July 6, 2022

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.

RELATIVE PERFORMANCE STOCKS VS GLD - COURTESY YAHOO FINANCE

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.