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UPDATE 2-Paulson holds SPDR Gold holdings steady as bullion rallies

(Adds Jana and CI Investments in paragraphs 5-6, gold price details)

By Marcy Nicholson

NEW YORK May 15 Paulson & Co held its stake steady in the world's biggest gold exchange-traded fund while Soros Fund Management stayed out of the precious metal in the first quarter of 2017, when bullion prices rallied to 3-1/2-month highs, a filing showed on Monday.

New York-based Paulson & Co, led by longtime gold bull John Paulson, kept its stake unchanged in SPDR Gold Trust at 4.36 million shares valued at $517.6 million at the end of March, a regulatory U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission showed.

This was up slightly from a value of $477.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Soros Fund Management LLC dissolved its shares in SPDR Gold Trust in the third quarter of 2016 and then in Barrick Gold Corp by the end of December, as bullion prices saw their weakest quarterly performance in 3-1/2 years. The hedge fund did not take a stake in gold shares in the first three months of 2017, filings showed.

Jana Partners LLC, which dissolved its stake in SPDR Gold Trust in the second quarter of 2016, also stayed out of the precious metal.

Earlier this month, CI Investments Inc, an investment manager of Toronto-based CI Financial Corp, reported that it increased shares in SPDR Gold Trust and bought shares in Barrick Gold Corp.

Spot gold prices rallied by nearly 10 percent to $1,263.80 an ounce during the first quarter of this year as attention shifted to worries over U.S. President Donald Trump's policies and political risks posed by elections in Europe.

Gold's safe-haven appeal increased in April, when prices extended gains to a five-month high at $1,295.42 an ounce, on rising geopolitical risks after North Korea made what was believed to be a failed missile test launch.

Prices eased to an eight-week low at $1,213.81 last week, however, with the U.S. Federal Reserve widely expected to raise interest rates at its June meeting and as safe-haven demand faded in the wake of Emmanuel Macron's victory in the French election.

Paulson kept shares in AngloGold Ashanti Ltd and IAMGold unchanged in the January-March period, and the fund slightly decreased its stake in NovaGold Resources Inc and Randgold Resources Ltd. (Reporting by Marcy Nicholson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Diane Craft)

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