Nov 13, 2019
Published: 13th November 2019 The global economy is showing signs of strain and expectations from investors around growth and income is decreasing. Can global infrastructure assets provide a solution? Infrastructure has long been a favourite equity asset class for investors as it offers the following characteristics: Access to long term stable cash flows, given people continue to pay for infrastructure in their day-to-day lives, e.g. toll roads, airports and utilities Upfront capital - investment is high for large infrastructure projects and generally the cash flows from investment are realised for long periods into the future High barriers to entry, reducing competition Infrastructure assets have the ability to produce stable income with low volatility and should therefore be a staple in investor portfolios. With the global uncertainty experienced so far during 2019, investors may look to infrastructure as a source of stable capital and yield. ETFS Global Core Infrastructure ETF CORE offers a low cost way to gain exposure to quality global infrastructure companies which have exhibited the least volatility in the last 6 months. CORE has been resilient during 2019’s market volatility and has returned 19% in the last 12 months with a yield of 4% (31 October 2019). Please see below some further information on CORE, outlining why you should consider this ETF for your infrastructure exposure. Attractive Income CORE has a 12 month yield of 4.11% to the 31 October 2019 Stable Growth Since CORE’s launch in 2017 it has returned over 13.5% p.a. Since its inception CORE has delivered risk adjusted returns (refer to sharpe ratio table) above both the S&P Global Infrastructure Index and the MSCI World Index Low Volatility CORE selects the 75 least volatile global infrastructure companies and weights them by their inverse volatility You can see the effect of CORE’s low volatility screen in the performance table below Period Total Return (p.a.) 3M 6M 1Y 2Y from 19 Sep 17 ETFS Global Core Infrastructure ETF (AUD, NAV, TR) 3.16% 8.19% 18.89% 11.70% 13.66% S&P Global Infrastructure Index (AUD, TR) 4.03% 8.75% 24.39% 11.61% 12.69% MSCI World Index (AUD, TR) 2.48% 6.00% 15.70% 12.61% 15.40% Annualised Volatility 3M 6M 1Y 2Y from 19 Sep 17 ETFS Global Core Infrastructure ETF (AUD, NAV, TR) 6.95% 6.97% 7.38% 8.04% 8.04% S&P Global Infrastructure Index (AUD, TR) 8.57% 8.37% 8.70% 8.95% 8.84% MSCI World Index (AUD, TR) 11.26% 10.74% 10.86% 10.67% 10.53% Sharpe Ratio 3M 6M 1Y 2Y from 19 Sep 17 ETFS Global Core Infrastructure ETF (AUD, NAV, TR) 0.31 1.00 2.35 1.25 1.49 S&P Global Infrastructure Index (AU, TR) 0.35 0.90 2.63 1.11 1.24 MSCI World Index (AUD, TR) 0.13 0.45 1.30 1.02 1.30 Source: Bloomberg as at 31 October 2019. Returns in AUD. Past performance is not an indication of future performance. Global Diversification Due to CORE’s rules based approach it does not have a significant concentration in any single company and instead offers a diversified infrastructure exposure As at 31st October 2019 the top 10 stocks in CORE accounted for just 18.80% of the portfolio The US and Canada make up the largest portion of CORE’s portfolio, followed by Asia and Europe. Australia has a very small exposure in the index, with QUBE Holdings as the only Australian stock currently in the portfolio Source: Bloomberg as at 31 October 2019. Returns in AUD. Past performance is not an indication of future performance.
