May 26, 2024

Is The Plunge In Gold Stocks Predicting A Drop In Gold?

American Gold Buffalo

Gold stocks have been under performing gold bullion for the past three years.

The poor performance of gold stocks is reflected in the sub par returns of gold mutual funds run by two of the countries largest investment companies.  The three year return on Vanguard’s Precious Metals Fund (VGPMX) has actually had a negative return over the past three years as the price of gold has soared by 80%.  The Fidelity Select Gold Portfolio (FSAGX) has returned only 16.2% over the past three years. (See Physical Gold Outperforms Vanguard and Fidelity Gold Mutual Funds).

Senior gold producers such as Newmont and Kinross Gold are increasing gold production and solidly positioned for significant earnings increases but their stock prices have not been able to match the returns of gold bullion.

Although there are many reasons to expect that gold stocks will catch up to gold and deliver large gains to investors, so far this has not been the case.

Adding fuel to the investor debate over the relative merits of gold stocks versus gold bullion has been the drastic price divergence exhibited since the beginning of 2011.  While gold has held virtually all of its gains, the price of many gold stocks has plunged.  An investor in gold stocks not tracking the price of gold would probably conclude that the price of gold had collapsed during 2011.

Since January 1st, the price of gold has gained $116 per ounce or 8.3%.  From January lst to recent June lows, the price of Newmont Mining is down  by $9.27 (15.2%), Kinross Gold is down by $3.96 (20.8%) and Agnico-Eagle Mines is down by $16.01 (20.9%).  A broad basket of gold stocks, as measured by the Gold Miners ETF (GDX) has declined by $9.69 or 15.8%.

Adding to concerns about the recent sell off in gold stocks is the especially wide price divergence seen since May lst.  Although many individual gold stocks have long lagged the returns of gold, the GDX, a broad based index of gold stocks has generally tracked the price movement of gold over the past several years.  Since the beginning of May, however, the linkage between gold stocks and gold completely broke down, leaving investors to ponder the significance of such a wide divergence.





On past occasions, weakness in the gold mining shares has been a harbinger of a sell off in the gold market.  Is the current weakness in gold stocks currently forecasting a decline in the price of gold?  The end of the Fed’s money printing campaign, the world wide debt crisis, concerns about deflation, a weakening economy and the decline in commodity prices lead some to believe that a liquidity driven crisis could result in lower gold prices.

Despite short term concerns over the price of gold, the reasons for remaining long term bullish on gold are numerous.  The fundamental problems of excessive debt, debased currencies, widespread insolvency among sovereign states and out of control spending by the U.S. government all suggest that we remain on the precipice of another economic crisis.  Governments and central banks have no solutions except for the printing presses, which will be turned up to full speed at the inception of the next financial crisis.

At the margin selling may temporarily drive down gold prices in the short term, despite the solid long term bullish fundamentals for gold.  The long term trend for gold remains higher and any temporary price weakness would be a buying opportunity for gold investors.




How Patient Investors Can Buy Gold At $250 Per Ounce

It’s not often that you can buy something at an 83% discount from the market price.  Yet that’s exactly the situation when it comes to buying certain gold stocks that are now selling at huge discounts to their intrinsic gold reserves value.

In an interview with Barron’s, value investor David Steinberg of DLS Capital Management explains how his contrarian investment strategy  has lead to superior investment results.  Since the inception of DLS in 2003, Steinberg has racked up returns of 18%, far outpacing the S&P which returned 8.4%.

Steinberg told Barron’s that his investment strategy is based on valuation and he is currently invested entirely in commodity ETFs and equities.  Investing in securities that are currently out of favor but with strong valuation metrics generates superior returns over time.  Steinberg believes that gold stocks are undervalued and that “gold mining companies give an investor the opportunity to buy gold in the ground at a significant discount to market prices.”

According to Steinberg, the value of gold reserves held by mining companies is at historical disparities to the price of gold.  One gold mining company owned by Steinberg is Kinross Gold (KGC).  Kinross recently sold off as investors took a dim view of the merger of Red Back Mining with Kinross.  Investors expected that the costs of the merger would adversely impact earnings per share but this has not been the case.

