First Quarter 2021

The Gold and Precious Metals Fund had a total return of negative 12.71% in the first quarter of 2021, underperforming its benchmark, the FTSE Gold Mines Index, which had a negative return of 11.10%. See complete fund performance here.

Past performance does not guarantee future results. 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 data quoted represents past performance.

Strengths

  • The biggest contributor to fund performance was our overweighting of Impala Platinum Holdings. With an average fund weighting of 2.67% for the quarter, the stock gained 39.96% and contributed 118 basis points (bps) to the fund. Impala Platinum is not a member of the benchmark, the FTSE Gold Mines Index. Platinum prices finished the quarter up 10.76% on an anticipated long-term demand growing with the use of hydrogen fuel cells.
  • The second biggest contributor to the fund’s outperformance was our recent addition of Aya Gold & Silver, which was 1.80% of the fund and returned 29.80% for the quarter, yielding 61 bps for the fund. A new management team with significant West African experience has taken over management of the asset from private hands.
  • Not owning Agnico-Eagle Mines was the fund’s third biggest contributor to the fund’s return. Agnico-Eagle is 7.15% of the fund’s benchmark and the share price fell 17.29% and contributed 51 bps to the fund’s relative performance. Over the past year certain junior mining companies that Agnico has investments in, their feedback was that Agnico was turning too conservative, leading us to exit our position.

Weaknesses

  • The largest detractor from fund performance was our underweighting of Newmont Mining, which was a 22.05% member of the benchmark. Newmont was one of the few major gold stocks to maintain a positive price gain for the quarter, meager at 1.63%, but with our underweighting this left about 242 bps of performance unfulfilled. We were also underweight Barrick Gold, the second largest company in the benchmark, which fell 12.45% thus yielding us 29 bps of relative performance.
  • The second largest detractor was Calibre Mining, which declined 32.14% for the quarter resulting in 62 bp of underperformance. Calibre is not a member of the benchmark and likely underperformed based on market capitalization tiers, where the junior miners got sold off worse than the larger capitalization companies.
  • The third largest detractor from fund performance was overweighting in K92 Mining, which declined 15.42%. With our relative weighting at 10.54% to the benchmark weight of 0%, the holding detracted 51 bps from the fund’s relative performance to the benchmark. K92 Mining has been our best performer over the last two quarters and expect the stock to appreciate again with a rise in the gold price.

Outlook

Gold had its worst start to the year since 1982, losing 10.04% for the quarter, its first quarterly loss in two years. Since touching its all-time high of around $2,070 per ounce at the beginning of last August, gold has been under pressure from steadily rising bond yields. Platinum is expected to remain in deficit for 2021 as South African supplies will remain at risk of electricity disruptions and the growing use of fuel cells creates a new market where diesel fueled engines decline in the future. Impala Platinum Holdings CEO Nico Muller said many of South Africa’s underground mines may be closed over the next decade, which would strain supply and further boost prices.

One opportunity thanks to lower bullion prices: stronger retail purchases. Benchmark gold futures in India are down 20% from a record in August last year, and imports rose 412% in February from a year earlier to the highest since November 2019. “The festival and wedding season looks good,” said Ashish Pethe, chairman of the All India Gem & Jewellery Domestic Council. India is the world’s second largest consumer of the precious metal and demand historically picks up ahead of holidays and celebrations. The Perth Mint reported gold coin and minted bar sales rose 441% year-over-year in February to 124,104 ounces as investors took advantage of lower gold prices. Spot gold fell 6.2% in February, and Perth Mint saw gold product sales 63% higher than in January. The U.S. Mint also reported strong sales in February. Sales of American Eagle silver coins totaled 3.19 million ounces last month and gold coin sales rose to 125,000 ounces.

Goldman Sachs lowered its gold price forecast to $2,000 an ounce, down from $2,300, after a rocky start to the year. Analysts wrote in a note: “We think the strong rotation into risky assets on the back of repricing of global growth has been the main reason behind gold’s underperformance.” Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has exited gold entirely, less than a year after moving into the space. According to the latest filings, Berkshire sold its Barrick Gold shares entirely in the fourth quarter after purchasing 21 million shares in the second quarter of 2020. Tesla announced it invested $1.5 billion worth on Bitcoin – adding further momentum to the adoption of cryptocurrencies. Cryptos such as Bitcoin could continue to take demand away from gold as a perceived haven asset that potentially moves in the opposite direction of the wider market.

According to preliminary data released by the U.S. Geological Survey, gold output in 2020 fell for the first time in 12 years to around 3,200 metric tons, or 3% less than 2019. The production drop was largely caused by pandemic related shutdowns of mining operations.

The FTSE Gold Mines Index 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 S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies.

A basis point, or bp, is a common unit of measure for interest rates and other percentages in finance. One basis point is equal to 1/100th of 1%, or 0.01% (0.0001). A warrant is a derivative that gives the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a security—most commonly an equity—at a certain price before expiration.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Gold and Precious Metals Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 3/31/2021: Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. 3.28%, Aya Gold & Silver Inc. 2.09%, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. 0.00%, Newmont Corp. 3.32%, Barrick Gold Corp. 1.78%, Calibre Mining Corp. 0.00%, K92 Mining Inc. 9.88%, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. 0.00%, Tesla Inc. 0.00%.

Net Asset Value
as of 04/20/2021

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $6.49 -0.14 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $13.19 0.02 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $5.09 -0.01 China Region Fund USCOX $9.90 -0.07 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.23 -0.05 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.65 No Change Global Luxury Goods Fund USLUX $22.40 -0.30 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.25 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change