July 5, 2022

How Did An Investment Pro Lose Money Investing In Gold?

Despite the recent set back in gold prices due to panic selling by investors, gold has still racked up an impressive 15.7% gain with a price increase of $218 per ounce since the first of the year.  So how does a hedge fund manager with one of the best track records in the industry wind up losing over 10% on his gold portfolio?

The man who can answer this question is John Paulson, famous for his billion dollar gains betting against subprime mortgages before they collapsed in price.  Making matters even worse, the set back in Paulson’s Gold Fund, although painful, pales in comparison to losses run up by the Paulson Advantage Fund, as reported by Bloomberg.

John Paulson, the billionaire money manager mired in the worst slump of his career, lost 10.5 percent in his Gold Fund this year even as the metal heads for its 11th straight annual gain, according to people familiar with the fund’s performance.

The fund, which invests in mining stocks and other gold- related securities, remains the best performer in Paulson’s $28 billion fund family this year. His Paulson Advantage Fund, which seeks to profit from corporate events such as takeovers and bankruptcies, has fallen about 35 percent. The performance numbers for the two funds are from Dec. 28, 2010, through Dec. 20, 2011, and may not reflect returns for all shareholders, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Paulson & Co., based in New York, has lost money this year on investments including Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Sino-Forest Corp., the Chinese forestry company accused by short-seller Carson Block of overstating timberland holdings. Paulson, 56, cut the so-called net exposure in his main hedge funds to 30 percent last month and reduced bullish bets across all his funds.

Paulson’s frustrations with the losses on his gold portfolio mirrors that of other investors who have bet on gold stocks and lost despite the fact that gold bullion scored another impressive advance this year.

Paulson’s had large positions in Anglo Gold Ashanti (AU), Gold Fields Ltd (GFI), Nova Gold Resources (NG), Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM), Iamgold Corp (IAG) and Barrick Gold Corp (ABX), all of which declined.  Agnico-Eagle Mines was the worst performer with a stunning decline of over 50% on the year.

It will be interesting to see if Paulson dramatically reduces his positions in gold mining shares over the coming quarters.  Given the fact that the fundamentals for owning gold are stronger than ever and gold mining shares are deeply oversold, it would not be surprising to see Paulson actually increase his gold stock holdings.

Insights From One Of The World’s Lengendary Gold Experts

The Standard & Poors 500 stock index is still below the level it reached more than 10 years ago in early 2000.  Interest rates on traditional bank savings have barely exceeded zero percent since the Fed instituted its zero interest rate policies in 2008.  Meanwhile, incomes are stagnant and the cost of items we use everyday have been inexorably increasing.

Investors who expected to achieve financial independence by investing in actively managed stock mutual funds have seen their dreams turn to nightmares.  The brutal truth is that the vast majority of mutual fund managers do not beat the market over the long run.   Investors who did not diversity out of traditional investments have seen the value of their savings diminished by inflation and stagnant stock prices.

By contrast, one legendary gold investor who has consistently made great calls in the precious metals markets has achieved average annual returns over the past ten years of over 29%.  Money doubles in about 2.5 years at 29%.  Investors who had the patience and conviction to ride out inevitable corrections have seen fabulous returns.

The man who achieved this stunningly successful investment record is Harvard educated John Hathaway, who has been with the Tocqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX) since its inception in 1998.  Hathaway’s success has been based on his ability to chose smaller mining companies that have the potential for explosive growth and then patiently wait for results.  The average gold mutual fund has an annual holdings turnover of 104% compared to 9% at TGLDX.  While other fund managers frenetically trade mining stocks, Hathaway’s deep knowledge of the companies he invests in has resulted in superior investment returns.  Also benefiting shareholders is the fact that the TGLDX does not charge  front end or deferred sales loads which reduce investor returns.

The TGLDX has soundly beaten the investment performance of both gold bullion and the widely followed PHLX Gold/Silver Sector (XAU) which holds a broad basket of gold and silver stocks.  Since 2000, the TGLDX has returned approximately 810% compared to 500% for gold bullion and 325% for the XAU.

TGLDX VS XAU - COURTESY YAHOO FINANCE

When John Hathaway speaks, serious gold and silver investors pay attention.  In the Tocqueville Gold First Quarter 2011 Observations, Mr. Hathaway explained why he remains positioned for further gains in the precious metals and related equities.

Mr. Hathaway noted that his current position on gold is based on interrelated macro economic issues which make the “current landscape especially tricky”.   Hathaway noted that “the Fed seems predisposed to maintain extremely lax monetary conditions” and that “a credible fiscal plan seems like a long shot”.   Conditions in the Middle East could worsen considerably, energy prices are likely to remain at levels that seemed “unthinkable” a year ago and if there is political resistance to the Fed reducing its balance sheet, “the conditions are ripe for an inflationary spiral”.

The dollar appears to be deeply oversold and a near term rally could slow gold’s uptrend, according to Hathaway.

Mr. Hathaway feels that by mid year, the outlook will be more clear but in the meantime, “we remain positioned for further advances in precious metals”.

The top 8 stock holdings of TGLDX at March 31, 2011 were Goldcorp (GG), Newmont Mining (NEM), IAMGold (IAG), Ivanhoe (IVN),  Silver Wheaton (SLW), Gold Resource Corp (GORO), Osisko Mining (OSK) and Randgold Resources (GOLD).