- December 10, 2012
- How Gold Miners Can Leverage the Price of Gold
Gazing into their crystal balls last week, Wall Street firms interpreted differing futures for gold next year. Morgan Stanley awarded gold the “best commodity for 2013” while Goldman Sachs called the end of the metal’s hot streak. After seeing 11 consecutive years of positive performance from gold, one needs to be wary of research analysts’ price forecasts, as they have consistently underestimated the shifting dynamics driving the precious metal higher.
Take a look at analysts’ annual predictions of gold prices, which is “a telling picture,” CEO Nick Holland of Gold Fields told the crowd at a mining conference last summer. From 2006 through 2011, Bloomberg’s contributing analysts have forecasted that future gold prices would be lower. “The analysts who keep telling us the gold price is going down have been wrong seven years out of seven. That’s a remarkable track record!” says Holland.
It is worth keeping gold’s DNA of volatility in mind as the day-to-day price of gold naturally fluctuates, of course. Based on 10 years of data as of September 30, 2012, over any 20 days, there is a 7 percent chance of a 10 percent change in the gold price. Swings have historically been more frequent for gold equities, moving 10 percent up or down about 30 percent of the time over the same time frame.
The upside to gold stocks is that investors historically have received a 2-to-1 leverage by owning gold equities instead of the commodity. U.S. Global’s Portfolio Manager Brian Hicks reminded The Gold Report readers of this fact during an extensive conversation that he and Portfolio Manager Ralph Aldis had with Brian Sylvester.
We believe that effective management can help miners gain more leverage over the metal for their shareholders. Picture the gold price as a pulley with gold company executives applying force on one side of a rope. The more disciplined and successful the management, the bigger the potential boost in gold equity returns.
The muscle that gold miners can use to increase their “multiplier effect” for shareholders is three-fold: grow production volume, expand margins or optimize capital, explained Holland. “You want to keep showing that you can increase the return on the mine and that you can increase the cash flow available for shareholders at a particular gold price.”
In recent years, gold mining companies have been facing the dilemma of trying to grow their production profile while also depleting their current resource base. As I explained to Mineweb in a recent podcast, no miner wants to show investors that their production profile is in decline, so there has been a huge push to grow gold production.
However, this “growth for growth’s sake” mind frame has resulted in a congested intersection of projects in the pipeline. Take a look at the chart that National Bank Financial (NBF) put together showing an “unprecedented wave” of projects that mining companies are planning over the next decade. Each dot represents either a gold and precious metals project or a base metals and iron ore project. The bigger the dot, the larger the estimated cost of the project.
The 2006 through 2010 construction history benchmarks the engineering and construction industry’s capacity to build new mines. Relative to the size and number of new projects in the pipeline, the current pool of expertise to build these projects is quite limited.
NBF’s mining analysts indicate that about 30 projects can be completed in a two-year time frame.
The critical shortage of technically skilled people has been driving up the cost of projects and resources. “Mines that used to cost $2 billion only a few years ago, now cost $5 billion,” and the beneficiaries of these projects have not been shareholders, but contractors, employees, consultants, governments and equipment suppliers, says Stifel Nicolaus’ George Topping, a well-respected analyst with years of experience in capital markets.
In his research, “Don’t Build It And They Will Come,” he analyzed the projects that four senior miners, Barrick, Goldcorp, Kinross and Newmont, have in the pipeline, looking at the capital expenditures, cash costs and internal rates of return to determine whether he thought the projects should be continued or deferred.
Of the 14 he looked at, only five projects were worth pursuing, in his view. Instead of spending the money on these projects, “senior producers would be able to pay higher dividends, say yielding 5 percent at current prices,” according to Stifel. A monthly or quarterly dividend program shows that gold miners have a pulse and are taking disciplined action in paying back some of their capital.
