Investors know by now that one of the leading indicators of an unstable and unpredictable stock market is a surge in the price of precious metals like gold and silver. In February, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the markets officially entered a recession, even though just months later several of the major indices have reached all-time highs. It was a brief dip into recessionary territory, but this sort of volatility is what gives investors hesitation in putting their money into the stock market, rather than something that is perceived to be more stable. Gold future contracts are selling well above $2000 per ounce for the rest of 2020 and well into 2021 as well showing that investors are confident that gold will continue to rise in price. Silver is also surging reaching new all-time highs on a daily basis. So investors may be curious as to how to get into this red-hot market, especially as the markets continue to fluctuate.
For centuries now gold has been literally the ‘gold-standard’ of currency and wealth. Dating back all the way to around 40,000 B.C. in Spanish caves, gold is a naturally occurring element that has both fascinated and lured people for as long as barter systems and wealth has been recorded. Currently, gold is enjoying its highest valuations in history as investors flock to the stability of the precious metal through various streams. So what is the allure of gold and why is it so stable?
Warren Buffett once said, “Gold is a way of going long on fear.” That is quite a statement from perhaps the greatest investment mind of our generation. But what does this mean for the novice investor? Even the most successful blue-chip stocks can crash. Obviously the more prominent and profitable companies with mega market caps will not crash as easily as smaller companies, but given the volatility of the pandemic, we can see anything happen. But as stock markets fluctuate on a daily basis, the price of gold remains mostly stoic. Not as manipulatable as stock prices, gold is as steady as it gets for investors.
What makes gold so stable? It is a combination of factors, first and foremost, it is a physical and tangible element which makes it possible for people to store and stockpile. It does not corrode or wear down over time, making it durable and ensuring that the value remains. There is also a finite supply of it in the world. This reinforces that it will always keep a certain level of valuation as the supply is kept in check.
Today, as the Federal Reserve tries desperately to pump money into the American economy to stave off a global recession and keep companies afloat. Printing more American dollars helps in the interim, but it is a temporary band-aid for the bigger problem. As more of the dollar gets created the more it gets devalued as a form of currency. This is another reason why gold is skyrocketing. The two valuations always work inversely to each other, so as the greenback continues to plummet, the price of gold will continue to surge which makes perfect sense if one thinks about it. The value of gold is priced in American dollars per ounce, so if the value of an American dollar retreats, the cost of gold will rise in response.
So how can investors take advantage of the current state of gold? In the age of internet investing, there are plenty of ways to invest in gold or anything in that matter. Most American platforms give inventors the ability to buy fractional shares of companies. While this comes in handy for expensive stocks like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL), or Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), it also allows investors to diversify their funds across multiple companies to form a basket approach to an industry. There are also plenty of ETFs or Exchange Traded Funds, available for investors to consider. These funds have the diversification of a mutual fund or index fund, but trade like individual stocks. Here’s a few of the better gold ETFs to consider if you are looking to get into the industry:
- IAU – iShares Gold Trust: One of the better known gold ETFs out there, iSHARES is a reputable brand with great overall market performance. The fund has returned over 17% to inventors already this year, and with the price of gold projected to continue to rise, this fund should keep delivering for investors into next year.
- DGL – Invesco DB Gold Fund: Another well known and reputable ETF, the Invesco Gold Fund has slightly higher fees than iSHARES but has also had a slightly better return so far this year.
- IAUF – iShares Gold Strategy ETF: Another iSHARES ETF, this one has parts of IAU, as well as gold futures contracts, to get a long term forecast of the price of gold so the investor gets exposure to a wider range of gold options.
There are dozens of other ETFs available for investors that cover everything from miners to the finished products. Mining company stocks are another great way to get exposure. As the demand for gold increases, these mining companies should see a rise in their revenues and eventually, their profits as well. These changes will be reflected in their stock prices and we have already seen some of this already this year.
- ABX – Barrick Gold: One of the largest gold mining companies in the world, this Canadian company has seen healthy gains in their stock price so far in 2020. Over the last 52 weeks, Barrick investors have enjoyed a 131% increase in stock price. With mining projects ongoing in Canada, America, Australia, South America, and Africa, Barrick has already announced that it is on track to achieve guidance this year despite closures from COVID-19.