Oct 09, 2019
Published: 10th October 2019 Product in Focus: ETFS Battery Tech & Lithium ETF Key Points Bloomberg New Energy Finance predict that global lithium-ion battery demand will grow 8-fold by 2030. Over 2 million electric vehicles were sold in 2018, accounting for less than 2% of global passenger vehicle sales. Sales forecasts are estimated to rise to 56 million by 2040. ACDC aims to provide investors with exposure to growth across the entire battery technology value-chain, including lithium miners and energy storage companies. Recent years have seen significant developments in lithium-ion battery power output and efficiency. Lighter and smaller batteries with increased output and falling prices have opened-up a wide range of new applications. These have already had big impacts on the consumer electronics market. The next step in the evolution of the battery technology industry is in larger scale applications. Electric vehicles for private and mass transportation, aided by the emergence of autonomous vehicle technologies and the rapid reductions in charging times. Further, use of lithium-ion batteries is promoting the growth of renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind, which are now able be consumed on demand and not only at the right times, or when weather permits. ETFS Battery Tech & Lithium ETF (ASX Code: ACDC) aims to provide investors with exposure to growth across the entire battery technology value-chain, from lithium miners to energy storage companies across a range of established and emerging companies. This note looks at the key areas driving growth across this quickly developing industry and highlights the operations of several selected companies to provide real-world examples of technological developments and how they are being monetised. Lithium – exploring the supply and demand outlooks Forecasts complied by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predict that global lithium-ion battery demand will grow 8-fold by 2030. This will have a significant impact on demand for lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) and other core metals, such as copper, aluminium and nickel as well as rare earth metals, such as cobalt. China maintains a dominant position in the supply-chain through both its control of mining companies and its dominance of refining capacity. Electric vehicle demand is anticipated to be the core growth driver over the coming decades, with passenger EVs dominating. Current forecasts point to a supply surplus out to at least 2025, which has been reflected in recent price action. As shown in figure 3, lithium prices have been in decline for the past 15 months, following a three-year bull-run during which prices trebled. Stock in Focus: Albemarle Corp Stock Code: ALB Albemarle is the world’s largest producer of LCE and a pioneer in the development of brine production processes that are commonly used today. Products include lithium metal as ingots, foil, rods and anodes, high purity lithium alloys, lithium salts and lithium sulphide, all of which have battery-related applications. One of its stated aims is to provide materials and to support the growth and success of lithium-ion technology to promote advances in mobile communication, power storage and electric mobility. Production and storage sites are located in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia, while Albemarle’s customer base is spread across more than 100 countries. Source: www.albemarle.com Financial information as at 30 Sep 2019: Electric vehicles Over 2 million electric vehicles were sold in 2018, which represents significant growth from a low base, but accounts for less than 2% of global passenger vehicle sales. Forecasts compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicate accelerating growth over the coming decades with sales to rise to 10 million in 2025, 28 million in 2030 and 56 million by 2040. By the mid-2020s electric vehicle sales are expected to reach parity with internal combustion vehicles, at which point 30% of passenger vehicles on our roads will be electric. Stock in Focus: BYD Stock Code: 1211 BYD is a Chinese manufacturer of passenger vehicles, mass transit vehicles and battery technology and is heavily backed by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, which holds a 25% stake. China currently represents around 60% of the global electric vehicle market, with over 600,000 fully electric vehicles sold in the first half of 2019. BYD is the largest Chinese producer, with market share currently running at close to 25%. BYD’s market share has increased in 2019 to-date, despite a slowing in the Chinese market as a result of the removal of subsidies. 63% of BYD’s revenue is currently generated by electric vehicles. Aside from passenger vehicles, BYD is currently a major supplier of electric busses, with government contracts across Asia, Europe and North and South America. BYD is also investing in large-scale battery storage projects. Source: www.byd.com, Bloomberg New Energy Finance Financial information as at 30 Sep 2019: Grid storage batteries The electric power sector has seen significant disruption from renewable sources in recent years, with wind, solar and other sources quickly becoming more economically viable relative to fossil fuel sources in many markets. Component costs are falling and efficiency is rising but improvements in battery technology have been the key to releasing these technologies and allowing them to meet consumer demand at times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts 50% of world electricity output to be wind and solar generated by 2050 and that this transformation will require heavy investment in battery technology. There are numerous competing battery types and new technologies under development. Examples include flow batteries, lead-carbon, sodium-sulphur and compressed-air energy storage. Lithium-ion, however, is the established technology of choice and currently accounts for 85% of commissioned, utility-scale battery storage worldwide. Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance “New Energy Outlook 2019” Stock in Focus: GS YUASA Stock Code: 6674 GS Yuasa is a Japanese company that manufactures and sells automotive batteries, industrial batteries, power supply systems and other electrical equipment. They are a leader in lithium-ion technology and provide a range of storage solutions for renewable and reserve power applications. The company is involved in multiple large-scale energy storage projects including constructing one of the world’s largest lithium-ion batteries, to be connected to a wind energy plant in North Hokkaido, Japan. The battery will have an output of 240MW and a capacity of 720WMh, which is equivalent to 45,000 electric vehicles. Source: www.gs-yuasa.com Financial information as at 30 Sep 2019: About ACDC ACDC tracks the Solactive Battery Value-Chain Index, which aims to capture the performance of companies that are providers of electro-chemical storage technology and mining companies that produce metals that are primarily used for manufacturing of lithium batteries. Companies comprising the Index are determined by reference to: 1. The U.S. Department of Energy's DOE Global Energy Storage Database, which identifies companies that are electro-chemical storage technology providers; and 2. Metal Bulletin, which identifies mining companies that produce lithium. Constituents are equally weighted to provide maximum diversification. ACDC currently holds 29 stocks from seven countries with sector allocations heavily in favour of the Industrials, Materials and Consumer Discretionary sectors.
