(Recasts; adds market background, comment, Paulson & Co filing)
By Marcy Nicholson
NEW YORK, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Soros Fund Management LLC sharply cut its shares in gold in the second quarter, when bullion prices rose to two-year highs, regulatory filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission showed on Monday.
The fund, which returned to the world's biggest gold exchange-traded fund SPDR Gold Trust in the first quarter of 2016 after a three-year absence, sharply cut his stake in the second quarter.
Billionaire financier George Soros' fund reduced its holdings in SPDR Gold Trust to 240,000 shares worth $30.4 million, from 1.05 million shares worth $123.5 million in the first quarter.
Soros also drastically cut its stake in Barrick Gold Corp to 1.07 million shares worth $22.9 million, from 19.4 million shares in the first three months of 2016, the filing showed.
"Investors have been more proactive cutting holdings in the miners, some of whom have drastically outperformed the underlying in the first half of the year," said Tai Wong, director of base and precious metals trading for BMO Capital Markets in New York.
"It may not suggest that they are necessarily bearish gold but rather taking opportune profit."
The move came as spot gold prices rose 7 percent in the second quarter, following a 16 percent surge in the first quarter, the strongest in nearly three decades as expectations for a U.S. interest rate hike faded.
Prices rallied in June, when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.
New York-based Paulson & Co, led by John Paulson, kept its stake in SPDR Gold Trust unchanged in the second quarter at 4.78 million shares worth $603.9 million. They were worth nearly $562 million in the first quarter, a May 13F filing showed.
Paulson held stakes unchanged in IAMGOLD Corp and RandGold Resources, and cut them in AngloGold Ashanti and NovaGold Resources Inc, the filings showed. (Reporting by Marcy Nicholson; Editing by Tom Brown, Bernard Orr)