December 6, 2022

What is the Best Way to Invest in Gold?

Major Gold Mining Stock Outperforms Bullion and Gold ETFs

Investors in gold often wonder about the best way to own the precious metal.  Gold is gold but depending on the vehicle used to purchase gold, investment returns can vary dramatically.

Simply put, the three basic ways to invest in gold are gold bullion, gold bullion ETFs, and gold mining stocks.

Gold Bullion

Purchasers of gold bullion may not trust “paper gold” or they may simply appreciate the beauty of gold bars and coins.  There is an innate satisfaction in being able to physically admire and touch gold, a metal that has had value to man since before the dawn of civilization.  Paper currencies always eventually wind up worthless while gold will maintain purchasing power.  The pleasure of owning physical gold does have drawbacks, the biggest of which is security and storage.

Although gold has moved up dramatically since 2019, the current price of around $1,950 is still slightly below the record high of $2,061 reached in August 2020.

gold Technical chart [Kitco Inc.]

Gold Bullion ETFs

An easy and low-cost method for purchasing gold bullion is by investing in gold bullion ETFs.  Funds put into gold ETFs are invested in physical gold and the fund is responsible for physical security.  The largest gold ETF is the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) which currently holds about $68 billion in assets.  The ETF has a relatively low expense ratio of 0.40%.  The GLD will closely match the move in the price of gold bullion less the expenses of running the fund.

The GLD currently trades at $181.47 slightly below its high of $190.81 reached in August 2020.

Another ETF worthy of consideration is the iShares Gold Trust (IAU) which currently trades at $36.97, holds $32 billion in physical gold and has an expense ratio of only 0.25%.

Gold Mining Stocks

Gold mining stocks are where it all starts.  Someone must undertake the expensive process of locating and mining gold ore to produce refined gold.  The profit generated by the gold mining stocks depends not only on the price of gold but also on how efficiently gold mining companies are at exploration and deploying capital.  Many junior gold mining companies have not been able to participate in price gains despite the increase in gold prices.

There are two ways to invest in gold mining companies.  An investor can invest in a basket of gold mining stocks in a mutual fund or ETF such as VanEck Gold Miners ETF (GDX) or by purchasing individual gold mining companies.  Purchasing an ETF allows an investor to spread risk across the industry.  Purchasing a successful gold mining company can result in gains that far exceed the increase in gold bullion.

For example, the GDX currently trades at $39.67, below the price reached in August 2020.

Now, look at the performance of Newmont Corporation (NEM) a major gold mining company which has recently exploded to an all-time high and up 173% since late 2019.

There is no way to know which way of investing will work out best until after it happens.  Always diversify to reduce risk is probable the best advice.

Yes, You Can Still Buy Gold Coins

There has been a lot of talk about gold being unavailable to settle futures contracts and the like but that is paper gold they are talking about.

If you love to hold and touch and possess physical gold (who wouldn’t) then yes – you can still buy gold bullion coins at retail but perhaps not for much longer.

Although you can still buy gold bullion coins, the selection and availability are severely limited due to a huge increase in demand, decreased mine production, and mint closures. Toss in the facts that the world is in an economic depression (by any definition of the word) and governments worldwide are flooding the global economy with helicopter money makes one wonder how much longer it will be before gold coin stocks at dealers are exhausted.

I have been buying gold coins for many years and I have never seen such a limited selection in all categories of gold coins. Other than the American Eagle and the American Buffalo dated 2020 there are no other contemporary US Mint gold coins available!  Pre 1933 coins gold coins are available but the selection is sparse.

Here are a few examples from Provident Metals, a leading online retailer of all sorts of bullion and coins. I have always had good experiences buying from Provident but please note that there are also many other reputable dealers out there who are also authorized purchasers from the US Mint.

2020 American Eagle 1 oz Gold Coin BU

In Stock  IRA eligible
Item is available and ready to ship!
Pricing and quantity as follows

1-9 coins
$1,905.88 cash
$1,925.74 bitcoin
$1,985.34 credit card

The 2020 American Buffalo 1 zo gold coin BU is also available for pre order with an estimated ship date of April 27th.  The pricing on the Gold Buffalo is $180 over spot price and on the Gold Eagle is $160 over spot price.