Sep 10, 2019
Published: 10th September 2019 Product in Focus: ETFS Physical Silver Key Points Silver has historically performed in a similar way to gold 50% of silver is used in industrial applications including solar cells and automotive electrics A supply shortage of silver may impact price in the future MER: 0.49% p.a. Silver has become increasingly interesting to many investors. Not only does it exhibit similar properties to it more popular brother, gold, but it also has a much wider application in industry which gold doesn’t have. As such, for strictly investment purposes, silver has historically performed in a similar way to gold, but also has further support from industrial manufacturing demand and applications. Investors should consider this precious metal if they want exposure to an asset that, historically, benefits from both investment and non-investment demand. Non-Investment Demand Non-Investment demand comprises about 50% of silver demand. This can be split into four categories, seen in the table below. For this note we focus on the industrial and technological aspects. Additionally, we briefly look at the supply deficit in silver, which should provide a support for silver prices. Demand Driver Million ounces Percentage (%) Industrial and technological (including solar, automotive, brazing and soldering) 593 52 Jewellery 204 18 Bar and coin 193 17 Silverware 60 (approx.) 5 Source: GFMS, Refinitov/Silver Institute, 31 July 2019 Industrial and Technological Demand The industrial and technological use of silver is integral to many of the current processes used in manufacturing. Crucially, it is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. David Holmes, a senior precious metals analyst from Heraues, made this comment on the growth in a conference held in London at the LBMA in late 2018. Silver’s “long-term fundamentals as industrial demand within the electronics’ sector is expected to double over the next 15 years.” Of the industrial demand drivers for price, the use of solar energy is probably the most interesting aspect. Moving forward, increased demand for silver is expected to come from the solar energy sector, since the precious metal is a great conductor of both heat and electricity, making it perfect for use in solar panels. Solar currently accounts for 2% of the world’s generated power that is expected to grow to 7% by 2030. (1) Additionally, the progressive move towards electrical vehicles will increase the use of silver in cars too. Last year, around 36 million ounces of silver were used in automobiles. Each car itself uses about half an ounce of silver but the continuing electrification of cars is set to see that increase to one ounce. To put this in context, every electrical action in a modern car is activated with silver-coated contacts. Basic functions such as starting the engine, opening power windows, adjusting power seats and closing a power trunk are all activated using a silver membrane switch. Demand Deficit Further bolstering the positive tailwinds for the silver price is the supply shortage. Until recently, this had little effect on price but, as non-investment demand makes up about 50% of silver’s overall demand, it’s hard to avoid the impact of this continuing trend of demand not being met. Investment Demand Silver’s investment demand is based on a combination of fundamental drivers but also impacted by momentum. Fundamental Fundamentally silver’s investment demand profile is almost identical to gold. Currently this is primarily based on the desire to avoid currency debasement and the need for protection from threats to investment returns like trade wars and the end of the equity cycle. As much has already been written on this in regard to gold, this note will assume good knowledge of this from the reader. Momentum Momentum is also a driver of silver. Often increased interest begets further interest, and this can either help the price of silver move up further than expected short term or serve as a strong support when there is a correction. On this, the futures market gives a good indicator of momentum via the “net speculative positions” charts. Below you can see that silver is currently net long in terms of its futures positioning, meaning that there are more buyers than sellers. On the short-term, one can see that the positioning has risen up very rapidly lately, however, crucially, it doesn’t look extended versus other periods – especially versus 2016. Furthermore, the current positioning is off the back of a period (2018 – Q1 2019) where, on several occasions, silver was in a net short position i.e. investors were betting that silver was going down. As you can see, this was the only time this was the case since 2009 and serves to reinforce the current position as not overbought. Gold/Silver Ratio Finally, there is the gold/silver ratio. Many look at this as an indicator as to whether gold is expensive relative to silver or vice versa. Currently, based on this measure, silver currently appears undervalued. For those who believe the relationship should reinstate itself, many are buying silver as well as gold. Our view at ETF Securities is that it is not entirely clear whether this relationship stands anymore, or, at