The Fairytale Land of Cash Costs
The other factor that has been hurting gold miners is the outdated use of a cash costs measure which doesn’t reflect the true costs of mining. In the Mineweb podcast, Ralph and I discussed these “cash cost fairytales,” with Ralph pointing out that only governments believe gold miners have seen a windfall profit from the rising price of gold. He says,
“You’ve got to thank your cash cost marketing for basically taxing 50 percent of your gains away in the form of taxes when the government has risked no capital on the project and not borne any of the risks during the construction of the project.”
Research indicates that an “all-in cost” is much more indicative of the true cost of mining, as it takes into consideration operating costs, sustaining capital, construction capital discovery costs, and overhead tax along with acceptable profit. For example, CIBC’s research calculates that a sustainable number for mining an ounce of gold would be $1,700.
These factors highlight the importance of active management, as gold companies that are successful at executing what they’ve articulated to the public should be more effective at leveraging the price of gold.
In addition, as Brian explains to The Gold Report, “The precious metals market is surprisingly inefficient,” meaning that active managers such as U.S. Global can take advantage of dislocations in the market. We believe this is how the 4-star* rated Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) has been able to outperform its benchmark, the FTSE Gold Mines Index, over the 1-, 5- and 10-year timeframe as of September 30, 2012.
- Listen to the podcast with Mineweb to hear Ralph and me discuss how mining management is becoming more disciplined.
- See companies we are bullish on by reading The Gold Report interview.
- See U.S. Global’s Special Gold Report on more factors driving miners.
Total Annualized Returns as of 9/30/2012 1-year 5-year 10-year Gross
Gold and Precious Metals Fund 0.26% 4.31% 16.97% 1.58% FTSE Gold Mines Index -5.5% 3.23% 10.89% n/a
Expense ratios as stated in the most recent prospectus. The expense ratio after waivers is a voluntary limit on total fund operating expenses (exclusive of any acquired fund fees and expenses, performance fees, taxes, brokerage commissions and interest) that U.S. Global Investors, Inc. can modify or terminate at any time. Performance data quoted above is historical. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Results reflect the reinvestment of dividends and other earnings. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. The principal value and investment return of an investment will fluctuate so that your shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Performance does not include the effect of any direct fees described in the fund’s prospectus (e.g., short-term trading fees of 0.50%) which, if applicable, would lower your total returns. Performance quoted for periods of one year or less is cumulative and not annualized. Obtain performance data current to the most recent month-end at www.usfunds.com or 1-800-US-FUNDS.
*Morningstar Overall Rating™ among 70 equity precious metals funds as of 9/30/12.
Please consider carefully a fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and other important information, obtain a fund prospectus by visiting www.usfunds.com or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.
Gold, precious metals, and precious minerals funds may be susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory developments due to concentrating in a single theme. The prices of gold, precious metals, and precious minerals are subject to substantial price fluctuations over short periods of time and may be affected by unpredicted international monetary and political policies. We suggest investing no more than 5% to 10% of your portfolio in these sectors.
Morningstar Ratings are based on risk-adjusted return. The Overall Morningstar Rating for a fund is derived from a weighted-average of the performance figures associated with its three-, five- and ten-year (if applicable) Morningstar Rating metrics. Past performance does not guarantee future results. For each fund with at least a three-year history, Morningstar calculates a Morningstar Rating based on a Morningstar Risk-Adjusted Return measure that accounts for variation in a fund’s monthly performance (including the effects of sales charges, loads, and redemption fees), placing more emphasis on downward variations and rewarding consistent performance. The top 10% of funds in each category receive 5 stars, the next 22.5% receive 4 stars, the next 35% receive 3 stars, the next 22.5% receive 2 stars and the bottom 10% receive 1 star. (Each share class is counted as a fraction of one fund within this scale and rated separately, which may cause slight variations in the distribution percentages.)
