THE YEAR 2020 HASN’T FELT LIKE THE
Golden age of anything, except maybe for gold itself. Early August saw the shiny yellow stuff hit an all-time high of more than $2,000 an ounce. Prices have fallen back since then, but it has still been an excellent year for gold investors so far: The price of the metal has risen by 27.5% in 2020, compared with a 21.8% total return for the Nasdaq Composite stock index and a 4.8% total return for the S&P 500. Even longtime gold detractor Warren Buffett recently purchased stock in a gold mining company. (Prices and returns are through September 11.)
Gold’s glow-up has come even though it produces no earnings or income in the form of dividends, as would a stock. Unlike the case with other commodities, such as copper and tungsten, gold’s prices don’t rise and fall along with industrial demand.
So, why the gold rush? For one thing, basement-low interest rates mean that many bond investors currently earn yields lower than the rate of inflation. In such a climate, gold’s lack of yield is much less of a drawback, says Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer at the Leuthold Group. “Any competition gold had from fixed income has vanished,” he says.
Also contributing to gold’s rise: the Fed’s decision to flood the U.S. economy with unprecedented amounts of stimulus money in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gold is a classic inflation hedge, and investors have snapped up the metal on the premise that the stimulus will eventually drive up prices if the influx of cash causes consumer demand to rise faster than the supply of goods and services.
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