If you’re looking for silver linings during these strange economic times, gold offers more than a glimmer of hope. While likely to outperform if stocks suffer another sharp sell-off, you don’t need to be bearish on equities to have a positive outlook on gold.
Think of gold as a hedge against adverse economic outcomes. The U.S. economy will adapt to the new realities created by a global pandemic. Equity investors will be well-rewarded long-term, but it would be naive to suggest there will be no unexpected consequences.
The sheer magnitude of this economic shutdown and the stimulus that followed puts us in uncharted territory.
Trillions of dollars in assistance from Congress and the Federal Reserve are one reason to own gold. Rescue packages of this size come with a price. Dramatically increasing the money supply and federal debt levels creates the risk of debasing currencies.
In the Great Recession, these concerns caused gold to appreciate 150% between 2008 and 2011. The government stimulus this year is already far greater than total federal spending from a decade ago.
Gold has also proven to be a good hedge against inflation. Even if the Fed keeps interest rates near zero for years to come, inflation is still possible. When a vaccine helps the world return to normal, pent-up demand plus broken supply chains could lead to quickly rising consumer prices.
By historical standards, gold is significantly under-owned by institutions. As stock and bond prices rose consistently in the last decade, the desire for non-correlated assets decreased. Today, investors are left to choose between bonds with historically low yields and stocks of companies whose future earnings are especially difficult to predict. As the decisionmakers of large pensions and endowments evaluate their options, gold appears worthy of a larger allocation. Increasing demand will drive gold prices higher.
If you study technical analysis, the case for gold becomes even more compelling. Gold prices have increased 30% in the past 12 months.
As the technicians say, “The trend is your friend.” Gold currently trades around $1,700 per ounce. Surpassing the all-time high of $1,825/ounce (from 2011) would be an especially bullish signal after nearly a decade of sideways movements.
Unlike most investments, the price of gold is determined solely by investor demand. It does not pay a dividend. There are no corporate earnings or P/E ratios to consider. It is not tied to the business cycle and has no correlation to the stock market. All of this means it offers true diversification.
Investors need not buy and store the physical metal to benefit from owning gold. Our economy will not devolve to the point of trading gold coins for N95 masks. A quick internet search will reveal several exchange-traded-funds (ETFs) that track the price of gold with low expenses and high liquidity.
We can’t be sure how the stock market or the global economy will look a year from now, but we can agree that uncertainty is especially high. That, on its own, makes adding gold to your portfolio a relatively good bet.
Ben Marks is chief investment officer at Marks Group Wealth Management in Minnetonka. He can be reached at email@example.com. Brett Angel is a senior wealth adviser at the firm.