November 28, 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.

The Bright Side Of Plunging Gold Stocks

Each day another gold stock blows up.  Last week it was NovaGold (NG) and then Newmont Mining (NEM) and before that a long list too painful to mention.  Although I strongly prefer holding physical precious metals over mining companies, the gold stocks that I do own have put in less than a sterling performance.

I won’t bother going through the reasons why gold stocks could recover or mention the fact that many of them are trading at a fraction of what they were worth when gold was a thousand dollars lower.  Stocks are ultimately valued on earnings and for a variety of reasons, many of the mining companies have not been able to translate higher gold prices into higher dividends or earnings.

To put this all into perspective, I was pondering on two innate character traits I possess that can be confirmed by anyone who knows me.

First and foremost, I procrastinate on everything in life, but actually have a very profound theory to validate the benefits of a trait that many would view as indolence.  Despite the occasional guilt for not doing something today instead of next week, I have conclusively proved to myself that a large percentage of those “today to do list” items somehow resolve themselves without my intervention.  Perhaps just a rationalization but it seems to work.

My second dominate character trait, and this one actually relates to plunging gold stocks, is my innate belief that somehow there is a blessing lurking next to each catastrophe.  What often times seems like Armageddon may be a benefit.  So how exactly do plunging gold mining stocks wind up benefiting long term gold investors?  The answer is actually in the details of each poor earnings report delivered regularly by gold miners.  When you drill into the core reasons for poor earnings, the answers all correlate  to lower gold production due to overestimates of ore reserves, mining difficulties and the higher cost of mining lower grade ore reserves.

The fundamental fact is that the quantity of high grade ore reserves has declined dramatically making it much more costly and difficult to produce gold.  In a recent article the Wall Street Journal estimated that at current production rates, all known gold reserves would be depleted within ten years.  It wouldn’t take much of a bump in demand to eventually propel gold to multiples of today’s price.

Here’s a neat info graphic from visual.ly.  Note that net gold supply has been static for the past decade and large scale high grade gold deposits are rarer than ever.

Gold Part II: Mining and Supply 


There’s No Reason Gold Stocks Should Be So Cheap – Newmont Mining On The Bargain Rack

Over the past five years, gold bullion has dramatically outperformed the average gold stock.  Reasons why bullion has outperformed gold stocks include an investor preference for physical gold and the inability of gold miners to produce earnings gains commensurate with the increase in the price of gold.

The end result of investor aversion to gold stocks has resulted in many quality gold stocks, such as Newmont Mining (NEM), winding up on the bargain rack.  Newmont Mining is one of the world’s largest gold producers that has positioned itself for profitable growth after restructuring its operations.  Newmont Mining management is forecasting a 35% increase in gold production to 7 million ounces annually over the next six years.

Revenue growth at Newmont has grown by 10% annually over the past 10 years.  Earnings per share increased from $.45 per share in 2002 to $4.68 per share in 2010.  For the year ending December 31, 2010, gross margins hit a record 61%, cash holdings increased to $4.1 billion and revenues climbed by 23% to $9.5 billion.  Newmont Mining has a dividend yield of 2.3% with a very low payout ratio of 18% and is committed to increasing the dividend in line with the increase in the price of gold.  Newmont’s total proven and probably gold reserves of 93.5 million ounces are valued at only $285 per share.

Newmont Mining - courtesy yahoo finance

 

In this week’s Barron’s Roundtable, analyst Fred Hickey talks about Newmont Mining and why he is bullish on gold.

Hickey: Newmont Mining [NEM], which I recommended last year, outperformed. [The stock rose 5.5% through Dec. 30.] The driver is gross margin expansion. Gold prices are up by a factor of six through this bull market, yet costs have roughly doubled. The company has had tremendous cash flow, leading to dividend increases. Newmont has tied its dividend policy to the gold price. If the price rises, you are guaranteed more dividends. The money won’t be wasted on bad acquisitions. In 2008 Newmont earned under $2 a share. It could earn $4.82 for 2011, and $5.96 in 2012. There’s no reason these stocks should be so cheap.

