Paulson $9 Billion Hedge Fund Falls 6 Percent in May

Paulson & Co, the world’s third-largest hedge fund, saw the value of its flagship fund drop close to 6 percent in May, echoing losses across the industry.

Gold Bars
Gold Bars

The loss tops negative returns in the first quarter at the $37 billion New York-based money manager, famed for the spectacular returns gained by shorting the US mortgage market in 2007, and will again raise questions over its portfolio’s volatility.

John Paulson, Paulson & Co’s founder, has maintained his bullish view on the US economy and equity markets, even though many of his peers have recently begun to lower their market exposure levels.

May’s loss means that in the year to date, the $9 billion Paulson & Co Advantage Plus fund is down 7.6 percent. The average hedge fund lost 1.39 percent over the month according to preliminary data from Hedge Fund Research, with “event-driven” strategies such as that operated by Paulson & Co’s main fund down on average 0.62 percent.

May was also a painful month for Mr Paulson’s other big investment call: gold .

The Paulson & Co Gold fund dropped 6.39 percent in May, erasing much of its 8.5 percent April gain. The fund is up 0.9 percent in the year. Paulson & Co is the world’s largest non-sovereign gold investor.Performance was better for the firm’s other funds. Its Credit fund was down 0.05 percent for May, while the Recovery fund, which is geared to the prospects of the US economy, dropped 0.69 percent. Paulson & Co declined to comment.

In the firm’s most recent correspondence with investors Mr Paulson said difficulties for US banks had been a particular drag on his portfolios but that he remained optimistic.

The US stock market could rally as much as 40 percent from its first quarter level this year, he said.

Other hedge fund managers have become less bold. George Soros has cut his holdings of gold, leaving Mr Paulson as one of only a few top-tier managers with a significant position in the metal.

June is also shaping up to be a difficult month. Paulson & Co is the largest investor in Sino Forest, the Canadian-listed forestry group that has been accused by short seller Carson Block of fraud, charges that the company disputes.

The collapse in Sino Forest’s share price on Fridayhanded a $460 million paper loss to Paulson & Co.

Mr Paulson is no stranger to volatile returns. Last year saw several months of significant performance swings but the firm ended 2010 with double-digit returns for all its funds.

The Advantage Plus fund returned 17 percent in 2010. It returned 21.5 percent in 2009, 37.6 percent in 2008 and 158.5 percent in 2007.