least, is as strong as it once was. This is because the use of silver in a non-investment capacity has grown so much over the last decade that it is becoming equally as meaningful as the investment demand. This is in contract to gold which is much more driven by investment demand. Nonetheless, we are not saying the ratio has no value. Only that it should not be a primary driver of silver investment. Summary In summary, silver’s price is dictated by both investment and non-investment demand. Silver shares many of the same fundamental characteristics for investment demand as gold but, because it is used far more widely in manufacturing for industry and technology, its price is also dictated by non-investment demand too. Taking both into consideration in the current environment, silver’s prospects look attractive and we encourage investors to looks at this in more detail. (1) https://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/precious-metals-investing/silver-investing/5-factors-drive-silver-demand
Aug 13, 2019
Published: 13th August 2019 Product in Focus: ETFS S&P/ASX 300 High Yield Plus ETF Key Points August reporting season is in full-swing, presenting investors with both opportunities and risks. ETFs offer a simple and cost-effective way to diversify away from single name risks. ZYAU, which holds companies based on quality and yield factors, could be an attractive solution over this period. Reporting season is upon us as most Australian companies prepare to present their financial results for the period ended 30 June 2019. This article looks at the risks and opportunities that may present themselves during the up-coming weeks and demonstrates how ETFs can be used to avoid some of the pitfalls that can arise. Reporting Season highlights Of the S&P/ASX 200 constituents, 152 will report by the end of this month, with activity peaking in the middle two-weeks of August. Highlights include Rio Tinto on 1st of August, Commonwealth Bank on the 7th, CSL Limited on 14th, Telstra Corp on the 15th and BHP Group on 20th. Wesfarmers and Woolworths report on 27th and 29th, respectively. Figure 1 provides a visual guide to the season ahead. Opportunity or Risk? Over the coming weeks market professionals will be positioning their portfolios and adjusting their ratings and targets in anticipation of earnings reports. Not only are they forecasting company results, following each announcement comes the task of digesting the details and evaluating how the market will react. With China’s slowing economy, global trade concerns, Brexit, Hong Kong and rate cuts on the cards both locally and abroad, there are also a lot of external factors to consider. For professional investors, reporting season represents an opportunity. Those with better insight into the workings of each company and a better ability to read how the market will interpret earnings reports and changes in external variables have a better chance of beating the market. For average investors, however, the risks of making a bad call on a single company can often outweigh the potential rewards. Stock Picking Is a Zero-Sum Game It is often not appreciated that stock picking and active management is a zero-sum game. For every investor who outperforms the market, another investor must underperform. The average return earned by all investors is, by definition, the return of the market. To demonstrate this, we introduce the concept of dispersion. Dispersion is a measure of how spread out stock returns are over a period of time. Figure 2 shows two simple examples. In Panel A, where dispersion is low, the opposite is true. To use an extreme example, in the case where all stocks have the same return, which is the market return, dispersion is zero and there is no ability for anyone to outperform the market. In Panel B, where stock returns are very spread out or dispersed, there are high rewards available for correctly picking the winners, but there are also high risks for backing the losers. How Risky Is Reporting Season? We now turn our attention to the Australian reporting season and investigate the dispersion of stocks over the two key reporting months; February and August. To do so we calculated the dispersion of S&P/ASX 200 stocks on a monthly basis over ten years, where dispersion is measured as the standard deviation of returns between stocks. Monthly dispersion numbers are then averaged across each calendar month over the sample period. Results are shown in Figure 3. As anticipated, the two highest dispersion months are February and August. On average the dispersion across these two months is over 2% higher than over other months. The conclusion that we draw from this is that reporting periods present both the biggest opportunity to beat the market, but also the biggest risk of lagging the market. For investors who do not have an edge, the risks of attempting to beat the market can be high. So, what can the average investor do to avoid such risks? Diversification using ETFs Exchange traded funds offer a simple and easy solution. They allow investors to purchase an entire portfolio of ASX-listed stocks in a single trade. Low-cost diversification is a key feature of ETFs and this is exactly what investors need