Steinberg told Barron’s that “by owning shares of Kinross, we are buying gold probably at$250 to $275 per ounce, versus the current spot price of about $1,500.  Our price target is 27 and the stock is around 15.”

Kinross recently released its first quarter results which showed revenue up by 42%, an adjusted net earnings increase of 81%, margins up 29% and adjusted operating cash flow up 67%.  The company’s gold production in the first quarter was 642,857 ounces, up 18% over last year.   Kinross is forecasting full year production of about 2.6 million ounces.  The company’s production cost per ounce was $543 in the first quarter and production costs are forecast to remain within previous guidance despite industry wide cost pressures.

Kinross is based in Canada and has mines and projects in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Ghana, Mauritania, Russia and the United States.  Kinross has grown its reserve base by 25% per year over the past 5 years and currently has 92 ounces of gold resources per 1,000 shares.

Kinross Gold expects its equivalent gold production to increase by 77%, growing to 4.5 – 4.9 million ounces in 2015 from 2.6 million in 2011.  Of all the senior gold producers, Kinross says it has the best growth profile.

Based on the company’s operating results and forecasts, Kinross Gold stock could wind up being the big winner this year among the senior gold stocks.

Insights From One Of The World’s Lengendary Gold Experts

The Standard & Poors 500 stock index is still below the level it reached more than 10 years ago in early 2000.  Interest rates on traditional bank savings have barely exceeded zero percent since the Fed instituted its zero interest rate policies in 2008.  Meanwhile, incomes are stagnant and the cost of items we use everyday have been inexorably increasing.

Investors who expected to achieve financial independence by investing in actively managed stock mutual funds have seen their dreams turn to nightmares.  The brutal truth is that the vast majority of mutual fund managers do not beat the market over the long run.   Investors who did not diversity out of traditional investments have seen the value of their savings diminished by inflation and stagnant stock prices.

By contrast, one legendary gold investor who has consistently made great calls in the precious metals markets has achieved average annual returns over the past ten years of over 29%.  Money doubles in about 2.5 years at 29%.  Investors who had the patience and conviction to ride out inevitable corrections have seen fabulous returns.

The man who achieved this stunningly successful investment record is Harvard educated John Hathaway, who has been with the Tocqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX) since its inception in 1998.  Hathaway’s success has been based on his ability to chose smaller mining companies that have the potential for explosive growth and then patiently wait for results.  The average gold mutual fund has an annual holdings turnover of 104% compared to 9% at TGLDX.  While other fund managers frenetically trade mining stocks, Hathaway’s deep knowledge of the companies he invests in has resulted in superior investment returns.  Also benefiting shareholders is the fact that the TGLDX does not charge  front end or deferred sales loads which reduce investor returns.

The TGLDX has soundly beaten the investment performance of both gold bullion and the widely followed PHLX Gold/Silver Sector (XAU) which holds a broad basket of gold and silver stocks.  Since 2000, the TGLDX has returned approximately 810% compared to 500% for gold bullion and 325% for the XAU.


When John Hathaway speaks, serious gold and silver investors pay attention.  In the Tocqueville Gold First Quarter 2011 Observations, Mr. Hathaway explained why he remains positioned for further gains in the precious metals and related equities.

Mr. Hathaway noted that his current position on gold is based on interrelated macro economic issues which make the “current landscape especially tricky”.   Hathaway noted that “the Fed seems predisposed to maintain extremely lax monetary conditions” and that “a credible fiscal plan seems like a long shot”.   Conditions in the Middle East could worsen considerably, energy prices are likely to remain at levels that seemed “unthinkable” a year ago and if there is political resistance to the Fed reducing its balance sheet, “the conditions are ripe for an inflationary spiral”.

The dollar appears to be deeply oversold and a near term rally could slow gold’s uptrend, according to Hathaway.

Mr. Hathaway feels that by mid year, the outlook will be more clear but in the meantime, “we remain positioned for further advances in precious metals”.

The top 8 stock holdings of TGLDX at March 31, 2011 were Goldcorp (GG), Newmont Mining (NEM), IAMGold (IAG), Ivanhoe (IVN),  Silver Wheaton (SLW), Gold Resource Corp (GORO), Osisko Mining (OSK) and Randgold Resources (GOLD).

