A Winning Fund Manager Makes a Bold Bet on Gold

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Despite a recent rally, shares of gold miners remain well below their highs. During the past three years, Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) lost 25% annually, according to Morningstar. As the price of gold fell, some stocks dropped 90%.

That has attracted David Iben, portfolio manager of Kopernik Global All-Cap (KGGAX), a mutual fund. "The miners look cheap, even if the price of gold never rises again," says Iben.

A die-hard contrarian, Iben roams around the world looking for stocks others hate. Besides gold, he now has a big stake in uranium producers, which sank after Japan shuttered its nuclear power plants. Iben also likes Russian energy companies that plunged as the Ukraine crisis unfolded.

The positions may seem like long shots, and the Kopernik fund is new. But Iben should not be dismissed lightly. For three decades, he has practiced a bold strategy -- and most often it has succeeded. The most notable stretch came when Iben managed Nuveen Tradewinds Global All-Cap (NWGAX) from 2006 to 2012. During the period, the fund returned 8.8% annually, topping world stock peers by almost 7 percentage points annually.

The contrarian method does not work well when markets rally strongly and investors flock to highflers. Iben lagged during the Internet bubble of 1999, and he also fell behind last year as biotechnology and social network shares soared. But in this year's uneven markets, the fund has returned 3.9%, compared to 1.2% for the average peer.

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