Gold Hype? You’re Being Taken for a Ride

by Darwin on October 7, 2009

There’s been much fanfare made of gold breaking an all-time high in US Dollar terms, even though the dollar has declined precipitously against virtually every foreign currency (so it’s not really appreciating that much in terms of other global currencies), but the trend is your friend and if you’re a momentum trader or fear inflation and/or a collapsing greenback, the gold play is on.  However, note that gold has only just barely breached the highs last seen during the Lehman collapse.  Meanwhile, silver and platinum (metals with actual real-world utility) are skyrocketing.  Since very few people reading this are interested in material possession of any of these metals and aren’t avid futures traders interested in rolling contracts and such, metals ETFs are the next best way to play the momentum in these metals. However, let’s also consider what’s really going in in gold, and then take a look at these other precious metals.


Some Perspective

I never cease to be amazed by how shameless the media is in hyping fear, a trend, a fad or the demise of some once great personality or entity.  I was listening to CNBC the other day and Becky Quick was gushing about the HUGE move in gold, how it was rocketing up during the current trading session.  Gold was up less than 2% on the day!  Going off on a harangue about spikes and momentum on a 1.8% move?  It’s ridiculous.  But, no doubt, many people were glued to their sets (or Satellite radios) waiting to hear why gold was “spiking” and what kind of ruinous disaster this portends for America.  This is no different than the oil bubble last year or real estate prior to that.  A trend drives the smart institutional money in first, then the hype hits main street, then the retail investors get in, then the smart money gets out, then main street gets slaughtered, then Congress holds hearings and grandstands trying to pretend to care about what happened.

Let’s take a look at the gold ETF GLD (the best proxy for gold price moves since the Trust actually holds real gold) pricing in terms of US Dollars.  But, let’s also consider the performance of US equities (S&P500 ETF SPY) during the same time frames, and finally, some foreign currency ETFs since this is as much a weak dollar play as anything else – we’ll pick the Euro (FXE) and the Aussie dollar (FXA) since Australia is the first major economy to have the boldness to increase their interest rate to stave off inflation, citing the end of the economic crisis in their homeland.  Finally, we’ll look at the Silver ETF SLV and the Platinum ETN PTM.


I had thought it would be instructive to take a look at the March lows when things looked REAL bad and see what kind of returns you could expect for panicked investors who pulled everything out of stocks and hid in gold, or worse – cash.  Equities rallied 55% and note who the worst performer on the list is – Gold!  A measly 11% return when virtually any other play would have yielded better results.  Not to be accused of “cherry-picking” my timeframe and results, I’ve constructed the following table to take a comparative look over a few common recent timeframes to see if all the Hoopla over gold is warranted.

More Perspective

This table outlines the performance of these various instruments over the prior 1 month, 3 month and 1 year period.  Aside from highlighting how GLD performed in contrast to these other instruments, I arbitrarily chose to average (a mean, not a median) the instruments and you’ll note that in no case did Gold outperform the bucket.  Gold also didn’t look that hot next to Platinum or Silver – but you hear very little about them in the media.

gold-silver-platinum-chart-2009bGold is Really Just a Weak Dollar Proxy

Take a look at the 3 month column so I can demonstrate my point.  While Gold advanced 13%, the Aussie currency rose 13% against the US dollar as well. What this really means is that if you live in Australia, gold is at the same price now as it was 3 months ago.

Gold is not rising!  This is the case in virtually every other country except the US.

In the prior 1 year period, gold is actually LOWER than it was a year ago in Australia.  It’s not up much in Europe at all!  And, if you’re trying to play the commodities/weak dollar/fear factor, instead of buying gold, why not just buy Silver or Platinum which are leveraged to gold as indicated by their historical and recent returns.  Finally, if you want a pure play on what’s actually occurring and don’t want to hold a metal that has very little real-world utility, this article lists out several Currency ETFs and ways to play the demise of the US dollar should the trend continue.  While the gold bugs have been dilly-dallying in their brittle obsession, many emerging market ETFs are up triple digits 2009 YTD!

While the CNBC pundits will point out that gold just reached an all-time high, in terms of global currencies, it’s nowhere near last year’s high.