Given the scarcity of inventory, I am surprised that the premiums are not higher.

American Gold Eagle Bullion Coin Sales Up Sharply in March

gold-eagle-100x100According to the latest report from the US Mint, sales of the American Gold Eagle bullion coins soared in March from both the previous month’s sales and the previous year.

Total sales of the Gold Eagle bullion coins during March came in at 46,500 ounces, up by 151% from the previous month’s sales of 18,500 ounces.  Sales of the gold bullion coins were also way ahead of the year ago month, with more than double the sales of 21,000 ounces in March 2014.

Although sales of the gold bullion coins have been declining since 2009, year to date sales for 2015 have slightly outpaced the previous comparable period.  For the three month period ending March 31, 2015, the US Mint sold a total of 146,000 ounces, up from 143,500 ounces in the previous year’s quarter.

Sales of the gold bullion coins during 2014 totaled 524,500 ounces.  If the sales pace for the first quarter continues, sales for 2015 should outpace last year by around 60,000 ounces.

The chart below shows sales by year since 2000 of the US Mint American Gold Eagle bullion coins.

The current price for a one ounce gold bullion coin is about $1,270, an expensive purchase for many people but the Mint also sells smaller weight coins.   The American Eagle gold bullion coins are also available in one-half ounce, one-quarter ounce and one-tenth ounce sizes.   A one-tenth ounce gold American Eagle coin currently costs only about $138.  During March the US Mint sold a total of 70,000 one-tenth ounce coins, 8,000 quarter ounce coins, and 5,000 one-half ounce coins indicating solid demand by small investors for physical gold.

American Eagle Gold Bullion Sales Plunge in February Following Weak 2014 Sales

gold-bullionThe US Mint’s February sales report for American Eagle gold bullion coins revealed slow sales in February continuing the weak sales trend set in 2014.

For the month of February 2015 total sales of the American Eagle gold bullion coins rang in at only 18,500 ounces, down 40.3 percent from the comparable prior year’s month and down a whopping 77.2 percent from the prior month’s sales of 81,000 ounces.  Who needs gold when you can buy government debt at negative interest rates?

The situation with gold and all other assets classes has been distorted beyond all traditional metrics by the ultra easy monetary policies of the world’s central banks.  Leverage in the world financial system now exceeds by many orders of magnitude that which existed prior to the financial crisis of 2008 which nearly brought the system to a grinding halt.  Where and when we go from here is anyone’s guess but I think it’s fair to conclude that at some future point gold will be acknowledged as the only store of value that cannot be devalued by desperate governments and central banks.

Until the investment masses reach that moment of clarity when they conclude that central banks cannot provide prosperity to the masses by printing money and monetizing government debt, gold may remain on the deep discount rack.  One has to wonder about the critical thinking skills of citizens such as Greece or Russia or Venezuela or many other countries in which the currency is plunging in value and life savings are being wiped out but yet the masses are not moving into a traditional universally accepted store of value such as gold.  Considering the fragile state of paper currencies and concerted efforts by central banks to destroy the purchasing value of the currency, it should be impossible to buy any amount of gold in many countries since no logical sellers would offer their gold at any bid.

Gold bullion sales in 2014 dropped to only 524,500 ounces after fairly robust sales of about 800,000 ounces during both 2012 and 2013.  The decline in the sale of US Mint gold bullion coins can be seen in the chart below.  Note that sales figures for 2015 include year to date totals through the end of February.

Although sales of gold bullion coins has been in a definite downtrend it is interesting to note that sales of the coins are still fairly robust compared to average sales in the years prior to the financial crisis.  After an increase in sales during 2013, sales of the gold bullion coins have declined every year since peaking during 2009 despite the fact that gold bullion did not reach its peak price of almost $1,900 per troy ounce during late 2011.

Listed below are the annual sales of the US Mint American Eagle gold bullion coins since 2000.