over periods where single-name risk and market dispersion is anticipated to be high. Broad-based ETFs, which closely tracks the market, can be useful for riding-out risker periods, but investing in ETFs does not necessarily mean simply investing with the market. It is still possible to take an active position, while diversifying-away single stock risk. ETFs offer a wide range of different exposures, most of which provide significant diversification benefits. One strategy for reducing earnings-related volatility is to invest in high quality firms with stable income. ETF Securities offers a unique fund in this regard, which filters ASX-listed companies for both yield and quality. ZYAU provides exposure to a selection of 40 Australian companies that have high dividend yields and/or share buy-back rates. To be eligible for inclusion the companies must have stable or increasing dividends and must generate Free Cash Flow to Equity above the amount of their distributions. This avoids companies who are using debt to finance unsustainably high yields and helps to identify high quality companies. Companies with stable yields and strong cash flow generation tend to be well-established, stable businesses with strong balance sheets and may be less prone to negative earnings surprises. Fund Name ETFS S&P/ASX 300 High Yield Plus ETF (ASX Code: ZYAU) Management Fee 0.35% per annum Benchmark S&P/ASX 300 Shareholder Yield Index Inception Date 9 June 2015 Distribution Frequency Quarterly 12 Month Yield 5.09% plus franking credits Holdings A full list of current holdings is available through the product PCF located here. In Summary ZYAU offers investors a portfolio of high quality, yield-paying stocks on the ASX that can help achieve diversification in a single trade at a relatively low cost. This can be particularly powerful over reporting season, where returns in individual stocks tend to be more spread out and the risks from choosing the wrong stocks is higher. ZYAU is currently yielding 5.09% p.a. plus franking credits and has consistently been one of the best performing Australian equity-income ETFs since coming to market in 2015.
Jul 09, 2019
Product in focus: ETFS Reliance India Nifty 50 ETF (ASX Code: NDIA) Key Points The Indian economy is primed to benefit from the structural reforms of the Modi government. Domestic consumption is powering 60% of Indian GDP. The average age in India is just 28 supplying a young and agile workforce that are increasingly connected. India is the world’s largest democracy, the sixth largest economy and has a population of 1.3 billion, 54 times the number of people in Australia for approximately the same land size. The nation is undergoing a rapid transformation that was truly initiated by the liberalisation of the economy beginning in 1991. Structural changes to the economy have been brought about in recent years by the Modi government aiding the significant growth seen today. The fundamental driver of this growth is the increase in domestic consumption throughout the nation. Structural Reform Key reforms initiated by Modi have begun the process of formalising India’s economy and created a better environment for business. This has been reflected in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking, India is now ranked 77th in the world and significantly, this represents an increase in 53 positions over two years. Contributors to this progress include the introduction of GST in mid-2017 which centralised 17 indirect taxes that were previously levied. 2017 also saw the sovereign credit rating upgraded one level by Moody’s, the first movement in this in 14 years. The evolution of the economy can be seen through the fundamental shift from the previous agrarian focus to the more service-based economy we see today. Consumption A 2019 report by the World Economic Forum identified domestic consumption as the key driver of India’s economy today, powering 60% of GDP. The report outlines five significant contributors to India’s growing consumption: 1. Income growth India is undergoing a transformation in wealth, it is projected that 25 million households will be lifted out of poverty by 2030, reducing the percentage of households in poverty from 15% today to less than 5%. This is introducing a huge expansion of the middle class and uptick in consumption of everyday items. 2. Urbanisation 40% of Indian’s will live in urban areas by 2030 as there is a steady migration from rural regions to cities and increased population density urbanises previously small towns. This movement is compounding the need for core infrastructure developments to cope with additional population pressures. 3. Demographic change India has a median age of just 28 years. This young and, comparatively, highly educated work force will remain young through to 2030 with an expected median age of 31 years. Compare this to the expected median age in Australia of 40 years and China at 42 years. (1) 4. Technology and innovation Indian’s have embraced the new digital age, and in many cases, they have leap-frogged many of those technologies that emerged during the dot-com bubble. 