Insurance giant bets on gold for first time in 152 years

Section:

But real gold or paper gold?

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By Andrew Frye
Bloomberg News
Monday, June 1, 2009

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=email_en&sid=ajf0L9wTPq6Y

NEW YORK -- Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., the third-largest U.S. life insurer by 2008 sales, has bought gold for the first time the company's 152-year history to hedge against further asset declines.

"Gold just seems to make sense. It's a store of value," Chief Executive Officer Edward Zore said in an interview following his comments at a conference hosted by Standard & Poor's in Brooklyn. "In the Depression, gold did very, very well."

Northwestern Mutual has accumulated about $400 million in gold, and Zore said the price could double or even rise fivefold if the economy continues to weaken. Gold gained 10 percent last month, the most since November. The commodity has more than tripled since 2000, rising for eight straight years. Gold futures for August delivery slipped $4.80 to $975.50 at 4:03 p.m. in New York.

"The downside risk is limited but the upside is large," Zore said. "We have stocks in our portfolio that lost 95 percent." Gold "is not going down to $90."

Policyholder-owned Northwestern Mutual, based in Milwaukee, ranks third by 2008 life insurance premiums according to data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The data excludes annuities.

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