 

Gold Bullion U.S. Mint Sales Since 2000
Year Total Ounces Sold

2000

164,500

2001

325,000

2002

315,000

2003

484,500

2004

536,000

2005

449,000

2006

261,000

2007

198,500

2008

860,500

2009

1,435,000

2010

1,220,500

2011

1,000,000

2012

753,000

2013

856,500

2014

524,500

2015

                       99500

TOTAL

 9,483,000

2015 totals through February 28, 2015

Will 2015 turn out to be another year of low demand for American Eagle gold bullion coins?  Time will tell but based on annualzied year to date sales, total US Mint gold bullion coins would total 597,000 ounces, slightly above 2014 coin sales.

American Eagle Gold Bullion Coin Sales Up 25% In November

Liberty-EagleThe sale of the US Mint American Eagle gold bullion coins remained strong in November.

The US Mint reports that sales of the gold bullion coins were 60,000 ounces in November up by 24% from last year’s monthly sales of 48,000 ounces.  Sales for November slipped from October sales of 67,500 ounces which was the second biggest sales month of the year.  The year started off with a bang for the gold bullion coins when the US Mint sold 91,500 ounces in January.

Year to date sales of 506,500 ounces through November remain far below last year’s comparable sales of 800,500 ounces, a decline of 36.7%.  The sale of gold bullion coins has been in a general decline since 2009 as seen in the yearly sales chart below.

Gold has been in a nonstop bear market decline since early 2011 and gold sentiment weakened even further with today’s announcement that Swiss voters rejected a call for the Swiss National Bank to increase their gold reserves.

gold Technical chart [Kitco Inc.]

Shown below are the total ounces sold by year since 2000 of the American Eagle gold bullion coins.  Based on current sales trends sales of the gold bullion coins for 2014 will decline to the lowest levels since 2007.

Gold Plunges After Swiss Voters Reject Central Bank Gold Buying

SNBGold can’t catch a break lately as Swiss Voters Reject Measure Forcing SNB to Acquire More Gold.

Swiss voters rejected a measure in a referendum requiring their central bank to hold a portion of its assets in gold, a measure its President Thomas Jordan termed an “invitation to speculators” that could have hurt the economy. Bullion tumbled to a three-week low.

The “Save Our Swiss Gold” proposal stipulating the Swiss National Bank hold at least 20 percent of its 520-billion-franc ($540 billion) balance sheet in gold and never sell any bullion was voted down by 77 percent to 23 percent, the government said yesterday. Polls had forecast the initiative’s rejection. Two other initiatives on tax privileges for foreign millionaires and immigration limits also were rejected.

SNB policy makers estimated they would have needed to buy 70 billion francs worth of gold if the referendum had passed. Some economists estimated the SNB wouldn’t have had to sell euros to meet the requirement, given its dollar holdings. At the end of the third quarter, it held 45 percent of its 460 billion francs of foreign currencies in euros and 29 percent in dollars.

Even though the Swiss gold referendum was expected to be defeated gold prices plunged by over $38 per ounce in late Sunday trading and silver was pulverized with prices down almost 8%.

As stocks and bonds continue to soar on liquidity provided by central bank quantitative easing investors have been dumping gold by the tons from their portfolios.  The Swiss Gold Rejection simply gave investors another reason to stay away from gold which has been in a vicious bear market.

Gold has lost 19 percent since peaking in March and investor holdings of exchange-traded products are near a five-year low. While prices probably won’t be affected too much by the “no” vote of the initiative called “Save Our Swiss Gold,” approval would have improved sentiment and increased prices by as much as $50 an ounce, HSBC Holdings Plc estimated in November.

“Gold had received some support in the last couple of weeks” before the vote, Georgette Boele, an analyst at ABN Amro Bank NV in Amsterdam, said by phone. “We’ll get more pressure on gold. The overall outlook is not looking great.”

2014-proof-gold-eagle

Even the surprise news that India had ended curbs on gold imports did nothing to support prices.  In a bear market all news is bad and gold can’t seem to find a support level.  The irony of it all is that the massive euro holdings of the Swiss National Bank were purchased with Swiss francs manufactured out of thin air by the SNB to prevent its currency from appreciating against the euro.  Governments world wide have turned an experiment with quantitative easing into  national policy and are churning out trillions of dollars of printed fiat currencies.  Last I heard the value of anything depreciates as the quantity increases.  Although it’s a tough market right now, long term I’m betting that it’s a smart move to have some gold on hand.

