George Soros is Feeding the Bear

In recent years, 85-year-old billionaire George Soros hasn’t done much investing of his own. He has instead focused on public philanthropy and public policy (and is a large contributor to the super PAC backing Hillary Clinton).

That changed earlier this year when he began spending more time directing trades at his firm Soros Fund Management LLC, which manages $30 billion for Mr. Soros and his family. Some close to him say that his resurfacing has been triggered by worry about the global economy and subsequent market shifts. This maudlin view has darkened even further over the last 6 months due to economic and political issues surrounding China and Europe. Even though the U.S. market has inched back and China markets have stabilized, Soros believes that any unwinding of Chinese investments will send shocks throughout the global economy. In a recent email, he wrote, “China is facing internal conflict within its political leadership, and over the coming year this will complicate its ability to deal with financial issues.”

The last time Soros stepped up involvement in his firm’s investment decisions was in 2007, due to worry about the housing market. At that time, the bearish investments he made over a two-year period netted gains of more than $1 billion.

Soros’ current bearish investments include a bet on gold. In the first quarter of this year, his firm bought over 19 million shares of Barrick Gold Corp., making it the firm’s largest stock holding at quarter’s end, and the position has gained more than $90 million. However, he also bought bearish derivative positions to hedge against stock market shifts, which could potentially serve up losses in the wake of the S&P’s 3% gain since the beginning of the second quarter.