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Fidelity chief gambling on gold

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BOSTON — Fidelity Investments' John Muresianu is betting a decade of precious metals declines is due to end.

The 47-year-old manager of the $536 million Fidelity Fifty Fund has dumped technology stocks, which constituted one-fifth of his holdings last year, and loaded up on metals stocks.

That's a striking shift because gold was one of the biggest losers of the 1990s, shedding about one-quarter of its value. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose fivefold in the decade, with Microsoft Corp. — one of his top holdings last year — rising 4,000 percent in the 10 years ending June 30.

"He's a little bit of a maverick," said Jim Lowell, editor of Fidelity Investor, a monthly newsletter based in Needham, Mass.

Barrick Gold Corp., the world's No. 4 gold producer, was his biggest holding as of June 30. Newmont Mining Corp., the second-biggest gold producer, was his fourth-biggest holding. The fund had no precious metals stocks among its top 10 as of March 31.

A year ago, Muresianu's fund looked a bit more conventional. About one-fifth of his money was in technology companies, including Microsoft, Cisco Systems Inc. and Lucent Technologies Inc.

Muresianu, a Fidelity stock picker since 1992, began managing the fund in January 1999. It returned 46 percent last year to beat the S&P by 25 percentage points, the first time it had topped the index since 1994, according to Bloomberg.

With the fund down 7.5 percent this year, the betting is that gold and other metals are due for a rebound.

The 28 precious metals funds Bloomberg tracks have lost an average of 17 percent for the year to date through Tuesday.