American Eagle Gold Bullion Coin Sales Soar 132% In September

gold-bullionDespite the ongoing slump in the price of gold, buyers of physical gold seem to sense that gold has reached bargain levels.  The September sales report from the US Mint shows that sales of the American Eagle gold bullion coins soared by 132% over the previous month.

September sales of gold bullion coins totaled 58,000 ounces, up from 25,000 ounces in August and 13,000 ounces last year.  Sales of gold bullion coins reached the highest level of the year since January when the Mint sold 91,500 ounces.

Despite the monthly increase, sales of gold bullion coins remain weak compared to previous years.  Year to date 2014 sales total 379,000 ounces compared to 704,000 ounces in the comparable prior year.

Gold has reached what some think is a critical support level in the $1200 range, a point from which gold has rebounded three times in the last two years.

Courtesy: Kitco.com

Courtesy: Kitco.com

With the stock and bond markets delivering robust returns to investors due to the unprecedented easy money policies of the Federal Reserve interest in gold has diminished greatly.  History has shown time and again that the best time to invest in an asset class is when the crowd thinks there is no reason to buy.

Sales of gold bullion coins have been steadily declining since 2009 when sales soared to almost 1.5 million ounces.  Sales of gold bullion coins by year since 2000 are shown below.

Based on the present sales rate of the American Eagle gold bullion coins, total sales for 2014  could drop to the lowest level since 2007.

Gold Bullion Coin Buyers Go On Strike – Sales Drop Again in August

1986-gold-eagleSales of the US Mint American Eagle gold bullion coins slumped again in August following the fall off in demand seen in July.   August sales of 25,000 ounces dropped by 16.6% or 5,000 ounces from July’s total of 30,000 ounces.

Although August 2014 sales of the gold bullion coins was more than double the 11,500 ounces sold in August 2013 the overall sales trend of American Eagle gold bullion coins has been in a steep slump during 2014 compared to the previous year.  Year to date sales of the gold American Eagle bullion coins as of August 31, 2014 totaled 321,000 ounces, a decline of almost 54% from comparable year sales of 691,000 ounces.

The price weakness in gold prices seen during 2013 continued this year as Gold Demand Falls 16% as Jewelry Purchases Decline 30%.

Gold demand fell 16 percent in the second quarter, led by declines in India and China, the World Gold Council said.

Global demand slipped to 963.8 metric tons from 1,148.3 tons a year earlier as jewelry purchases fell to the lowest since the fourth quarter of 2012, the London-based council said today in a report. China fell behind India as the largest consumer, with global jewelry buying dropping 30 percent and bar and coin demand down 56 percent. Mining companies hedged 50 tons as they continued selling future output.

Gold slid 28 percent in 2013, the most in three decades, as investors lost faith in the metal amid expectations U.S. policy makers would cut stimulus as the economy strengthens. Last year’s price drop spurred jewelry, coin and bar demand, particularly in China. Indian bullion buying has slowed as the government restricted imports to curb a current account deficit.

Global jewelry demand declined to 509.6 tons in the latest quarter, the least since the final three months of 2012. China’s purchases slipped 45 percent and those in India fell 18 percent, with the countries together accounting for almost 60 percent of world jewelry consumption. Buying rose 15 percent in the U.S. and 21 percent in the U.K. as consumer confidence rose, it said.

Global bar buying slumped 57 percent to 212.1 tons in the three months through June and coin demand slid 50 percent to 46.3 tons. Global consumer demand was down 42 percent to 784.9 tons, according to the report.

Total consumption in China, which overtook India as the biggest user last year, dropped 52 percent to 192.5 tons, the council said. Indian demand fell 39 percent to 204.1 tons, returning as the largest purchaser on a quarterly basis for the first time since the end of 2012.

The decline in demand for gold seems to be feeding upon itself as lower prices beget lower demand.  As gold prices climbed towards $2,000 an ounce during 2011 buyers tripped over each other to get into gold.  Ironically, buyers have now gone on strike as gold has become available at bargain prices.