As Felix has said, owning physical gold is important. In addition, you can own gold through exchange-traded funds, such as the GLD [ SPDR Gold Shares]. They are audited. The U.S. government’s gold holdings haven’t been independently audited in decades. The GLD charges fees of 0.40% of assets. The IAU, or iShares Gold Trust, charges only 0.25% of assets. It trades for about a hundredth of the price of gold, so it is selling for $15.76 a share. It has been around since 2005 and has $9 billion in assets and 171 tons of gold. It stores its gold in vaults around the world. Last year I recommended stocks. This year I like the GDX, or Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF. It gives you diversification with 31 names, including a few silver stocks. Barrick Gold [ABX], Newmont and Goldcorp [GG] account for 41% of assets. At some point gold stocks will outperform bullion.

Newmont is currently selling at a steep discount to the underlying value of its gold reserves.  As the price of gold continues to rise, the stock will eventually reflect the fundamentals and could easily double from current levels.

Gold Mining Stocks Break Out To New Highs; 3 Gold Stocks That Should Double

The divergence between the performance of gold bullion and gold stocks seems to be coming to an end.  Both the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) and the Gold Bugs Index ($HUI) have broken out to new highs as investors move into undervalued gold mining shares.

 

During the initial stages of the gold bull market,gold stocks significantly outperformed gold bullion.  From October of 2000 to June of 2008 gold stocks, as measured by the PHLX Gold/Silver Index (XAU), rose 345% compared to a gain of 252% for gold bullion.

Since 2008 gold stocks have significantly underperformed bullion as gold prices increased by over $1,000 per ounce.    As a result, many gold stocks are selling at bargain prices based on increased earnings and the value of proven gold reserves.

Investors have a wide variety of options for investing in gold mining shares including ETFs and gold stock mutual funds.  One of the best performing gold funds is the Tocqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX) run by John Hathaway.  TGLDX has achieved an average annual return of 26% over the past 10 years.   An investment of $10,000 in the Tocqueville Gold Fund made in June 2001 was worth $102,929 as of June 2011.

For investors who prefer to invest in individual gold mining shares, here’s a short list of three gold mining stocks that could easily double in price.

Newmont Mining (NEM) is a large cap gold mining company with proven and probable gold reserves of 93.5 million ounces.  NEM has a strong balance sheet, is forecasting an increase in gold production of 35% over the next six years and pays a cash dividend of 50 cents per share (see A Large Cap Gold Stock That Could Double in Price). NEM hit a new all time high today.

Kinross Gold (KGC) is selling at a large discount to the value of its gold reserves.  One value investor is forecasting a price target of $27 per share (see How Patient Investors Can Buy Gold At $250 Per Ounce).  KGC closed Thursday at $18.18, up $0.40.

Richmont Mines (RIC) is a junior gold producer.  Earnings for the second quarter of 2011 increased from $0.01 per share to $0.16 per share compared to the prior year.  RIC hit a new high of $12.03 at yesterday’s close.

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Stocks Are Positioned For An Explosive Move Up

Historically, gold stocks have outperformed gold bullion.  Mining companies typically benefit from leveraged earning gains as gold prices rise and production costs remain stable.  Higher gross profits on each ounce of gold produced flow right to the bottom line, boasting profits and stock prices.

During the initial phase of the gold bull market, investors reaped greater profits by owning a basket of gold mining stocks as opposed to holding gold bullion.

Using the PHLX Gold/Silver Index (XAU) as a proxy for mining stocks, the XAU significantly out performed gold bullion during the initial stages of the gold bull market from 2000 through 2008.  From 43.87 in October 2000, the XAU advanced to 195.25 in June 2008 for a gain of 345%.  During that same period of time, gold rose from $264 in October 2000 to $930 in June of 2008 for a gain of 252%.