80% of Indian’s use their mobile as the primary platform for accessing the internet with the desktop computer bypassed completely. This has created a highly engaged and agile market who are adopting many of the new technologies the share economy has to offer. Rideshare company Ola, a strong rival to Uber, was valued at $6.2 billion in May 2019 and has set a goal to bring one million electric vehicles onto the roads by 2021. (2) Projections suggest there will be 1.1 billion internet users in India by 2030, with each representing further opportunities to extend consumption and engage with the new service-based economy. 5. Changing consumer attitudes As the Indian population has become wealthier and more connected, the core attitudes of consumers are also changing. The growing middle class has led to the emergence of sectors in the market that were previously very small, including dining out, personal hygiene, organic food, health and fitness. Opportunity Awaits The Nifty50 Index is primed to benefit from the structural reforms currently happening in India. Financials make up almost 40% of the Nifty50 and these companies will arguably benefit the most from recent changes. With the policy of demonetisation and the introduction of GST boosting their performance. The second biggest overall sector in the index is the consumer sector, making up about 17% of the index, which will also benefit from India’s growing middle class, household consumption and urbanisation. India’s overall economic growth has been driven through domestic consumption and the Nifty50 is no different, with the index constituents generating a significant portion of their revenue onshore, despite their large cap nature. As global volatility increases with the threat of trade wars and political uncertainty, India can rely on its domestic consumption to achieve the 7.5% forecast growth in 2020 (IMF, April 2019). 1 https://www.statista.com/statistics/260493/median-age-of-the-population-in-australia/ 2 https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/sme/indias-2nd-most-valuable-startup-ola-valuation-to-hit-6-2-billion-new-funding-proposal-by-hyundai-kia-motors-show/1565464/
Jul 09, 2019
Published: 9th July 2019 Product in Focus: ETFS Physical Gold (ASX Code: Gold) Key Points Gold has been on a run in 2019 reaching a new all time high in AUD terms of over A$2000/ounce. Gold price is influenced by economic uncertainty and momentum Demand is high, driven by central bank and ETF purchasing Gold has been on a great run in 2019. US$ spot gold is up 9.1% since the start of the year and has recently been trading above US $1,400 for the first time since 2013 (as at 8th July 2019). In Australian dollar terms gold is hitting new all-time highs above A$2,000 an ounce. Fuelled by equity market volatility in late 2018 and recent heightened expectations of easing monetary policy, gold has performed precisely as would have been predicated by anyone anticipating the broader macro forces at work over the past year. Equity market volatility in early 2018 triggered a rally, which subsided as markets regrouped and set sail for new highs in the third quarter. Volatility returned the fourth quarter of 2018, driving gold higher again. All of this occurred with the backdrop of an abrupt shift in monetary policy from major central banks. To put gold’s price activity into context, it is worth looking at the historic drivers of the gold price. Research by the World Gold Council highlights the four broad categories of factors that influence the price of gold; This article looks at these four key factors in the context of the current market from a global perspective. Factor 1: Economic Expansion Despite much talk about the uncorrelated and counter-cyclical aspects of gold, like most assets, demand for gold is at least somewhat driven by the overall level activity and wealth in the global economy. Where savings and investment levels are high, demand for gold is high. Recent years have seen growing demand for gold from both India and China as levels of disposable wealth have grown. These two countries now account for more than 50% of global demand for gold. Conversely, a slowdown in the technology sector in late 2018 saw industrial demand fall by 3% in Q1 2019. While a broader economic slowdown seems to be in progress, the diversity of demand for gold and its traditional role as a strategic investment asset makes it unlikely that a reduction in economic activity will have a significant negative price impact on gold in the short-term. Factor 2: Risk and Uncertainty As an investment asset gold is commonly deployed as a portfolio diversifier, inflation hedge and quasi-insurance policy. Gold has shown persistently low levels of correlation with stocks and bonds over the long term, which means that the addition of gold to a portfolio is often able to improve risk-adjusted returns by adding diversification. Figure 3, below, shows the impact of adding gold to a typical balanced portfolio invested across Australian and international equities and fixed income (as represented by Vanguard’s LifeStrategy Balanced Fund). The conclusion here is that over the long-run a relatively small allocation to gold in a portfolio can have a consistent impact on the risk/return profile of the portfolio. In addition, gold can also have a substantial