- FNV – Franco-Nevada Gold: This stock price rose almost 15% in July alone. Franco-Nevada operates as a funding company to gold mining companies, rather than actually doing the mining themselves. Sustainalytics, a guidance and analysis company, rated Franco-Nevada number one amongst 104 precious metal companies.
- NEM – Newmont Goldcorp: The largest gold stock by market-cap and the only stock to trade on the S&P 500, Newmont is probably the safest company for gold investors to invest in. On top of steady returns and low volatility in the stock price, the company pays a fairly healthy dividend as well.
With gold at all-time highs, we can begin to question how high the precious metal may go. With a second wave of the coronavirus making its way around some parts of the world, and America, still making its way through their initial wave, the uncertainty that exists in today’s markets may continue into 2021. Some Wall Street analysts have forecast gold to rise as high as $10,000 per ounce, but that seems like a little ambitious. Gold has just recently hit all-time highs at $2000 per ounce and to imagine that it can run up another 500% in the next few years seems far-fetched at this point in time. That would require the markets to enter an extended bear-market, which of course is possible after a decade of a bullish run, but it would also require the American dollar to continue to be further devalued.
Gold is pegged to continue to rise for the rest of this year though and well into 2021. That means investors and analysts are foreseeing a further devaluation of the American greenback as well as continued volatility in the markets and economy. Is gold a safe haven? Some people believe it is, but if you are an investor that enjoys high returns over long periods of time, investing in precious metals may not be for you. Investors love the stability of gold but the returns are never astronomical, with the last few months being an exception. It helps to have a portion of your portfolio dedicated to precious metals to diversify and protect you from any sudden market corrections, but investors should not be looking at gold as a short-term way to get wealthy.
Silver: The other precious metal that has been flying sky-high of recent months is silver, the eternal younger brother to gold. Mined from silver-ore, it is a highly malleable metal that was once valued higher than gold by the Ancient Egyptians. Today, it is relatively low in price per ounce compared to gold, reaching all-time highs recently of just under $30 per ounce. Silver is another stable alternative to gold, and at lower prices, it may be a little more affordable for the novice investor to jump into.
Like with gold, silver has an inverse relationship to the American dollar, and to all currencies in general. Again, this is another reason why silver is hitting all-time highs right now, with silver future contracts predicting a steady rise to mirror gold, well into 2021. There is also something that Wall Street calls the gold silver ratio, which is exactly what it sounds like: the ratio of the price of gold per ounce to the price of silver per ounce. This ratio has historically moved together, which makes logical sense if both precious metals are independently moving inverse to paper currencies. Historically, the gold and silver prices do move together though as the general ratio has been in the range of 17:1 to 20:1.
Silver also has numerous ways for investors to get involved in, including silver mining and production companies, as well as the ever popular silver ETFs. These Exchange Traded Funds have gained popularity amongst retail investors in recent years as a way of purchasing a diversified product as a single equity with low costs, and no trading fees if your platform allows it. Here are a few of the better performing silver ETFs that investors can look into adding to their portfolios if they are interested in the precious metal:
- SLV – iShares Silver Trust: Probably one of the better known silver ETFs, this is fully backed by silver bullion and coins held in a vault. While usually fairly steady, this ETF has enjoyed a 52-week increase of 152% with much of that coming in the last few months.
- SIVR – Aberdeen Standard Physical Silver Shares ETF: Very similar to SLV but with lower fees, this is an ideal fund for novice and experienced investors to get into as they start to diversify their portfolios.
- DBS – Invesco DB Silver Fund: Again another stable ETF for investors to get into, and another good performing one as well. Just as with their gold ETF, Invsco focuses on silver futures contracts for this fund, so it is a nice long-term play if investors are bullish on silver.
Just as with gold, investors can get a slice of the silver pie by buying shares of silver mining companies as well. Here are a few of the top silver mining company stocks that investors can look into adding to their portfolios.
