Spot silver prices are fighting hard. The commodity started the year strong, getting close to $38.00 an ounce, only to retreat with gold prices and consolidate all summer. Now silver has crept up to the $34.00-per-ounce level, and $35.00 an ounce seems just around the corner, with gold prices now holding around $1,750.
Many gold and silver mining companies struggled on the stock market this year, due to the swing in spot prices and the rising costs of production. Very few producing miners have done well on the stock market this year, whereas most did well in 2011.
If you’re a gold (and silver) bug, there’s a lot to be said about an instrument like the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca/GLD), which is a gold trust exchange-traded fund (ETF). Held in the form of 400-ounce gold bars, the gold itself is kept in vaults stored in London. It is currently worth approximately $75.0 billion in U.S. dollars, according to the trust.
SPDR Gold Shares actually has a great long-term track record on the stock market. Back in 2006, it was trading around $60.00 a share, moving to $70.00 in 2007 and $120.00 by 2010. It hit a high of over $180.00 a share when spot gold peaked in 2011. SPDR Gold Shares is currently trading around $170.00 a share. The ETF’s recent stock chart is featured below:
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
The current consolidation in gold prices is very similar to the one experienced in 2008/2009. Gold prices have been going up consistently since 2002, with silver prices moving up since 2005.
Realistically, one of the better ways for most investors to be long on gold or silver is through an ETF. Investment risk is compounded if an investor is speculating in individual mining companies; it is also compounded if investors hold the physical commodity in their own homes.
There aren’t a lot of reasons why either gold or silver prices should go down from their current levels. Certainly, if demand for jewelry in Asian markets was to dry up, spot gold would take a hit. But that doesn’t seem likely, as more and more Asian consumers become middle-class consumers.
I don’t know when, but someday, all this monetary stimulus in the form of artificially low interest rates and huge increases to the U.S. money supply is going to impact consumers and investors in unforeseen ways. Most argue that gold will benefit with rising inflation, but a weaker U.S. dollar will also be a major catalyst.
Most investors should already have some exposure to gold and silver as part of a balanced investment portfolio. (See “The Biggest Stock Market Winner Going Forward.”) Western economies aren’t growing faster than the rate of inflation, but gold and silver prices are solidly holding up. This tells me that futures speculators are waiting to bid these commodities much higher in price. All that’s required is a catalyst, and I think we’ll get one next year.