What’s Going On With Gold Part 2

Back on November 18, 2009, I wrote for the first time about what’s going on with gold as an investment.  Since that date, gold has appreciated 8.4% while the S&P 500 index (a proxy for stocks) has declined 7.1%.  All indications are that the price of gold will continue to rise.

To date, I have personally not been able to bring myself to invest any of my own money in gold, and I remain a bit skeptical of it as an investable asset class.  However, as I’ve said before, I cannot ignore the fact that the uptrend that started in March 2009 has continued and has every indication that it will continue until the trend is broken.

In the past, the price of gold has appreciated while inflation was a threat or was marching upward (an inflation hedge.)  The price of gold usually continues to increase up until the point when the Federal Reserve raises interest rates enough to no longer make gold an attractive alternative; that is, until the actual interest rate paid on money market funds is something greater than the current 0.01%.  But today, we are facing the opposite environment: a potential deflationary environment in light of high unemployment, plenty of available factory capacity and low consumer demand.  Gold is not supposed to go up in this type of environment, but with governments around the world running sky high deficits and debasing their currencies (through either printing money or deficit spending), gold seems to have become a de facto currency in of itself.  Several legendary hedge fund managers and institutional investors have invested significant sums of money in gold and countries and central banks around the world continue to accumulate it.

Here’s what a fellow trusted investment writer and money manager Jon D. Markman wrote about a recent Credit Suisse report on gold:

Investment banker Credit Suisse (CS) recently increased its long-range forecast, arguing in a new report that gold should remain near current levels for at least the next four years. CS analysts’ 2014 target is now $1,300, vs. their previous forecast of $1,120, as investors have become more supportive of the yellow metal.  That may not seem like a very brave forecast since gold is already trading at $1,242, or less than $60 under the long-term forecast, but it’s likely that the estimate will go further up.

The rationale for the change: Credit Suisse believes there is an 80% chance of a renewal of quantitative easing — or money printing — due either to a full-blown sovereign debt crisis or a new recession. This enthusiastic and inflationary activity would rev up the safe haven buying that has pushed gold prices up over the past few years. The feeling is that companies and government officials may cheat and lie, but gold is steady as a rock as an irrefutable, trusted source of value.

Also, the ultra-low interest rate policy of the world’s central banks will keep gold prices on the move. Historically, gold prices tend to rise when short-term interest rates are below 2%. This relationship has been particularly strong over the last few years. With the Fed likely to stay on hold through 2012, and the potential for inflation-adjusted interest rates to move further into negative territory with another round of quantitative easing, there’s little reason to think gold’s run higher will end anytime soon.

Complicating matters has been the decline in new gold production. Global gold production has been falling since 2001 at an average rate of 1.3% per year. Increased demand and less supply equals higher prices. Credit Suisse research in 2003 and 2005 indicated that the decline was being caused by a reduction in exploration targets and exploration efficiency. In other words, it was becoming harder and more expensive to find new untapped sources of gold.

While a number of new projects are about to get started, the long-term picture looks tight. From 2013 onward, CS predicts global production to fall at an annual rate of 2.5%. Gold has always had its allure based on scarcity value. Well folks, it’s about to get a heck of a lot scarcer.

Now gold doesn’t pay any dividends or generate any income, has limited industrial uses, has not kept up with inflation, and garners unfavorable ordinary income tax (not capital gain) treatment outside of retirement accounts.  You’ve probably seen and heard the ads on TV and radio of companies trying to sell you gold coins or buy your unwanted gold jewelry (you can safely ignore them.)  In some countries, you can now buy gold bars from a vending machine, and right here in the “good ole’ U.S. of A”, department stores are hocking gold bars like perfume and cologne.  Normally this would indicate a top in the price of gold, but all evidence to date indicates that the buyers of gold have been mostly institutional, not retail (consumer) buyers.  Of course, like any other investment, gold has the potential to go parabolic and become a bubble (and it likely will), but we’re not there yet.  My worst fear about gold would be to wake up one morning and find out that the price has dropped $200-$400 an ounce overnight.

Fun gold fact: Just last week, a 200 pound Canadian collectible leaf gold coin (face value $1 million) was auctioned off for $4 million at exactly, you guessed it, the spot price of gold at the time of sale. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/10425194.stm

If you are interested in investing in gold, I would look into the price of the SPDR Gold Trust GS (Ticker symbol: GLD) and invest on any weakness like we saw last week, and I would keep it on a “tight leash.”  I would say to invest no more than 2-10% of your investable portfolio in this commodity and be prepared for wide price swings (volatility).  It’s possible to use options to hedge the position to mitigate the risk of a sudden sharp decline or a mass exodus.  With weakness in the price of gold last week, you may be able to take advantage of a good entry price, but this article is by no means a suggestion, recommendation or an advisory to buy gold.  Some believe that the unwinding of Euro currency short interests that were invested in gold may have caused last week’s weakness (i.e., investors bought back borrowed Euro’s with the gold that they sold last week to cover their short interests).

I would appreciate your thoughts, feedback and inclination to invest in this commodity.

Sam H. Fawaz CFP®, CPA is president of YDream Financial Services, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Sam is a Certified Financial Planner ( CFP ), Certified Public Accountant and registered member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) fee-only financial planner group.  Sam has expertise in many areas of personal finance and wealth management and has always been fascinated with the role of money in society.  Helping others prosper and succeed has been Sam’s mission since he decided to dedicate his life to financial planning.  He specializes in entrepreneurs, professionals, company executives and their families.

All material presented herein is believed to be reliable, but we cannot attest to its accuracy.  Investment recommendations may change and readers are urged to check with their investment advisors before making any investment decisions.  Opinions expressed in this writing by Sam H. Fawaz are his own, may change without prior notice and should not be relied upon as a basis for making investment or planning decisions.  No person can accurately forecast or call a market top or bottom, so forward looking statements should be discounted and not relied upon as a basis for investing or trading decisions.

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