It's a big day for all the little investors out there, or at least the ones who love to follow the moves of the stock market gurus. That's because institutional investment managers have filed their 13F reports - a quarterly disclosure requirement in the United States that forces the smart money to lay down their cards and let everyone see what they've been holding.
While previous reports have generated some pretty good "buy" ideas for copycat investors, this round has a high-profile "sell" idea and at least one head-scratcher.
Let's start with the sell: George Soros has exited gold. Soros Fund Management disclosed late on Monday that it had sold 99 per cent of its stake, or 4.7 million units, in the SPDR Gold Trust exchange-traded fund during the first quarter - a stake worth about $680-million (U.S.) on Monday.
Beside the fact that Mr. Soros is an influential name in the investment universe, the disclosure should give gold investors pause. After all, Mr. Soros had been a strong advocate of the investment over the past two years, during which time the price of gold has appreciated by about 60 per cent.
However, he famously said that gold was "the ultimate asset bubble," implying that his attachment to it wasn't long term. While the price of gold continued to rise after Mr. Soros ditched his investment, hitting a record high of $1,564 an ounce on April 29, rumours in early May that he had sold his holdings sent commodity prices downward.
The 13F report, which of course substantiates those rumours, sent gold down more: It traded on Tuesday at $1,479 an ounce, down $10.
It will be interesting to see if other investors follow Mr. Soros to the exits. Bloomberg News reported that analysts at Standard Bank reiterated on Tuesday the view that gold is a buying opportunity below $1,500 an ounce.
Evidently, John Paulson is also hanging onto gold, or least he was in the first quarter. According to the 13F filed by Paulson & Co., the $36-billion hedge fund that made a killing by betting against the U.S. housing market prior to the real estate bust, Mr. Paulson maintained his 31.5 million units of the SPDR Gold Trust. Those units were valued at $4.4-billion, making Mr. Soros look like a dabbler in gold by comparison.
Meanwhile, Mr. Paulson made an untimely purchase during the first quarter, swooping down on Hewlett-Packard & Co. and buying 25 million shares of the computer maker, valued at about $1-billion on Monday.
You can see where he was coming from. In February, HP reported disappointing quarterly sales and guided lower for the current quarter's sales and revenues, which hammered the share price. Mr. Paulson must have seen in HP a cheap stock with the potential to rebound.
Oops. HP delivered some more bad news on Tuesday, lowering its earnings forecast for 2011. The news hammered the shares, sending them to their lowest point since mid-2009. In a single day, the market value of Mr. Paulson's HP holdings fell by $75-million.
You have to wonder if Mr. Paulson is sticking to his guns on this one, and perhaps buying more HP shares on the cheap. Unfortunately, investors won't know for another three months, when the next round of 13Fs is released.