Billionaire investors George Soros and Louis Moore Bacon cut their stakes in exchange-traded products backed by gold last quarter as futures dropped the most in more than eight years. John Paulson maintained his holding.
Soros Fund Management reduced its investment in the SPDR Gold Trust, the biggest fund backed by the metal, by 55 per cent to 600,000 shares as of December 31 from three months earlier, a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing showed on Thursday.
Bacon's Moore Capital Management sold its entire stake in the SPDR fund and lowered holdings in the Sprott Physical Gold Trust.
Paulson & Co, the largest investor in SPDR, kept its stake at 21.8 million shares.
Gold prices slipped 5.5 per cent in the fourth quarter, the most since the three months to June 2004, as signs of improving economic growth reduced the appeal of the precious metal as a haven. Global ETP holdings have lost 0.9 per cent since reaching a record on December 20.
UBS reduced its one-month price target yesterday by 6.8 per cent, saying economic optimism "takes the shine off defensive assets", including bullion.
"The reduction in holdings by George Soros may unnerve the market a little bit," said Nick Trevethan, a senior commodities strategist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group. "The market may also be watching Paulson and those are steady."
Gold for April delivery fell as much as 0.3 per cent to US$1,630.10 an ounce, the lowest level since January 4, on the Comex, and was at US$1,632.20 in early trade in Singapore. The price has shed 2.6 per cent this year.
Hedge funds have cut bets on a gold rally by 56 per cent since reaching a 13-month high in October as manufacturing rebounded from the United States to China.