XAU GOLD/SLVER INDEX - COURTESY YAHOO FINANCE

Since 2008, however, the price correlation of gold mining stocks to gold bullion has reversed.  Despite a doubling in the price of gold since 2008, the XAU is only marginally higher at 210.93 for a very paltry gain of 8%.  An investor who was super bullish on gold since 2008 would have gained virtually nothing in mining stocks while the price of gold soared.

Investors in broadly diversified precious metal mutual funds had equally poor results.  As of June 2011, both the Vanguard and Fidelity gold mutual funds have drastically under performing gold bullion since 2008.  The Vanguard Precious Metals Fund (VGPMX) actually delivered a horrendous three year return of minus 0.46% as the price of gold soared 80%.  The only investors in gold mining stocks since 2008 who made profits were those astute enough to pick the handful of mining stocks that out performed gold bullion.

Even the Tocqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX), run by legendary gold investor John Hathaway, has been unable to outperform gold bullion since 2008.

 

XAU, GLD, TGLDX - COURTESY YAHOO FINANCE

Some of the reasons for the disconnect between gold mining companies and gold bullion since 2008 include the following.

  • Investors learned the downside risks of leverage during 2008 when gold stocks got absolutely crushed while the price of gold bullion had a relatively modest decline.  As measured by the XAU, gold stocks declined by a devastating 65.7% during 2008 while gold bullion declined by only 29% from a peak of $1,011 to a low of $713.
  • A growing preference for holding physical gold and silver.
  • The realization by investors that it takes an in-depth technical knowledge of the mining industry as well as the ability to analyze financial statements to be able to pick the gold mining stock that will outperform gold bullion.
  • Gold mining companies can go bankrupt while gold bullion is eternal and will always retain a value and constitute a store of wealth.  Long time gold investors may remember stocks like Echo Bay Mines, Royal Oak Mines and many others which became worthless.
  • The introduction of gold ETFs such as the SPDR gold shares (GLD) created competition for gold mining stocks.  Before gold ETFs were established, investors who wanted exposure to the gold market without having to hold physical bullion would have had to invest in gold mining shares.  The GLD recently became the largest ETF by value with holdings of over $70 billion in gold bullion.

Investor preference for gold bullion and gold ETFs over mining stocks has created a vast pricing disparity between gold bullion and gold stocks.  High quality major gold producers with vast proven reserves of gold are now on the bargain table.  Gold stocks are selling at almost all time lows compared to gold bullion.   Two bargain gold mining stocks previously featured in goldandsilverblog.com are Newmont Mining (NEM) and Kinross Gold (KGC).  Investors in Kinross Gold, for example, are effectively buying gold at around $300 per ounce.

Markets can price stocks far below fundamental values, sometimes for an extended period of time, but ultimately the underlying value will be reasserted.  Gold mining stocks at this time represent immense value and are being steeply discounted.

What will be the trigger for an explosive move up in quality gold mining stocks?  Consider Glencore’s recent bids for nickel, coal and copper miners as reported in ft.com.

Glencore on Wednesday launched a A$268m (US$280m) bid to acquire full control of Minara Resources, an Australia-based nickel miner in which it already has a 73 per cent stake. Last month it offered $475m (£295m) to acquire one of Peru’s largest copper prospects, the Mina Justa project.

Industry executives said that Glencore’s latest target was Optimum, South Africa’s fourth largest coal exporter. The trading house is close to launching a bid for the Johannesburg-listed miner with the support of several South African partners, executives said.

Gold mining stocks have become  irresistible take over targets.  The first takeover bid for a gold mining company will trigger a buying stampede which could rapidly result in a doubling of gold stock prices from currently depressed levels.

Smart Money Investors Assess Gold Market

Given the recent extreme volatility in worldwide financial markets, Barron’s interviewed their Roundtable Panelists for an assessment on where we are headed next.   Three of the smart money investment pros interviewed gave their insights on where they think gold is headed next.

