ETF Entrance Into Gold Rush Proves Rewarding But Volatile
There are also a few equity ETFs that invest in gold mining stocks.
Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF for example, which tracks the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, is up an eye-popping 188.6 percent since October 2008, largely because the price of gold rendered it economically viable for many of the companies it invests in to ramp up operations on dormant mines, says Bailin.
“They may not have been producing when prices were lower, but as soon as gold reaches that threshold where it becomes profitable to start making cuts into the ground again they not only go from taking a year-over-year loss on that field but they become highly profitable and can even ramp up volume to squeeze as much juice out of that lemon as they can,” says Bailin. “You see that reflected in their shares.”
Such funds, he notes, can be leveraged plays, because at the point of profitability the shares of those companies often climb faster than the price of the metal they mine.
Double Gold ETFs, in fact, seek to double the investment return of either gold bullion or a specific gold index through operational leverage – for better or worse.
If the price of gold goes up by 10 percent, the fund would attempt to return 20 percent.
The reverse, of course, also applies. If the price of gold falls by 10 percent, the fund would tumble 20 percent.
With a one-year return of 87 percent, ProShares Ultra Gold is among them.
As stock funds, however, all equity ETFs are vulnerable to movements in the overall stock market, management changes and operational challenges.
As such, they are best left to seasoned investors who can stomach a little risk, says Bailin.
Which type of gold fund you select, of course, depends on your objective.
But given its volatility, no investors should have more than 5 percent of their portfolio allocated to gold — or any other commodity, says Bailin.
“If you’re looking to speculate on price movements, you might be able to realize not only spot gains but increased price sensitivity to spot movements with equity offerings,” he says.
But if you’re looking at gold for its portfolio benefits — low correlation with traditional asset classes or inflationary hedge — then gold-backed funds are best, he notes.
“The reason that physical backing is a very preferable way to gain exposure is because when an offering backs its shares with physical bullion, the price performance that you are going to realize is going to be exactly the same as the commodity,” says Bailin. “If you’re looking for portfolio level benefits and very precise tracking, obviously equities aren’t the place to go for that.”