There are, of course, leveraged ETFs for some of these precious metals (full list of all 2X, 3X ETFs), but given the value destruction in share price that occurs over time due to daily rebalancing, I don’t recommend these as anything other than a speculative near-term trade. And I use the word “recommend” loosely.

What are your thoughts?  Are we being taken for a ride?  Are you buying gold?

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1 Jim October 8, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Good post. People have been pumping money into gold due to fear over the economy. This increased demand has been adding hype and increasing the prices for gold. When the recession ends people the demand and speculation will end and gold will drop.

2 Credit Card Chaser October 9, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Seeing all of the commercials that push gold investing during the various financial news programs makes you wonder how much all of those advertising dollars flowing through to the networks influences their coverage of gold 🙂
.-= Credit Card Chaser´s last blog ..Wells Fargo Expected to Raise Credit Card Interest Rates 3% =-.

3 modd October 12, 2009 at 8:01 am

super blog//////
thanks for the post!

4 J.D. Roth October 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Nice post. I get frustrated by all the gold hype. Gold is not some financial panacea, yet there are people who believe it is. It’s crazy.

5 DDD October 21, 2009 at 2:31 pm

There is a reason some of the biggest economies/Governments in the world have been buying gold and getting rid of Dollars. The destruction of the dollar and it’s place as the world’s currency is inevitable. The only question is, Does it happen in 20092010 or will it take another 10 years. As the world waits to see when the inevitable will occur, there is simply no safer option than gold.. This is where we stand. Adjusted for inflation (which is the only way to value anything) Gold is nowhere near it’s high of 1980, Not even half way there at $1050.
I agree with the person above who said Gold will come down when the economy improves. If you believe things are goign to get better within the next few months or year then don’t buy Gold..It’s too expensive and there is no need to take a chance.

However, if you are one of the very few people who understand that this current financial downturn has nothing to do with natural economic cycles but instead is part of a manipulative pattern by bankers to steal the worlds wealth, a pattern that repeats itself every 50 years or so, than you also know that it takes the economy about 10 years give or take to begin to recover. The past is the best indicator of the future and if the cycle continues to play out as it has many times in the past, there is every reason to believe ALL commodities.. Gold Silver, Oil, Food…will reach true all time inflation adjusted highs.
Whenever I listen to Obama speak.. I run out and buy more Gold and Silver.

6 DDD October 21, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Further thoughts:
One of unintended byproducts of a rigged market (and all markets are rigged) is that a few people, other than the riggers, become very wealthy. The gold rigging should continue for many years.

7 Jim February 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Dumb article.Today is 2-21-11 and since the time this article was written my returns on my gold and silver investments have been extremly good.I just finished selling off half my position in silver today at 33.85 a ounce but anyone who doubts gold or silver has not been a good run the last 3 years is nuts.

Darwin Reply:

@Jim, No Jim. Dumb Comment. You pick an up day when the middle east is falling apart and gold spikes to pretend you have a prescient view of the world. Your gold play has worked out sooooo well. Well, it’s pretty much matched the S&P500, Apple is up double and Baidu is up about 8x the return of gold. So, my investments have fared much better and frankly, most common Americans don’t belong in gold. They get ripped off buying it and selling it in bullion, they may not have trading accounts to buy ETFs or miners, they don’t understand the tax consequences (do you?), and we all know how herding works…when people like you start bragging about how smart you are…that’s often the peak.

Tom Reply:

I have a question. For whatever reason, if everyone or most everyone in the U.S or in the world who has purchased gold decided to have physical delivery or possession this week by the weekend of their gold they’ve purchased, would there be enough gold to deliver to everyone??

8 user February 10, 2012 at 11:36 am

Gold has advantages over silver and platinum as it is contrarian play. Anyone who studies the activity of platinum and silver knows they tend to preform best in strong economies due to their industrial demand-not so with gold which relishes hard times. Platinum,and not gold or silver is likely to present the best opportunity from 2014 to 2024 as many breath taking technologies will soon require platinum in a way not unlike silver increaded demand began in the late 90’s. My advice is to keep 12% of your portfolio in physical holding-4% of each and you will get the advantages of each in various economic senarios.

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