Here’s what they had to say:

1.  Investor Felix Zulauf thinks that the stock market will see new lows in the fall and that eventually both the Fed and the European Central Bank will step in to support the financial system.  Although Felix feels that providing additional liquidity is not a solution, “if we don’t do it the system will break down.”  According to Felix, at some point, as the problems get bigger, central banks may hit the panic button and wind up “like Zimbabwe”.  The increasing price of gold reflects the loss of confidence in policy makers, central banks and the currency.  Felix’s recommendation for a bleak future – “own a lot of gold, and don’t have debt.”

2.  Fred Hickey, who is editor of The High-Tech Strategist, also sees the Fed being forced to initiate more quantitative easing as economic conditions deteriorate.  The drawback of more money printing, however, is that “the Fed…can raise the nominal prices of assets – but not the real prices, because inflation will rise.”   Hickey, who owns both bullion and gold ETFs think the better play right now is in gold mining stocks since they have lagged the price increase in gold bullion.  Hickey is recommending Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM), Newmont Mining (NEM) and Yamana Gold (AUY).

3.  Marc Faber, Editor of The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, sees a short term bounce in stock prices and a possible correction in gold of $100 to $150.  After a rally off oversold levels, Marc thinks stocks will drift lower due to concerns over sovereign defaults, a dollar crisis, continued social upheaval in the Middle East and developed countries in the West, recession, lower corporate profits and the possibility of a “bust in China.”   As for the gold market, Faber remains long term bullish saying that “As long as the trio of Obama, Geithner and Bernanke are in power, gold is destined to move higher.  Long term treasuries have no value.  They will default by paying interest in a worthless currency.”

Bill Gross, head of investment firm Pimco, while not specifically addressing the gold market, is also bearish on the economic outlook for the the United States and implied that the more quantitative easing is the only option left.  According to Gross, the recent Fed announcement that it will keep interest rates at zero for another two years “indicates that monetary policy has been exhausted, while fiscal policy is hammerlocked by the results of the debt ceiling debate.”

Gold is beginning to look more and more like the only safe haven in a dangerous world.

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.

 

STOCKS VS GOLD - COURTESY YAHOO.COM

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Why Gold Stocks Are A Better Value Than Physical Gold Or Gold ETFs

Many investors in gold mining companies are probably asking “where did I go wrong”?   While the price of gold bullion has moved relentlessly higher,  many large cap gold stocks have seen little or no price appreciation in recent years.

In a previous post, we examined the poor returns of two major gold stock mutual funds compared to the return on owning physical gold.  While the price of gold has soared 80% over the past three years, the three year return on the Vanguard Precious Metals Fund (VGPMX) was -.46% and the three year return on the Fidelity Select Gold Portfolio (FSAGX) was only 16.2%.

Why gold stocks have so badly lagged the run up in the price of gold remains subject to conjecture.  Some analysts speculate that investors prefer to avoid the risks associated with gold mining stocks and as a result have turned to physical gold and gold ETFs.  Since their introduction in 2004, gold ETFs have become very popular with investors, and now hold a total of almost $98 billion in assets.  By way of comparison, the market value of three of the largest gold mining companies, Barrick Gold (ABX), Gold Corp (GG) and Newmont Mining (NEM) total $108 billion.

If the gold ETFs did not exist, it is likely that some of the funds that flowed to gold ETFs would have instead flowed into gold mining companies.  However, the historical correlation between gold bullion and gold mining stocks has not always been perfectly linked.  There have been times when gold stocks outperformed or simply matched the price gains of gold bullion.

The recent under performance of gold stocks relative to gold bullion will probably not continue.  Many large cap gold mining companies are positioned to see significant increases in earnings that will eventually propel their stock prices higher.  Going forward, it is likely that gold investors will see higher returns on quality gold mining stocks than on holdings of physical gold or gold ETFs.

Two high quality gold mining companies previously featured in the GoldandSilverBlog that should see significant price gains are Newmont Gold (NEM) and Kinross Gold (KGC).