Holdings in the Gold and Precious Metals Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 9/30/12: Barrick Gold 4.33%; Goldcorp 2.68%; Kinross Gold 2.48%; Newmont Mining 5.92%
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- November 8, 2012
- Chart of the Week: Gold and an Ever-Growing Balance Sheet
While Americans were still submitting their ballots, gold rallied on the possibility of a President Barack Obama reelection. With presidential results confirmed, it appears that Ben Bernanke’s job of hovering over the economy and dropping parachutes of money out of his helicopter is secure.
“Gold could not have asked for a better outcome,” with a second term for Obama, a Democratic Senate and Republican House, says UBS Investment Research. As the research firm explains in its morning note, “the high likelihood of political gridlock up ahead as attention now turns to the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling certainly presents upside opportunities for gold.”
UBS says the gold market isn’t even pricing in the outcome of the next Federal Open Market Committee meeting in December when the “conclusion of Operation Twist will morph into further quantitative easing.”
Our chart of the week shows the substantial impact of the Federal Reserve’s decision. In a weekly report, Robert Perli of International Strategy and Investment (ISI) projected the enormous growth of the U.S. balance sheet if quantitative easing continues over the next few years.
Currently the Fed is buying mortgage-backed securities at a rate of $40 billion each month. The dashed orange line assumes that if this $40 billion per month continues over the next few years, America’s balance sheet expands to about $4.5 trillion by the end of 2016.
However, the $40 billion was on top of the previous spending spree on Treasury securities. Added together, this means that Ben Bernanke is forking over $85 billion per month through the end of 2013, which “makes a provocative picture,” says Perli. You can see below that if this open-ended spending continues through the end of 2016, the U.S. balance sheet swells to nearly $7 trillion!
In his October 1 speech in Indiana, Bernanke explains his reasoning behind the Fed’s buying spree:
“We expect these purchases to put further downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, including mortgage rates. To underline the Federal Reserve’s commitment to fostering a sustainable economic recovery, we said that we would continue securities purchases and employ other policy tools until the outlook for the job market improves substantially in a context of price stability.”
This chart is only one reason gold investors like me are bullish. Here are other positive dynamics for gold and gold stocks:
- Special Gold Report: What’s Driving Gold Companies
- Blog Post: A Tipping Point for Gold Companies
- Blog Post: How Helicopter Ben Helps Jobs and, Inadvertently, Gold
- Presentation: Why Gold Stocks are Lagging Gold
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- November 1, 2012
- A Tipping Point for Gold Companies
Did you know that gold stocks tend to underperform during election years? As shown in the chart below, over the past quarter-century up until the prior election, the performance of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Gold and Silver Index (XAU) was weak during the year of a presidential election.
The silver lining for gold stock investors is that the XAU has historically bounced back the year after the election.
I often say that life is all about managing expectations. The difficult part of investing in gold and gold companies is experiencing the typical price swings, so it’s important to understand the inherent monthly and annual volatility.
Along with the normal volatility, gold equity investors have had to deal with plenty of challenges in recent years, as many executives overpromised and underdelivered, diluting their production per share and their reserves per share. In addition, margin costs have been rising. The result is unhappy shareholders, with bullion outperforming gold miners.
Perhaps investors can anticipate a sea change occurring in the management of gold companies. As I explained in a recent interview with Kitco, I believe a tipping point took place last summer when Gold Fields’ CEO Nick Holland discussed the future of mining companies. In my opinion, his thought leadership regarding growing production volume, expanding margins and optimizing capital is crucial in shaping the future decision-making of boards, with an enhanced focus on protecting the value per share for their shareholders, increasing dividends, as well as an effective leveraging of the balance sheet.
2013 may be a pivotal year for gold stocks: With the presidential election year behind us, and executives making best use of their capital, it appears that miners are poised for a comeback.
What else is in store for investors after the U.S. election? Tune in to my webcast with Money Map Press’ Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald on November 12 at 2 p.m. Central Time as we discuss energy prices, the “fiscal cliff,” and the presidential cycle over the next four years. Register today.