impact when other asset returns are stressed. This is evidenced in Figure 3(b) by the lower drawdowns, or losses experienced during the largest negative events. This leads us to gold’s commonly cited role as an “event risk” hedge. When major, unexpected events occur gold has, time and again, had a better outcome than equity markets. Figure 4, below, shows how gold fared versus the S&P 500 and ASX 200 through a selection of major financial events over the past four decades. When negative market events occur, gold’s correlation with mainstream asset classes tends to reduce and even become negative. This is in stark contrast to many other “alternative” assets, such as hedge fund strategies. During the global financial crisis, these were seen to be highly correlated to equity markets as investors simultaneously rushed to the exit of anything but the safest stores of value. Not only is gold highly liquid, its other important feature is that it has no credit risk. Unlike other asset classes, during times of financial stress when risk premiums are raised correlations between other assets rise as investors simultaneously look to sell, while gold often moves the other way on safe-haven buying. While such major events are unpredictable by nature, there is a growing case to be made that equity market valuations are currently stretched and that the volatility seen in early and late 2018 could well return in the near-term. Even if the monetary authorities are ahead of the curve and manage to engineer a soft landing, late-phase bull-markets are synonymous with bouts of volatility. As with any insurance policy, premiums are paid in the hope you never need to make a claim. Factor 3: Opportunity Cost The most common argument made against investing in gold is that gold has no intrinsic value because it produces no income and in fact produces negative income if you account for storage and security costs. This is certainly true in a literal sense. As has already been demonstrated, however, this should not detract from the role gold can play in a portfolio and the potential value it adds. The opportunity cost associated with holding gold is driven by the income and gains forgone by investing in gold over other asset classes. This is clearest in relation to bonds - when interest rates are high the relative cost of owning gold is high. Bonds may provide the necessary diversification, while also providing attractive levels of income. When yields are low, however, that cost of owning gold is reduced, making gold a more attractive play. In cases where yields are negative, as we currently see across Japan and the eurozone, gold effectively provides a positive yield. In the current market, not only are interest rates at the low end of the historic range, but monetary authorities, most importantly in the U.S., but also in Australia and Europe, have recently shifted from a normalisation/tightening bias, to a stimulatory/easing bias. Figure 5, below, demonstrates the very close relationship between gold and the U.S. 2-year Treasury yield over the past 18 months. Furthermore, over the past two easing cycles in the U.S. between 2001-03 and between 2007-08 gold appreciated by 31% and 17% respectively. Research by the World Gold Council also suggests that not only do lower interest rates raise demand for gold, but that interest rates have a greater impact on gold in periods where there is a shift in stance, which is exactly what we have seen over the past few months. Markets are now pricing a 100% probability of a Fed cut at the end of July. The likelihood of this was less than 20% as recently as late-May. Factor 4: Momentum Like most assets, gold is susceptible to trends and changes in momentum as it moves in and out of favour and the current trend is overwhelmingly positive. A key area of investment demand is from exchange traded funds (ETFs). Figure 6 shows that global ETF holdings have been steadily rising since early 2016. There are now over 74 million troy ounces of gold supporting physically-backed ETFs, which provide investors with access to gold on most global stock exchanges. ETF users range from larger institutional to small retail investors. Central bank demand is also growing and has been doing so since 2010. Net purchases are at historic highs and diversified across a wide range of nations. According to the World Gold Council 9 central banks added more than a tonne of gold to their reserves in Q1 2019. Conclusion In summary, gold has picked-up a strong tail-wind in recent months. Demand for gold continues to grow on multiple fronts. The case for using gold as a portfolio diversifier is also becoming clearer as interest rates decline and future growth prospects of global economies are questioned. For investors who are concerned with the risk of drastic, unexpected events it is hard to go past the track record of gold in helping to reduce losses in such scenarios. How to invest? Investors looking to add gold exposure to their portfolios can do so via ETFS Physical Gold (ASX: GOLD). GOLD is the oldest and largest gold ETF traded on the ASX. It is fully-backed by physical gold bullion vaulted on behalf of investors in the fund. GOLD charges a management fee of 0.40% per annum.