- PAAS – Pan American Silver Corp.: This Canada based miner is focussed on the exploration, development, extraction, refining, processing, and reclamation of silver. They operate mines in Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, and are developing more as well for the future.
- WPM – Wheaton Precious Metals: Another Canadian based company that deals with miners of gold, silver, palladium, and cobalt. Wheaton is not a direct miner, rather they purchase these precious metals from other mining companies.
- AG – First Majestic Silver Corp.: Canadian companies seem to be dominating the silver industry, and First Majestic is another of those. This company focuses mainly in Mexico for gold and silver.
Silver may never be as popular as gold for investors to keep track of but the two precious metals move in a synchronized fashion, and both are looked upon by investors as safe havens for their money when the market is in flux.
The rest of 2020 seems like a wildcard right now, with many analysts expecting a further correction to the markets at any point. There seems to be an inevitability to a market crash of some sort, whether it is as big as the one that happened back in February and March, remains to be seen. Investors are looking at the precious metal industry to hold their funds to wait out any sort of correction or crash. If this does happen, we may expect a pullback in precious metals too as investors selloff to get back into some stocks at their low levels. Such is the ebb and flow of the economy during turbulent times like the current one we are in.
At the same time, what if a market correction does not happen? Will the uncertainty continue or will investors feel relatively secure in the way the markets are progressing? This could cause a reduction in the demand for silver and gold, culminating in lower prices in the future. Of course this also depends on the Federal Reserve diminishing their rate of printing paper currency to bailout the economy, which does not seem like a reality in the short-term at least.
Another point of contention for investors is the ongoing economical and political tensions between China and America. The two world powers have been feuding for the past couple of months over various things, but it escalated as China social media app Tik Tok gained popularity in North America. It was alleged that TikTok was sending data and information from mobile phones back to China, though nobody is sure of their intended use of this data. Regardless, the markets have stumbled several times lately because of this. Both sides have threatened economic sanctions and the banning of certain product use in each country. The prices of silver and gold have shot up as the tensions have escalated between the two governments, as investors flock to the precious metals. Many of the biggest companies on the major stock indices rely on China for materials or production, so any sort of breakdown in supply chains could cause an enormous change to their stock prices. An example of this is a sudden 5% correction in the price of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), as it was thought that iPhone sales would decline if China’s chat platform WeChat was banned in America.
There are other factors that may have an effect on gold and silver prices as well. In this modern economy, many of the retail investors have trended towards younger adults with a sudden influx of income. Popular platforms such as Robinhood combined with increased time at home during the quarantine, have caused retail investor usage to skyrocket during the pandemic. Many of these investors are more lured in by the shiny new objects of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Perhaps we will start thinking of these cryptocurrencies as a modern day version of precious metals one day, as many investors and some analysts, believe that Bitcoin may be a safe haven in the future. Already, the price of Bitcoin has risen above $12,000 in August, mirroring the highs of gold and silver. If the demand for Bitcoin rises higher than the demand for precious metals, we may see an investor migration to cryptocurrencies rather than tangible metals.
Conclusion: Gold and silver are staples of our global economy, and will continue to be so as long as the demand for precious metals exists. In times of uncertainty, gold and silver are viewed as safe relative to the volatility of the stock market. Sure, their prices can vary as well, but because they are tied to a less dynamic valuation that is based on an inverse relation to paper currency, their prices will not and can not fluctuate as much as the liquidity of individual stocks.
As long as the world remains in flux, there will be a general feeling of instability, especially for global markets. A second wave of COVID-19 in the third or fourth quarter of 2020 could prove to be enough to push the markets over the edge and into another recession. The bull market has been rallying for over a decade now, with astronomical gains over the last few years, especially for sectors like the big tech FAANG stocks. Another factor to consider is what a Biden government could bring to the world if he is elected over President Donald Trump in October. A new government could ease some of the tensions with China, as well as within America itself. These are all big what ifs, and could all have potential impacts on the economy and the world. As long as all of these factors are up in the air, investors will be looking to gold and silver as ways of stabilizing their portfolios and protecting their finances from a potential market crash in the future.