The Philadelphia Stock Exchange Gold and Silver Index (XAU) is a capitalization-weighted index that includes the leading companies involved in the mining of gold and silver. The following security mentioned was held by one or more of U.S. Global Investors Funds as of 9/30/12: Gold Fields Ltd.
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- October 29, 2012
- Don’t Fear a Normal Gold Correction
I spent the latter half of last week at the New Orleans Investment Conference, talking with investors, mining companies and analysts about the state of the gold industry. The annual conference falls at an interesting time of the year, as the price of gold typically corrects in October. In fact, going back 30 years, the historical seasonality of gold has been to rise during September, with a subsequent correction in October.
This fall, gold has followed this historical trend, with the metal climbing throughout the month of September to reach a high of $1,790 an ounce on October 4, only to have a normal correction to $1,701 by October 24. This decline typically comes ahead of the Love Trade fueling demand prior to the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, which begins in November.
Miners, Show Me the Money!
At the conference, I’ve been discussing the multiple forces squeezing the profits and earnings out of gold miners, causing equity investors to become the Rod Tidwells of the gold world, getting miners energized to “Show me the money!” In my opinion, this phenomenon highlights the importance of selectively choosing among those gold companies that exhibit the best relative growth and momentum characteristics to help obtain outstanding investment results.
My workshop presentation in “The Big Easy” integrated preeminent thinking from multiple gold experts, including research firm CIBC, Gold Fields and the World Gold Council, about how gold companies’ performance has been neither “big” nor “easy.” There’s been a decline in production per share, an 80 percent increase in the average cost per ton of gold over the past six years, and a 21 percent decline in global average grades of gold since 2005. Cash taxes per ounce of production have increased dramatically, and, according to CIBC World Markets, the replacement cost for an ounce of gold is now $1,500, with $1,700 as a sustainable number. Cash operating costs eat away the most, at $700 an ounce, while sustaining capital, construction capital, discovery costs, overhead and taxes eat up $800. At the October 24 gold price of $1,700 an ounce, only $200 is left over as profit, says CIBC.
Gold companies have had their share of challenges in the past. Prior to the huge run-up in gold prices in the late 1970s, forward price-to-cash flow ratios crashed from a high of about 22 times to just under 9 times. Eventually, as gold climbed to its high, multiples spiked back up to 21 times.
Miners also didn’t increase the supply of the precious metal in the 1970s. Back then, there were only a few major players in the gold game. South Africa was a significant gold-producing country, as well as Russia and North America.
However, following years of a gold bull market in the 1970s, production climbed. In fact, Pierre Lassonde, chairman of Franco-Nevada and a living legend in the mining and resource world, says it took seven years for the gold industry to respond after the rise in the price of gold. Ironically, as the price kept falling over the next 20 years, production doubled, says Lassonde.
Beginning in 2000, gold companies have experienced a similar phenomenon, with production remaining flat, even declining in some years. In 2008, mine supply of gold fell to levels not seen since the early 1990s.
Now, after a seven-year lag, the industry has responded as we’re beginning to see some growth in supply.
From 2006 through 2011, production throughout the entire gold industry has increased about 3 percent, says CEO Nick Holland of Gold Fields. During his keynote presentation at the Melbourne Mining Club in July, he indicated that most of the growth was not coming from the major producers. In more mature markets, such as South Africa, Australia, Peru and the U.S., annual production decreased by about 5 million ounces since 2006. Emerging markets on the other hand—China, Colombia, Mexico and Russia—added about 7.6 million ounces over the last six years, Holland says.
Of gold finds that contain at least 2 million ounces of gold, research from the Metals Economics Group (MEG) finds that there have been 99 significant discoveries between 1997 and 2011. Only 14 of the 26 major gold producers made these major gold discoveries. “Today, the major producers and their majority-owned subsidiaries hold 39 percent of the reserves and resources in the 99 significant discoveries made in the past 15 years.” This amounts to less than half of the yellow metal needed to replace the gold companies’ production from 2002 to 2011, says MEG.