The sale of gold bullion coins has been in a downward slump since 2009 when sales soared to record levels during the height of the financial meltdown.  There are many things happening in the world today that cause serious people to think that 2009 was just a warm up for what’s to come next – if this is correct, the demand for gold could turn sharply higher in a very short period of time.

Total gold bullion coin sales through August 2014 are shown below.

Based on the year to date figures, gold bullion coin sales could well end the year at about half of 2013 totals.

Gold American Eagle Bullion Coin Sales Soar 37% in June – Will Gold Outperform Stocks in 2014?

2014-proof-gold-eagleSales of the US Mint American Eagle gold bullion coins soared in June to 48,500 ounces from the previous month of May during which sales totaled 35,500.  Demand for gold bullion coins, however, has been relatively soft compared to previous years.

June sales of the gold bullion coins were down from the year ago period when 57,000 ounces were sold during June 2013.  At the current sales pace 2014 annual sales of the gold bullion coins would come in at roughly 500,000 ounces down significantly from total sales of 856,500 ounces during 2013.  Sales of the American Eagle gold bullion coins hit a record high of 1,435,000 ounces during 2009 when the financial system was still in intensive care and the Federal Reserve initiated a massive money printing campaign to “save” the world.

Gold should always have a presence in an investment portfolio but since mid 2011 stocks have become a powerful competing investment alternative to precious metals. The easy money policies of the Federal Reserve have served to inflate asset values of stocks and bonds to dangerously overvalued levels according to many analysts.

Will stocks and bonds continue to enjoy easy gains of 20 to 30 percent a year or will the entire house of cards built on easy printed money come tumbling down when the world least expects it?  Just this week the Bank for International Settlements (a consortium of the world’s biggest central banks) issued an alarming warning about growing levels of debt and the dangerous unintended consequences of zero interest rate policies.

The report issued by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) noted that “Overall, it is hard to avoid the sense of a puzzling disconnect between the markets’ buoyancy and underlying economic developments globally.”  The head of the BIS’s economic department further noted that  “Financial markets are euphoric, in the grip of an aggressive search for yield…and yet investment in the real economy remains weak while the macroeconomic and geopolitical outlook is still highly uncertain.”  The BIS noted the obvious when it cautioned that the ultra low levels of interest rate due to financial repression by central banks is encouraging further borrowing but an eventual rise in interest rates will amplify the problem of excessively high levels of debt, a consequence that no one seems prepared for.

So who needs gold when stocks are heading straight up and the consensus is that this wealth machine of easy money and asset inflation is unstoppable?

Gold, silver and stocks

At some unknowable point in time and for some unpredictable reason the euphoria of the credit bubble created by the central banks will burst just as all bubbles in history have burst.  The resulting financial chaos that ensues from the bursting of a central bank induced credit bubble will be calamitous since the situation could well become uncontainable by world monetary authorities.  As the BIS notes, “keeping interest rates unusually low for an unusually long period can lull governments into a false sense of security” whereby they continue to borrow vast amounts of low cost funds to such excess that further expansion of government borrowings become impossible.  Governments that are unable to finance additional borrowings when the next economic downturn comes will turn to their only savior – the central banks.  Unable to stimulate the economy through rate cuts since rates are already at zero, central banks will be forced to monetize government debts on a monumental scale and when this day arrives we should all want to have a heavy percentage of our portfolios in gold.

The current mania for paper assets seems to have even infected China and India who have historically turned to gold as a safeguard against profligate governments and paper money backed only by the promises of lying politicians.   According to the Wall Street Journal demand for gold is expected to decline in both China and India during 2014.

The crowd seems to be leaning heavily towards paper assets and away from gold, suggesting that a turnaround is probably forthcoming.  Gold has already had its correction and is now on track for what will probably be a historic rally.  Consider that despite widespread bearishness on gold, the price during 2014 has held its own and is actually up on the year.  From a price of $1,225 per ounce at the start of the year gold has moved up to $1,326, not exactly a sign of weak demand.