Gold And Silver Gain On Week – Time Tested Indicator Says Gold Stocks Are Cheap

After last week’s major sell off in precious metals, gold and silver prices gained on the week while platinum and palladium registered small declines.   As measured by the closing London Fix Price, gold gained $19.25 on the week and silver gained $2.00.

As is typical after a major pullback, silver prices were volatile.  Silver’s sharp price increase this year had attracted many day traders and leveraged speculators who were forced to sell as silver prices declined, in large part due to the rapid series of margin increases by the COMEX on silver futures traders.

This week’s volatility in silver prices can be seen using the SLV as a silver proxy.  After almost hitting $38 on Tuesday, the SLV plunged to $32 in early Thursday trading before recovering to the $34 level in late Friday trading.


The forced liquidation of silver positions by weaker leveraged hands has provided long term investors with a buying opportunity according to the experts at Dillon Gage Metals, a major precious metals dealer.  According to Terry Hanlon, President of Dillon Gage, “This year, silver has had its biggest run in the shortest period of time in recent memory.  Profit-taking corrections are to be expected when markets rally.  This recent price correction doesn’t change the basic fundamentals, which include good demand for silver to make coins in a number of countries.”

Hanlon also noted that the recent strong dollar rally in early May lead to a broad based commodities sell off which extended to precious metals.  The increased margin deposits required by the COMEX which increased from $4,250 a year ago to $16,200 per contract was also an obvious contributor to weakness in silver prices.  Hanlon expects silver prices to remain range bound in the short term saying that “I look for investors and money managers to take a brief breather on the sidelines before getting back into the silver market on the buy side.”

No one can say exactly where silver prices will bottom out before heading higher but Dillon Gage sees “support at the $32 an ounce level”.  Silver’s 200 day moving average is currently in the $28 range which should provide solid technical support.

Precious Metals Prices
PM Fix Since Last Recap
Gold $1,505.75 +19.25 (+1.29%)
Silver $36.20 +2.00(+5.85%)
Platinum $1,774.00 -15.00 (-0.84%)
Palladium $718.00 -3.00 (-0.42%)

It is interesting that amidst a broad based commodities sell off and a major price pullback in silver, gold’s relative performance has been very strong and indicative of fundamental demand.  The recent news that numerous countries are increasing their stockpiles of gold bullion provides further proof that both individual investors and governments are seeking to preserve their wealth by diversifying out of paper currencies.

For investors who prefer to invest in gold mining companies, the K-Ratio, a time tested buy/sell indicator currently has very bullish readings.   The K-Ratio is computed by dividing Barron’s Gold Mining Index by the current Handy and Harmon gold price and reflects the relative value of gold stocks compared to gold bullion.   A reading below 1.2o tells us that gold stocks are cheap compared to gold bullion.  The K-Ratio is currently at .93 indicating that gold stocks are currently a better relative bargain than gold bullion.

Are Gold Stocks Really Underforming Gold Bullion?

Depending on which gold stock investor you talk to, gold stocks have either been under performing or outperforming gold bullion.

Theoretically, given the earnings leverage associated with gold miners, a big move up in gold bullion should translate into handsome gains for shareholders of gold mining companies as earnings per share increase.  In the real world, however, the cost of exploration and development, mine depletion and the energy intensive process of gold mining and refining can result in costs that exceed the increased revenue from higher gold prices.  Gold mining companies with operations in less developed countries with weak property rights can also wake up one morning and discover that the government has expropriated their mines.

So which is it?  Would it have been better to own gold stocks or simply buy a gold ETF or take physical possession of gold bullion?  Like many things in life, it all depends, and the result reinforces the argument to maintain a well diversified portfolio.

Gold miners that have been able to translate higher gold prices into higher profits have done very well while other gold miners with poor results have significantly lagged the gains seen in gold bullion.   The results have been company specific.  A gold stock investor who was correct in predicting higher gold prices but picked the “wrong” gold stocks fared poorly.

