Five stocks picks for 2011 from John Paulson

After returning as much 590 percent betting against mortgages in 2007, John Paulson’s looking toward precious metals, energy and housing in 2011.

Hedge fund manager John Paulson became an icon in the investing world when he made a huge wager against subprime mortgages in 2007. That year, his funds gained as much as 590 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Paulson’s 2010 returns ranged between 11 percent and 45 percent compared with the 15 percent gain the S&P locked in. That was enough to net Paulson himself some $5 billion. Here’s a look at where he’s making his bets for 2011:

1) Precious metals. For several years now, Paulson’s been urging investors to buy gold. Just based on monetary expansion alone, he said last year, gold could hit $2,400 an ounce. Tack on significant inflation on top of that, and gold prices at $4,000 an ounce aren’t out of the question. Paulson’s gold positions in 2010 netted him a return of 45 percent, and he’s still optimistic that gold will outperform for the next 5 years calling it “the ideal vehicle to hedge against the risk of the U.S. dollar,” Forbes reports.

Among Paulson’s biggest gold positions last year were AngloGold Ashanti Limited (NYSE:AU), Osisko Mining Corp. (TSE:OSK) and the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (NYSE:GLD). Currently, his funds own securities that represent the rough equivalent of 96 metric tons of the metal, according to the New York Times. That’s more gold than the Australian government holds.

2) Internet security. Of the top positions initiated by Paulson as of Sept. 30, 2010, McAfee, Inc. (NYSE:MFE) made the list. McAfee, which makes antivirus software, firewalls and other software-based security for computers, made headlines after a buyout by Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) was announced in August. Paulson’s reputation as a macroeconomic investor makes it clear where he sees big opportunities for growth: protecting data from hackers.

3) Oil and natural gas. Paulson has jettisoned his position in banks in favor of energy stocks. Chief among his energy holdings going into 2011? Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (NYSE:APC), the Texas-based oil and natural gas producer. It’s returned 20 percent over the past three months.

4) Biotechs. Genzyme Corporation (NASDAQ:GENZ) also made the list of top stocks that Paulson was acquiring late last year. Another buyout target, Sanofi-Aventis SA (NYSE:SNY) appears close locking in a deal to buy Genzyme. Trend anyone?

5) Housing. Paulson argued late last year that it was the best time to buy a house in 50 years. “If you don’t own a home, buy one,” he said at a lecture for New York’s University Club. “If you own one home, buy another one, and if you own two homes buy a third and lend your relatives the money to buy a home.” Can’t buy a home? Consider some beat-down real estate or construction stocks. A few good picks and you, too, might be on your way to earning $5 billion a year.

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