November 27, 2022

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 


How Did An Investment Pro Lose Money Investing In Gold?

Despite the recent set back in gold prices due to panic selling by investors, gold has still racked up an impressive 15.7% gain with a price increase of $218 per ounce since the first of the year.  So how does a hedge fund manager with one of the best track records in the industry wind up losing over 10% on his gold portfolio?

The man who can answer this question is John Paulson, famous for his billion dollar gains betting against subprime mortgages before they collapsed in price.  Making matters even worse, the set back in Paulson’s Gold Fund, although painful, pales in comparison to losses run up by the Paulson Advantage Fund, as reported by Bloomberg.

John Paulson, the billionaire money manager mired in the worst slump of his career, lost 10.5 percent in his Gold Fund this year even as the metal heads for its 11th straight annual gain, according to people familiar with the fund’s performance.

The fund, which invests in mining stocks and other gold- related securities, remains the best performer in Paulson’s $28 billion fund family this year. His Paulson Advantage Fund, which seeks to profit from corporate events such as takeovers and bankruptcies, has fallen about 35 percent. The performance numbers for the two funds are from Dec. 28, 2010, through Dec. 20, 2011, and may not reflect returns for all shareholders, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Paulson & Co., based in New York, has lost money this year on investments including Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Sino-Forest Corp., the Chinese forestry company accused by short-seller Carson Block of overstating timberland holdings. Paulson, 56, cut the so-called net exposure in his main hedge funds to 30 percent last month and reduced bullish bets across all his funds.

Paulson’s frustrations with the losses on his gold portfolio mirrors that of other investors who have bet on gold stocks and lost despite the fact that gold bullion scored another impressive advance this year.

Paulson’s had large positions in Anglo Gold Ashanti (AU), Gold Fields Ltd (GFI), Nova Gold Resources (NG), Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM), Iamgold Corp (IAG) and Barrick Gold Corp (ABX), all of which declined.  Agnico-Eagle Mines was the worst performer with a stunning decline of over 50% on the year.

It will be interesting to see if Paulson dramatically reduces his positions in gold mining shares over the coming quarters.  Given the fact that the fundamentals for owning gold are stronger than ever and gold mining shares are deeply oversold, it would not be surprising to see Paulson actually increase his gold stock holdings.