Here’s a sample of the relative performance of some of the largest gold miners compared to the price of gold, using the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) as a proxy for bullion prices.  Two major gold miners, Newmont Mining Corporation (NEM) and Kinross gold Corporation (KGC), dramatically under performed the GLD, while Goldcorp (GG) tracked the GLD performance.  If you were lucky enough to own Randgold Resources (GOLD), your profits would have been twice the gains on the GLD.


The bottom line is that unless an investor has considerable expertise in assessing the gold mining industry and specific company prospects, the better choice was to go with a gold ETF or stash gold bullion in a safe deposit box.  If the biggest gains in gold prices are yet to come, as I believe, an investor with a 100% allocation to individual gold stocks should consider reassessing his portfolio allocation.

The last option that should be mentioned for those seeking higher returns from the leverage of owning gold stocks instead of a gold ETF, would be to invest in a gold mutual fund with a solid track record of investment success.

Tocqueville Gold Fund Performance vs. GLD

The Tocqueville Gold Fund(TGLDX) is a highly regarded mutual fund with solid portfolio managers who have had a very successful track record in picking the right gold stocks.  Over the past two years, the TGLDX has outperformed the GLD and with far less volatility.

Which is Better to Own – Gold Bullion or Gold Stocks?

Gold investors have two basic choices – buying gold bullion or buying shares in companies that produce or own gold. As we examine the two basic investment vehicles available to gold investors, it becomes apparent that choosing the best investment option can be a complex decision. Some of the questions that a gold investor should consider include the following.

What has produced better investment results – owning gold bullion or a gold mutual fund?

To gain insight into investment returns, let’s compare how an investment in gold bullion compared to investing in the Tocqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX).  I selected TGLDX since it is one of the best performing, actively managed gold funds with a long term track record.  An investment of $10,000 in the Tocqueville Gold Fund in 2000 would now be worth approximately $86,000 for a stunning return of 860%.   A $10,000 investment in gold bullion in 2000 would currently be worth approximately $46,400 or a 467% return.

Since gold mining companies are leveraged to the price movement of gold, it is not entirely surprising that the gold stocks would outperform the metal. Leverage, however, works both ways and in 2008, when gold experienced a price correction, TGLDX dropped from 65 to 19, a horrendous decline of 71%, whereas gold bullion experienced a normal bull market correction of only approximately 25%.   For those investors unwilling to tolerate huge price fluctuations, bullion seems a better way to go. When gold is moving up, expect the gold funds to outperform the metal.  In 2010, TGLDX has increased 42.7% compared to an increase in gold of 27%.

TGLDX Chart : Yahoo Finance

Gold 2000-Present: Kitco

If I decide to invest in gold stocks instead of the bullion, how many different stocks should I buy?

One of the primary tenets of sound investing is to always diversify.   Although selected gold stocks have vastly outperformed the price movement in bullion, many have not and some have dramatically underperformed.   Evaluating the prospects of an individual gold mining company is difficult, even for the experts.  An investor choosing to allocate a large percent of assets into gold stocks is probably better off (from a risk standpoint) investing in a well managed gold fund with a solid long term track record.  For an investor that does not want to hold physical gold nor own individual gold stocks, investment in a gold ETF such as GLD, that tracks the price movement of the bullion, would be an option.

I don’t trust paper assets and want to hold only gold bullion – what are my options?

For a conservative, risk averse investor looking to protect the value of his money,  investing only in gold bullion is a sound strategy.  Holding actual bullion, however raises security questions on how and where to store the physical gold.  Investors who wish to have their gold stored on their behalf can chose from a variety of firms that securely store gold in protected and insured vaults.  For an investor storing gold on his own in a safe deposit box, it would perhaps be wise to diversify storage geographically by using more than one bank.

Is the tax treatment different for gold bullion versus gold stocks?

The IRS considers gold to be a collectible.  Gains on gold bullion or coins and ETF’s backed by physical gold and held for more than a year have a maximum tax rate of 28%, while positions sold in less than a year are taxed at ordinary income rates.   Gold stocks are considered capital assets by the IRS and standard capital gain tax rates apply to profits.

As nations compete with each other to devalue their currencies and the Federal Reserve engages in outright money printing, gold investors should be expecting substantial profits regardless of what investment vehicle is chosen.