Investment Professionals

Five lessons on gold from the pandemic

Mar 31, 2021

Lesson #1. Gold does well in crises, acting like portfolio insurance Every investor wants an asset that offers downside protection, or insurance of a sort. And preferably one that is not suspiciously complicated or synthetic. Perhaps the major lesson from the coronavirus is that gold can provide this type of insurance as gold historically does well during collapsing equity markets, as the chart below illustrates. Gold has performed well in times of crisis Source: Bloomberg, ETF Securities, 1 March 2021 The onset of the coronavirus crisis is generally dated from 31 December 2019, when the virus was first officially reported by Wuhan health authorities in China. The worst of things for markets ended on 18 November 2020, when Pfizer and BioNTech published phase 3 trial results for their vaccine candidate (suggesting that a mass vaccination drive was possible.) Throughout this period, gold provided a return of 25%, compared to the 9% delivered by the S&P 500 in US dollars. Nothing comes for free of course. And gold can underperform during strong equity market bull runs; such as the dotcom boom of the 1990s. However, this is often the way with insurance policies: when times are good, they fall in price, leaving investors mulling over whether they need them at all. Yet when bad times return, as they inevitably do, policy holders can be glad that they kept them. Lesson #2. Gold has outperformed most asset classes long-term The market is a noisy place. And getting caught up in the daily sound, it is easy to lose sight of the long-term picture. For gold, there are two ways of looking at the big picture. First, its long-term returns. Second, the impact that a small allocation can have on a portfolio. The pandemic has highlighted both benefits gold can bring. Average annual return of key assets in Australian dollars'* Source: World Gold Council (*Returns from 31 December 2000 to 31 December 2020. In Australian dollars of total return indices for S&P/ASX 200, Bloomberg Aus Bond Bank Bill Index, Bloomberg AusBond Govt 1+ Yr Index, and Bloomberg Commodity Index.) The long-term performance of gold is something that can surprise investors, as received wisdom suggests that Aussie equities outperform other assets over the long term. However, for the two decades leading up to January 2021, gold has been the top performing of the major asset classes. Gold’s outperformance was accentuated by the pandemic, as the ASX 200 is yet to re-achieve its pre-pandemic peak. Gold’s ability to enhance portfolio’s risk-adjusted returns was also on display. As gold maintains a low correlation with shares and bonds, it can improve the overall returns of a portfolio. (“Push out the efficient frontier” in the jargon). This can be seen below, with some simulations we have run with Vanguard’s famous LifeStrategy funds. It can be seen that the portfolio with a small gold holding does better on almost every measure. Investors are welcome to try their own simulations, with a small allocation to gold. Growth of $10,000: Vanguard LifeStrategy Simulation Source: Bloomberg, ETF Securities, Vanguard. Time period: 1/10/2005-30/9/2020 Lesson #3. The gold price is driven by negative real yields The gold price correlates with the real yield on the 10-year US treasury, the pandemic has shown. Meaning investors who want a signal on the gold price’s future direction potentially have one. It makes sense that gold would correlate with real yields. As gold provides no income, it can become more appealing when bonds do not have a real income either. And when bonds provide a negative income – meaning bonds are mathematically guaranteed to lose value if held to maturity – it is logical to expect gold to be more appealing still. Negative real yields are made of gold Source: Federal Reserve; ETF Securities, 1 March 2021 Aiding golds tether to real yields has been the rise of ETFs, which have allowed more flexibility about how gold is used in portfolios. Prior to 2006, gold did not correlate with real yields. The correlation only emerged after the mainstreaming of gold ETFs in the early and mid-2000s. That gold ETFs should have this influence has caused some to raise an alarm. Campbell Harvey, professor of international business at Duke University, argues that gold ETFs driving the gold market could create larger drawdowns in the price of gold. He wrote: “The ETF financialization of gold ownership, in which the real price of gold may be correlated with the amount of gold held by gold-owning ETFs, could possibly lead to higher peaks and lower troughs for the real price of gold relative to the experience of the past.” From where we sit, the evidence suggests that the opposite is at least equally possible. Drawdowns in the gold price were larger in the 1980s and 1990s – prior to gold ETFs. What is more, it is hard to see how gold is different from some pockets