Maria Kolesnikova and Debarati Roy

Gold is poised to complete its 11th consecutive annual gain, the longest winning streak in at least nine decades, on the brink of a bear market.

George Soros, the billionaire who two years ago called it the “ultimate asset bubble,” cut 99 percent of his holdings in the first quarter, Securities and Exchange Commission data show. Hedge fund managers John Paulson, Paul Touradji and Eric Mindich also sold bullion this year. While speculators in New York futures are the least bullish (.MMGCNET) in 31 months, the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 44 traders and analysts is for prices to rally as much as 39 percent to $2,140 an ounce in 2012.

The divergence of views is widening after prices declined 19 percent from a record close of $1,900.23 on Sept. 5, or 1 percentage point away from a bear market. As some investors retreated to cash amid a $10 trillion slump in global equity values since May, others bought more metal, taking holdings in exchange-traded products to an all-time high two weeks ago. Bullion’s 8.1 percent gain in 2011 means it’s on track to beat stocks, bonds and the dollar for a second straight year.

“It’s done its job this year of protecting investors,” said Michael Cuggino, 48, who helps manage about $15 billion of assets, including $3 billion in gold, at Permanent Portfolio Funds in San Francisco and correctly predicted in February that prices would keep rising. “Gold has been all over the place. If you bought gold at $1,800 then you aren’t too happy. Some people will get out of gold, but the longer-term investors will remain.”…

‘Rational’ Buying

Soros Fund Management LLC, based in New York, sold almost all its shares in the SPDR Gold Trust (GDTRAUOZ) and the iShares Gold Trust in the first quarter, SEC data show. Its 81-year-old founder, who made $1 billion breaking the Bank of England’s defense of the pound in 1992, said in January 2010 that buying at the start of a bubble was “rational.”

The fund’s gold sales preceded a decision in July to return the less than $1 billion managed for outsiders and focus on family and foundation money. It bought more SPDR Gold Trust shares in the third quarter and added options, SEC data show. Michael Vachon, a spokesman, declined to comment.

“Gold became very overbought,” said Charles Morris, who oversees about $2.2 billion of assets at HSBC Global Asset Management in London and cut his bullion holdings to 6 percent at the end of November from 15 percent six months ago. “It will at least consolidate following this almighty rally. When the new bull market arrives, maybe a year or so away from now, then gold will once again prove to be a leading asset.”…

The complete article is at Bloomberg.

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