Newmont Gold is one of the world’s largest gold producers.  The Company has been increasing profits and production for several years and is forecasting an increase in gold production of 35% over the next six years.  Newmont has gold and copper reserves valued at $363 per share and pays a cash dividend of $0.50 per share which will be increased by $0.20 for every $100 increase in the price of gold.  Newmont shares closed on Friday at $52.10.

Kinross Gold had very strong first quarter results with revenue up 42% and earnings up 81%.  The Company’s cost of production is $543 per ounce and Kinross is forecasting an increase in gold production of 77% by 2015.  At the current price of $15.50 per share, an investor is effectively buying gold at around $250 per ounce.  Kinross Gold pays a dividend of $.10 per share.

The current pricing disparity between quality gold mining stocks and gold bullion has presented investors with an opportunity to purchase gold shares at deeply discounted prices.

Besides being able to effectively buy gold at a steep discount, gold mining companies pay dividends which are likely to increase substantially.   Another significant benefit of owning gold mining companies is the much more favorable tax treatment on gains.  Gold bullion and gold ETFs are taxed as collectibles at 28%, while the long term capital gains tax rate on gold stocks is only 15%.

A Large Cap Gold Stock That Could Double In Price

Many small cap gold mining companies have seen significant price gains, while large cap gold stocks have underperformed.  With fundamentals driving the price of gold steadily higher, many large cap gold mining companies are perfectly positioned to see large earnings increases that will propel their stock prices higher.

One large cap gold mining company that could be on the verge of doubling in price over the next few years is Newmont Mining Corporation (NEM).   The stock has underperformed other large cap gold mining companies despite the fact that the company’s fundamentals have dramatically improved over the past few years.  The improved fundamentals, once recognized by the market, are likely to push Newmont’s stock price much higher.

Newmont Mining is one of the world’s largest gold producers with operations in Ghana, Indonesia, Nevada, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Canada and Mexico.  For the past three years, Newmont Mining has been positioning itself for future growth through financial and operational restructuring and is now poised for additional significant growth in revenue and profits.

Revenues have grown from $6.1 billion in 2008 to $9.5 billion for the year ending December 31, 2010.  During the past three years, gold production increased by only 3.7% from 5.2 million ounces in 2008 to 5.4 million ounces in 2010.  The majority of revenue increases over the past three years were driven by increased gold prices, but Newmont is forecasting an increase in gold production of 35% over the next six years to 7 million ounces annually.  The combination of increased gold production and higher gold prices could result in explosive earnings growth.

Newmont Mining has proven and probable gold reserves of 93.5 million ounces, equivalent to $285 per share.   Newmont is also a major copper producer with proven and probable reserves of 9.4 billion pounds, equivalent to 19.1 pounds per share.   The value of copper reserves is worth approximately $78 per share.   In 2010, Newmont produced 327 million pounds of copper.

Gold reserves are expected to increase based on the Company’s global portfolio and continual exploration efforts.

The Company paid shareholders a cash dividend of $0.50 per share in 2010 and expects to increase this by $0.20 per share for every $100 increase in the price of gold.

Newmont Mining has an extremely strong balance sheet with $5.6 billion in cash at year end 2010.   According to the Company’s annual report, Newmont offers investors the “best per-share gold-price leverage in the industry.  Every $100 increase in gold price translates into approximately $350 in additional after-tax operating cash flows, or approximately $0.70 per share.  We deliver better gold price leverage than any of our competitors.”

Newmont Mining’s stock price of $53.44 at today’s close is actually lower than five years ago when it traded at about $55 in early July 2006.

 

NEWMONT MINING - COURTESY YAHOO FINANCE

Newmont Mining trades at a low price earnings ratio of 12 and pays a 1.5% annual dividend.  Based on the Company’s recent results and bright prospects for future revenue and profit growth, it is only a matter of time before investors drive the stock price higher.  Many other major gold producers have price earnings ratios in the low 20’s or higher.  If Newmont Mining sold at a PE ratio in the low 20’s, the stock’s price would be over $100 per share.