(Adds filings details)
By Marcy Nicholson
NEW YORK, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Hedge fund Paulson & Co kept its stake in the gold-backed exchange-traded fund SPDR Gold Trust unchanged for a fifth straight quarter in the three months ending Dec. 31, a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission showed on Tuesday.
The New York-based fund, led by longtime gold bull John Paulson, owned more than 10.2 million shares worth $1.16 billion in the ETF at year-end as bullion prices fell. The stake's value was cut from $1.19 billion in the third quarter.
Though Paulson remained steadfast in his gold ETF bet, he did cut his stake in South African miners, reducing his Gold Fields Ltd holding by 40 percent to 3.95 million shares worth $17.9 million and in Sibanye Gold Ltd by 40 percent to 986,853 shares, valued at $7.5 million, the filings showed.
Meanwhile, legendary investor George Soros of Soros Fund Management LLC dissolved his stake in Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp, one of the world's largest gold producers, after holding 483,570 shares worth $7.1 million in the third quarter.
He also dissolved stakes in two Market Vectors exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the fourth quarter and cut his holding in the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF by 27 percent to 761,000 shares - valued at $13.99 million, the filings showed.
Spot gold prices fell 2.1 percent in the quarter, partly due to pressure from weak oil prices as well as the impact of a stronger dollar. The latter was partially offset by demand from investors worried about tensions in Russia and political uncertainty in Greece.
Investors pay close attention to the quarterly filings by Paulson and other notable hedge fund managers because they provide the best insight into whether so-called smart money sentiment has changed toward gold as a hedge against inflation and economic uncertainty. (Reporting by Marcy Nicholson; Editing by Chris Reese and Christian Plumb)