fter a midsummer rally, gold is now having a better year than the S&P 500 index. And that’s good timing for some new gold ETFs that launched this year.
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), the largest and oldest ETF in the world which tracks the price of gold, has surged more than 10% since July 7 for a year-to-date return of 16.9% through Sept. 7, according to Morningstar Direct. Meanwhile, SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), which tracks the stock market benchmark, is up 11.5% this year. IShares Gold Trust (IAU), GLD’s main competitor, is also up nearly 17%.
The main reason for the rally is the falling U.S. dollar, which has dropped nearly 10% this year. Some blame comments from President Trump, who said in April that the dollar was “getting too strong.”
But others think it has more to do with interest rates.
“Real interest rates started to go negative and that hurts the dollar. Both the five-year and the two-year (Treasury notes) are now negative,” said Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer of U.S. Global Investors, which launched U.S. Global Go Gold & Precious Metal Miners (GOAU) in June. “When the dollar falls, gold goes up.”
GOAU holds companies engaged in the production of precious metals either through mining or production and specialized financial firms called royalty companies. These royalty companies provide capital to fund exploration and production projects, and in return, receive a stream of royalties. GOAU is up 14% since its launch. It carries an expense ratio of 0.60%.
GraniteShares Gold Trust (BAR) also launched this year, on Aug. 31. Just like GLD and IAU, it holds actual gold bars to track the price of gold. Founded by Will Rhind, who managed GLD for 2-1/2 years before starting GraniteShares, BAR’s big selling point is it’s the lowest-cost gold ETF. It charges an expense ratio of 0.20%, vs. 0.40% for GLD and 0.25% for IAU.
“When you own gold as a hedge, you want the lowest-cost hedge,” said Rhind.
People flock to gold as a hedge when there’s uncertainty in the market. And there had been a lot of uncertainty lately, including deadlines to keep the government funded and raise the debt ceiling.
The Senate on Thursday approved a bill to avert a government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling for three months, as well as $15.25 billion in hurricane relief aid. In August, the president had said he was willing to risk shutting down the government unless he obtained funding for the wall he promised to build between Mexico and the U.S.
Gold hit its all-time high of $1,900 in 2011, during the last government shutdown threat.
“Another key motivation is we’re entering crash season, September and October,” said Brandon White, gold analyst at Bullion Management Group in Toronto. “We haven’t had a (stock market) correction for a number of years. So, people think we may be due for a downturn. So, take money off the table and move it into something that does well in market downturns, and precious metals do well.”
He added that annual gold production is expected to decline 40% going into 2018.
Then there is the saber rattling between Trump and North Korea, which is testing nuclear bombs and firing missiles. Wars always make gold prices go higher and geopolitical tensions are rising between the two countries.
All this has pushed the price of gold through the technical resistance line of $1,300, to $1,349 an ounce.
“A lot of people watching gold have been waiting for gold to challenge the $1,300-resistance line. It was tested three times last week,” said White. “When money managers consider an asset to revert to the upside from a downtrend, they will often wait for a 20% move. The resistance line was a key technical indicator that needed to be broken before sentiment turned. Now interest is back. It’s not so much a speculative trade as a defensive trade.”
And interest is definitely back.
Gold-backed ETFs saw net inflow of $1.6 billion in August, according to the World Gold Council. North American ETFs drove global inflow. GLD led inflow with $1.03 billion, or 3.2% of its assets under management, and IAU received $266 million, or $3.1% of AUM.