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Einhorn's big bet on gold slammed by sell-off

David Einhorn, president of Greenlight Capital, speaks during the Sohn Investment Conference in New York, May 16, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Muno
David Einhorn, president of Greenlight Capital, speaks during the Sohn Investment Conference in New York, May 16, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Muno

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Matthew Goldstein

BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - This year's sell-off in gold has been harmful for dedicated gold-bugs like hedge fund manager John Paulson but it has also hit managers like David Einhorn who is better known for his stock picks than his love of the yellow metal.

During the first quarter, however, Einhorn's Greenlight Capital Management demonstrated just how much he and his investors have riding on gold as he recently listed it as the fund's third largest position, an investor in the fund said.

Only bets on computer maker Apple , a long-time favorite with Einhorn, and General Motors , which he started talking about late last year, outranked his gold position in size.

During the first quarter, Einhorn returned 6.1 percent, keeping pace with many rivals including Pershing Square Capital's William Ackman who was also up 6.1 percent. But they both lagged behind the broad Standard & Poor's 500 index which climbed 10 percent.

Gold selling has continued in the second quarter, its price falling another 7 percent this month.

Einhorn, who is believed to largely own physical gold as opposed to shares in the exchange-traded fund, disclosed his top five holdings in a recent communication to investors.

Besides including gold in his main fund, Einhorn, like Paulson also has a dedicated gold fund. Paulson's dedicated gold fund, the smallest in his lineup of portfolios, lost 28 percent during the first quarter.

A spokesman for Einhorn declined to comment.

While gold is often used as a hedge against inflation the breadth of the recent sell sell-off will underline some expectations that gold's meteoric rally may be coming to an end after 12 years of gains.

The relentless selling sent gold below $1,500 an ounce for the first time since July 2011, and put the market on track for its worst weekly performance since December 2011.

Industry analysts have said that rising markets generally make for tough conditions for hedge fund managers that specialize in stock picking.

Einhorn also listed Marvel another long-time favorite, and Vodafone as other big holdings.

At the end of the month Einhorn's fund was 48 percent net long in its position. That means that long bets where a managers expects the securities to rise represented 125 percent of the fund's holdings while short position where a manager bets that a security's price will was fall made up 77 percent.

During the first quarter, Einhorn made headlines in the normally secretive hedge fund world for his loud campaign to get Apple to give back some of its cash pile to investors.

Some investors have called the battle with Apple distracting for the manager, particularly as other big Apple investors were not on his side.

Einhorn like other managers is expected to soon send his quarterly letter where he explains his holdings and thoughts in greater detail.

Over the years, Einhorn's holdings of physical gold have raised some eyebrows, in part because it is difficult to house it. Einhorn has selected a secured facility in Queens, close to his Manhattan office, to store the gold bullion he holds.

Einhorn's spokesman declined to comment on speculation about the location of the hedge fund's so-called physical gold.

Greenlight began investing in gold bars in its main flagship fund in 2009. A year later, Einhorn launched a dedicated gold-only fund for investors wanting a more concentrated exposure to the precious metal.

(Reporting By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Matthew Goldstein; editing by Andrew Hay)

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