Soros Increases Bet Against the S&P 500

Business Leaders Dow Jones Newswires

Billionaire investor George Soros, who made a fortune betting against the British pound in 1992, on Monday disclosed a big bet on gold during the first quarter and doubled the wager against the S&P 500, according to a regulatory filing. 

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The 85-year-old's fund disclosed a 2.1-million-share "put" option in an exchange-traded fund that tracks the S&P stock index. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Soros -- who has been warning of a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis, this time with China at the center of the storm -- bought a 19-million share stake in Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold producer, along with "call" options in about 1 million shares in a gold-backed ETF set up by the World Gold Council. 

Put options, which bet on a the stock market falling, grant the buyer the right to sell stock at a set price within a specified time. They generally rise in value as the price of underlying stocks fall relative to the strike price. 

Call options, which bet the market will rise, grant the buyer the right to buy the stock at a target price within a specified time. 

On Monday, the Soros fund disclosed it had exited stakes in a series of travel-related sites, including Expedia and TripAdvisor, along with major airlines, even as it opened a small position in United Continental Holdings, the parent company of United Airlines. 

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The holdings were disclosed in a 13F filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, a quarterly requirement for investors managing more than $100 million. The report indicates the number of shares held and the value of each stake at the end of the quarter. 

Over all, the value of Mr. Soros's holdings fell to $4.53 billion as of March 31, from $6.5 billion at the end of the year. 

Founded by Mr. Soros in 1969, the New York City firm manages the Soros family fortune, although much of the money is distributed to other hedge funds and investment firms. 

The fund continued to unwind its commodity exposure in the first quarter, selling off positions in Dow Chemical and Penn Virginia, along with Kinder Morgan and Baker Hughes. The fund had opened the Kinder Morgan and Baker Hughes states in the fourth quarter. 

Mr. Soros also closed an investment in an ETF that tracks oil-and-gas exploration and production companies. As of Dec. 31, the Soros fund had disclosed a 1.9-million 'call' option in the ETF. 

Long a gun-control advocate, Mr. Soros sold off his stake in Vista Outdoor , the ammunition maker spun off last year from defense company Orbital ATK.  Mr. Soros had sold off in the fourth quarter his stake in Olin, which sells ammunition under the Winchester brand. 

The fund exited its call position in Alibaba Group Holding and Pfizer and opened a stake in Yahoo. during the quarter, along with a small stake in Apple. It also disclosed a large stake in bankrupt Nortel Networks.