BlackRock Inc.'s Evy Hambro, whose gold fund in Europe has beaten most of its rivals, has started the firm's first gold mutual fund in the U.S. as demand for the metal rises on concern that global economic growth is slowing.

BlackRock World Gold Fund is a version of funds available only outside the U.S., Hambro said Thursday in a telephone interview from his London office.

BlackRock also plans to cut fees on its iShares Comex Gold Trust exchange-traded fund to 0.25% of assets, from 0.4%, Robert Fairbairn, head of New York-based BlackRock's global client group, said in an interview.

BlackRock, the world's biggest asset manager, is courting investors seeking refuge from financial market volatility and the European debt crisis.

Hambro oversees about $35 billion in natural resources funds, including the BlackRock Gold and General Fund, which has gained an annualized 26% over the past decade to beat all but two similar funds over that period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

"Gold has been a serious safe haven for thousands of years," Hambro said.

BlackRock acquired Barclays Global Investors on Dec. 1 to add the industry's biggest lineup of ETFs. The transaction was the largest to bring together active funds, in which portfolio managers select securities, and passive ones such as most ETFs, which track market indexes.

Fairbairn said BlackRock is a "strong believer" that investors can use both strategies to invest in a range of assets, including gold. "Gold investing for retail investors has been far from mainstream," especially in the U.S., Fairbairn said. "This brings U.S. investors more opportunities."

The $3.4 billion iShares Comex Gold Trust, which invests in bullion, planned to issue 409.8 million shares as part of a 10-for-1 split, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on June 24.

Hambro's BlackRock Gold and General Fund, which invests in gold-mining and precious-metals companies, closed the first half up 15.5%.

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