Soaring Gold and Silver Prices Should Not Be a Surprise to Anyone

bars-of-goldThe precious metal markets caught on fire in a big way today.  Gold prices surged the most in nine months by over $40 per ounce and silver closed in on $21 per ounce.  After losing 28% last year as short term hot money investors sold out their holdings, gold and silver were ready for a huge rally from both a fundamental and technical standpoint (see Why Gold and Silver Could Outperform Every Other Asset Class in 2014).

Precious Metals June 19, 2014

METALS PRICE CHANGE PER CENT GAIN
GOLD $1319.00 +40.50 3.17%
SILVER $20.89 +0.88 4.45%
PLATINUM $1472.00 +24.00 1.66%
PALLADIUM $841.00 +12.00 1.46%

The reasons for today’s huge gains in precious metals varied in the mainstream press but soaring prices should have been no surprise to long term investors who understand why gold and silver should be a part of every portfolio.

Gold and silver constitute a fundamental defense for wealth preservation against the rapidly eroding value of paper currencies backed by broke governments which is Why All Governments Hate Gold.

The various governments of the world and their central banks produce and distribute a product – paper currencies. Those currencies are backed by confidence, faith, and credit, but not by gold, oil, or anything real. Those currencies are digitally printed to excess, since almost all governments spend more than their revenues. The UK, Japan, and the USA are prime examples.

Politicians want to spend more money, but they also need to maintain the illusion that the money is still valuable, that it will retain most of its purchasing power over time, and that inflation is under control. The illusion weakens when food, gasoline prices, and other consumer goods are wildly rising in price. At a more abstract level, gold indicates the same lack of confidence in the printed pieces of paper that our central banks distribute.

If last year’s price correction shattered your conviction in owning gold and silver please consider The Fundamental Reasons for Owning Gold and Silver Are Stronger Than Ever.

One of the best methods for protecting wealth against a constantly depreciating paper currency is to own precious metals.

The bull case for precious metals remains intact as central bankers worldwide have become the lenders of last resort for nations that have exhausted their borrowing capacities.  Very little has changed since 2008 when the world financial system stood at the abyss of collapse.  Unsustainable debt levels continue to increase even as the capacity to service the debt diminishes.

Virtually every government in the world has taken on debts and liabilities that are clearly unsustainable.  Governments “don’t go broke” is the sustaining mantra for those with faith in paper currencies but governments do and will continue to print money that accelerates the loss of purchasing power of fiat currencies.  Please consider the following charts courtesy of John Mauldin Economics.

Eventually, as people realize that the central bank emperors have no clothes it will become clear Why There is No Upside Limit for Gold and Silver Prices.

The increase in the value of gold and silver is due to the fiscal and monetary policies of nations struggling to deal with massive levels of debt – policies that virtually guarantee a continued rise in the price of gold and silver.  Central banks, having exhausted all conventional means of monetary easing, have moved on to the last resort option of quantitative easing and currency debasement.

Government officials argue that unprecedented deficit spending and quantitative easing are necessary to stimulate economic  growth, but this theory has not worked in the real world.  Despite trillions in stimulus spending,  job creation and economic growth have been extremely weak and are likely to remain so according to economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart who wrote This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.  According to Rogoff and Reinhart, economic growth is subpar when public sector debt exceeds 90% of GPD which the U.S. and many other developed nations have already surpassed.  In addition, a recovery of the job and housing markets after a financial crisis take many years due to the burden of excessive levels of debt.  Ultimately, Rogoff and Reinhart predict that austerity measures will need to be imposed along with some type of debt restructuring.

Is the U.S. capable of reducing spending and  instituting austerity measures? Cutting deficits means cutting payments to a long list of incomeless recipients who really don’t care where the entitlement money comes from.  Those still actually paying taxes will object strongly to any proposed tax increase to fund government spending.  Unable to cut spending or raise taxes leaves the Government with one bad option – print more money.

Politicians, who value getting elected above all else, are likely to strong arm the reliably compliant Federal Reserve to “come to the rescue” again with additional printed dollars.   In the minds of politicians and Federal Reserve officials, there will always be very compelling reasons to continue borrowing and money printing.

A nation that has reached the limits on taxation and borrowing has few viable policy options other than a continuing series of quantitative easing programs.  Current government policies, if left unchanged, virtually guarantee a continued increase in the price of precious metals.