January 31, 2017 / 7:07 PM / 3 years ago

Gold becomes one of investors' favorite safe havens with Trump uncertainty

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some of Wall Street’s largest fund managers have taken a contrarian bet on gold, wagering that U.S. President Donald Trump’s governing style and upcoming elections in Europe will combine to create more stock market volatility and boost the prices of a metal long seen as a safe haven.

24 karat gold bars are seen at the United States West Point Mint facility in West Point, New York June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

Fund managers from IVA, Ridgeworth and Fidelity are among those who are bullish on gold at a time when the VIX, Wall Street’s main measure of volatility, is near two-year lows amid a stock market rally that has pushed the S&P 500 up 6.5 percent since Election Day in November.

Charles de Vaulx, portfolio manager of the $8 billion IVA Worldwide Fund, said the U.S. stock market had been “amazingly unvolatile.”

“With the unpredictability of President Trump and how well he works with Congress, there remains a lot that is unknown,” he added.

De Vaulx said Trump was short on specifics of his spending plans, which could undercut the value of the dollar and push gold prices higher. At the same time, upcoming elections in France and Germany could have a long-term impact on the future of the European Union, leading to more stock market volatility.

The dollar was on course to its worst start in more than a decade on Tuesday after Trump commented on currency devaluation by other countries and his new National Trade Council director remarked on the euro.

Spot gold prices rose 1.6 percent to $1,214.19 an ounce, with analysts citing the uncertainty of Trump’s policies as a main factor..

Despite the recent moves, gold has been one of the worst-performing assets since Trump’s election.

Funds have flowed out of the $30 billion SPDR Gold ETF for 10 out of the 11 weeks since Election Day, including a 1 percent decline in the week ended on Jan. 25, according to Lipper data.

Gold prices are down 5.5 percent since the election and have fallen 10.5 percent over the last six months.

The new administration has been widely expected to enact new policies that would boost the dollar and U.S. economic growth, cutting into the appeal of the metal.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December and said that it expected three additional increases totaling 0.75 percentage points in 2017.

Ramin Arani, a co-portfolio manager of the $25 billion Fidelity Puritan fund, said that he sees gold as an attractive “insurance” for his equity exposure given the rising political risks.

“In terms of unpredictability, there is a tail risk with this administration that did not exist with the prior,” he said. “There is a small but present possibility that government action is going to lead to unintended consequences.”

Not every portfolio manager who is bullish on gold credits political uncertainty as the main catalyst.

Richard Bernstein, whose oversees $3.6 billion as head of Richard Bernstein Advisors, said he added to his exposure to gold and gold mining stocks before the presidential election in anticipation of higher inflation driven by rising wages.

“If you think inflation is going up, you want to hold real assets,” he said.

The move by mutual fund managers into gold mirrors bets by well-known hedge fund managers, including Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, who is bullish on the metal.

“Our sense is that Mr. Trump doesn’t hold any core policy beliefs and is apt to change his mind as he sees fit,” Einhorn wrote in a Jan. 17 letter to investors. “This will lead to more political and economic uncertainty and less stability.”

Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Jennifer Ablan, Lisa Von Ahn and Bernard Orr

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