In recent trading sessions, gold has kept up its steady upward pace, while silver rose to a 30-year high and palladium hit a nine-year high on Monday this week. The driving forces behind precious metals’ performances are simple to explain—the dollar is sinking and the demand for alternative investments (to money, mind you) is surging. As evidenced by the U.S. Dollar Index, which is a six-currency yardstick of the dollar’s strength in international markets, the Index has dipped further on a widely expected decision by the Federal Reserve to unleash “QE2,” another neat abbreviation for the second round of quantitative easing.
The main goal behind QE2 is maintaining interest rates that are low in order to incite organic growth. But how we are supposed to have organic growth at the expense of the world’s reserve currency remains a mystery. In recent trading sessions, gold responded to this conundrum by having both its futures and spot prices trading strongly above the old resistance level of $1,300 per ounce.
As the dollar weakness continues, so does the dip-buying. The latter is triggering surges in demand for precious metals, as investors, both large and small, continue to focus on protecting whatever wealth they have left after the crash of 2008 and the recession of 2009. So far this year, precious metals have posted significant gains due to most central banks around the world insisting on low costs of borrowing, so that consumer spending should receive the boost it has needed.
To illustrate, for the nine months of 2010, gold has gained 24%, while silver has advanced 48% and palladium even more, surging 60%, compared to their 2009 year-end levels. In addition, precious metals have outperformed global equities, treasuries and most base metals. As a by-product, exchange-traded funds where precious metals have been the underlying assets have also seen significant surges in investment.
Perhaps these statistics collected by Bloomberg will help in putting things into perspective. For 2009, the global aluminum industry had generated revenues of $50.2 billion, which represented a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of only 2.1% over the period from 2005 to 2009. In addition, the global base metals market’s aggregate revenues for 2009 were $172.5 billion, generating a CAGR of 5.1% for the same period from 2005 to 2009. Furthermore, the global material sector had total revenues of $6.87 trillion in 2009, which represents the same growth rate of 7.1% compounded over the same period. And, the global coal and consumable fuels market recorded total revenues of $367 billion in 2009, which represents a CAGR of 10.3% for the period from 2005 to 2009.
As for gold, the global gold market recorded total revenues of $73.5 billion during 2009, which represents a CAGR of 20.1% for the period from 2005 to 2009. And, although gold may be trailing behind silver and palladium so far in 2010, note that the global precious metals and minerals market, which excludes gold, has generated total revenues of $32.3 billion in 2009, representing a CAGR of a modest 4.4% over the period from 2005 to 2009.
Whichever way you look at it, the statistics don’t lie. Investors see gold as a safe haven, as a viable alternative to money and as a way of dealing with global volatilities that have certainly changed the game for many since the crash of 2008. True, gold will have short-term ups and downs; but, in the long term, the threat of inflation and more volatility is almost palpable and likely to keep the secular bull market in gold going for the foreseeable future.