According to Lassonde, this is the “elephant in the room,” as new finds have become elusive. The chart below from CIBC shows that there was only one major discovery that was more than 3 million ounces in 2011. Over the past seven years, there have been only nine major discoveries of gold.
Lassonde doesn’t think we have hit “peak gold,” but believes the gold industry needs a “3D seismic” event similar to what occurred in the oil industry before we see considerable finds.
For as many challenges as gold companies face today, they have rarely experienced such a well-diversified consumer base and diversified demand for their product: It’s “the best we could ask for,” says Lassonde.
A newer trend that I’ve discussed is the reemergence of emerging markets central banks as buyers of gold, as they have been “relearning that all paper currencies are suspect,” says Lassonde. Today, he says “cash is trash,” with the value of euro, dollar and yen in question.
He believes this source of demand could be long-lasting and quite significant if you look at emerging market countries’ gold holdings as a percent of total reserves. In 2000, the European Central Bank decided that the right proportion of gold to own should be 15 percent. Pierre says if you apply that figure to the potential gold holdings of the emerging market central banks, they would need to accumulate 17,000 tons of gold. At a purchase of 1,000 tons a year (or about 40 percent of today’s production), these central banks would have to buy gold for the next 17 years!
Another growing source of demand has been from the Fear Trade’s scooping up of gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Eight years after the products were launched, 12 gold ETFs and eight other similar investments are valued at around $120 billion and hold 2,500 tons of gold, says Nick Holland.
I believe the Fear Trade will continue buying not only gold but also gold stocks, as the group is driven by Helicopter Ben’s quantitative easing program. In the latest Weldon’s Money Monitor, Greg Weldon discusses the consequences of the Federal Reserve’s debt monetization and liquidity provisions, showing the “somewhat frightening pace” of expansion in money supply.
Weldon says that over the last four years since August 2008, the U.S. Narrow Money Supply, or M1, which is physical money such as coins, currency and deposits, has increased 73 percent, or more than one trillion dollars. This is about as much as it expanded in the previous forty years!
Don’t let the short-term correction fool you into selling your gold and gold stocks. The dramatic increase in money suggests that monetary debasement will continue, and in addition to all the above drivers, I believe these are the positive dynamics driving higher prices for gold and gold stocks.
The following securities mentioned were held by one or more of U.S. Global Investors Funds as of 9/30/12: Franco-Nevada, Gold Fields Ltd.
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- October 8, 2012
- How Helicopter Ben Helps Jobs and, Inadvertently, Gold
The world’s central bank leaders continue to spike the monetary punch bowl, with investors imbibing on gold once again. This flurry of gold buying prompts many curious investors and doubting media to ask me two questions: 1) How can demand for gold and gold stocks continue; and 2) How high can the precious metal go?
To answer these questions, we need to look at the intentions behind the economic and political decision-making across several developed countries, analyze the causes, the effects, and the possible ramifications.
For example, one of the most debated topics today is America’s ongoing unemployment situation. Job loss has affected the lives and pocketbooks of millions of Americans and our friends and families, culminating to a center-stage position in the election this year. All eyes turn to President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to explain how each intends to create jobs.
During the two years following the Great Recession, Americans lost jobs at a similar rate to the employment losses during the Great Depression and in Finland after 1991. But two years after the crisis, U.S. employment losses stopped and reversed direction.
Compare this to the situations in Norway, Spain, Finland and Sweden, each of which had prolonged unemployment. After Norway’s financial crisis in 1987, it took 8.5 years to return to the country’s employment peak. It took 13 years for Spain’s employment to return to its 1997 peak. For Finland and Sweden, it took more than 17 years following their 1991 peaks.
Although the job losses in the U.S. don’t seem as dismal, “Helicopter” Ben Bernanke wants to avoid Europe’s and Japan’s catastrophic situations. To him, the economy “has not been growing fast enough recently to make significant progress in bringing down unemployment.”
In a speech to the Economic Club of Indiana on October 1, Bernanke explained that the Fed is “charged with promoting a healthy economy,” which includes “an economy with low unemployment, low and stable inflation, and a financial system that meets the economy’s needs for credit and other services.” With regards to the decisions relating to monetary policy, the Fed’s goals are dictated by Congress and are to seek “maximum employment and price stability.” He explains, “We would like to see as many Americans as possible who want jobs to have jobs and that we aim to keep the rate of increase in consumer prices low and stable.”
Ten years earlier, Ben hinted at the way he might accomplish such goals as a Fed chairman. In a speech regarding deflation, he shared his position on a government’s means to print money, referring to Milton Friedman’s comment about dropping money out of a helicopter into the economy. He stated, "The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at no cost." Since then, he’s been known as "Helicopter Ben."
With unemployment continuing, the Fed’s helicopter drops another $40 billion per month to buy mortgage-backed securities, as well as an additional $45 billion of longer-term securities per month through the end of the year.
And, as Bank of America-Merrill Lynch says, “monetary policy is contagious.” The Fed’s money printing practice to help create jobs is only one part of the picture. Along with the growing U.S. monetary base, global liquidity has been growing every year for the past 12 years. As you can see, both of these factors have a close correlation to the rise of gold.
While well-intentioned, I believe these “quantitative infinity” programs may have a devastating devaluing effect on currencies, which has helped to spur gold prices over this entire time period.
Gold investors have recognized this correlation by returning to gold en masse. In August, investors rushed into gold, with the massive inflows of money going into the gold exchange traded products in August more than each of the prior five months.
Buying continued in September, with gold lovers loading up on coins. According to Bloomberg, people purchased the most American Eagles from the U.S. Mint in eight months. Almost 70,000 ounces were sold last month—the most sold since January when the U.S. Mint sold 127,000 ounces.
Miners also attracted interest, with the FTSE Gold Mines Index experiencing a rise of 13.25 percent and the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index rising 12 percent during the month of September alone. See how U.S. Global gold funds performed.
So how high can gold go? If you factor in only the Fed’s program to purchase mortgages and Treasuries, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch says that over the next nine months gold could go to $2,000, and by the end of 2014, gold could be at $2,400.
This target doesn’t take the Love Trade into consideration. Over the past several months, we’ve heard only chirping crickets from India, the country that has historically been the world’s largest consumer of gold. Demand suffered under a very weak rupee, as the price of gold in the local currency climbed to an all-time high.
The rupee’s recent strength has helped to increase Indian gold demand with flows climbing to a five-month high, according to UBS. What’s helped bring shoppers back to the market is the fact that the exchange rate is back to where the rupee was in April.
This improvement in the currency comes just in time, as the wedding season is in full bloom. Every year, about 10,000 weddings are held in India from late September through January, in between the monsoons and the summer heat. Gold has historically been closely linked with the celebration of weddings, as the bride wears the precious metal and gifts of gold coins are given to the newlyweds.
In addition, Diwali will be celebrated in November. The Festival of Lights is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year and is celebrated by almost 1 billion Hindus around the world. Traditionally, on the first day of Diwali, it is considered auspicious to clean the home and shop for gold.
Why is India so significant to gold? As you can see below, from 2000 through 2011, the rising incomes in both China and India have been strongly correlated to the price of gold.
Investors now have two strong reasons to invest in gold: the Fear Trade, driven by an expanding monetary base, and the Love Trade, driven by rising gold demand in Chindia. If you’re already sold on gold, make sure to maintain a modest 5 to 10 percent weighting in gold and gold stocks. For those investors who don’t hold gold, what’s stopping you?
The FTSE Gold Mines Index Series encompasses all gold mining companies that have a sustainable and attributable gold production of at least 300,000 ounces a year, and that derive 75% or more of their revenue from mined gold. The NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index is a modified market capitalization weighted index comprised of publicly traded companies involved primarily in the mining for gold and silver. The index benchmark value was 500.0 at the close of trading on December 20, 2002.
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