of the bond market, such as local government bonds, where demand for ETFs can also set prices. This was in evidence in the March 2020 where bond ETFs provided price discovery on untradeable municipal bonds. Gold: Maximum Drawdowns Source: Bloomberg; ETF Securities, 1 March 2021 Nonetheless, if gold ETFs are part of the reason that gold follow real yields, and gold ETFs are also here to stay – then it follows that the relationship should be robust. And for investors wanting clues on the gold price: watch real yields on the 10 year. Lesson #4. Bitcoin is not the new gold Gold and bitcoin are sometimes lumped together – given their apparently limited supply and potential use as alternative currencies. Some analysts have taken the inverse flows between gold and bitcoin ETFs the past several months – gold has seen outflows at the same time bitcoin has seen inflows – as evidence of gold investors migrating to bitcoin. However, gold and bitcoin are very different, as the pandemic has shown. Past two years Volatility % of weekly returns lower than -2.5% 95% VaR per US$10,000 Bitcoin 9.9% 26.9% $1,382 Nasdaq 3.2% 8.7% $382 S&P500 3.3% 8.7% $306 Gold 2.2% 7.7% $291 Source: World Gold Council; ETF Securities, 1 March 2021 The most obvious difference has been their volatility—which hit fresh extremes in 2020. Gold for its part was far less volatile than equities throughout the most volatile trading days in February and March. As panic selling peaked, our gold ETF traded sideways, not sustaining any loss of value. The ASX 200, as measured by an ETF, fell quite significantly. So too, did the MSCI World. But bitcoin was another matter entirely. It dropped more than 50% in the panic in US dollar terms—in keeping with its reputation as a highly volatile asset. Bitcoin and gold behaved very differently. Gold was a safe haven during coronavirus panic Source: Coindesk; Bloomberg; ETF Securities, 1 March 2021 The second is that the sources for demand for gold are very different. Bitcoin’s use case is quite narrow, with most end demand coming from speculators. By contrast, most demand for gold comes from central banks and industry, according to the World Gold Council. Investment makes up a significant fraction of demand, but still a minority. This then feeds back into volatility: more diverse demand ensures that gold is, again, less volatile. Lesson #5. Tactically trading gold has risks While the gold price has crept steadily upwards over the past 50 years, the precious metal has had periods of sustained drawdowns. This cyclicality might suggest that gold should be traded tactically. In this way, some of the downtrend can be missed. However, the lesson from our own gold ETF throughout the pandemic is that tactical gold trading has risks. From 17 August 2018 – 6 August 2020 GOLD produced a return of 76% for those who stayed fully invested. But for those who missed the best 10 days in that two-year period, the return GOLD produced was just 29%. The consequences of missing the best days are not unique to gold. Burton Malkiel, Princeton professor and author of best seller A Random Walk Down Wall St, notes the same thing occurs in the share market. He takes it as evidence in favour of buying and holding an index fund. He wrote: “Buy and hold investors in the US stock market made an average annual return of 8% during the 15 years from 1995 through 2009. But if they had missed the 30 best days in the market over that period, their return would have been negative.” To be sure, tactical trading may also help avoid the worst days, which can then produce a better return. But knowing whether tomorrow will be a best or worst day is impossible. As we all know, no-one has a crystal ball.

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Webinar Recording: Gold - A Precious Metal for Portfolios, 2020

Jun 02, 2020

Recorded on the 27th May 2020. This webinar focuses on the alternative asset that is gold. In this webinar, we discussed: Gold's strategic and tactical place in a portfolio Understanding gold's valuation factors: The short, medium and long-term price drivers Examining the recent rise of gold The future outlook To watch the webinar recording, please click here.

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Ounces to dollars - why aren't you invested in gold?

Apr 07, 2020

Gold has grabbed headlines during the COVID-19 situation, as investors have raced to safe-haven assets. While gold is valued as a hedge against short term volatility, it can also hold a long-term role in a diversified portfolio given its defensive and growth qualities. Gold can represent 2-10% of a portfolio, depending on an investor’s needs or strategy, but many investors are missing this allocation. For these investors, it has become a question of why not? Gold as a safe haven Gold has both defensive and growth qualities, which has led to its position as an investment safe-haven in times of volatility. It can act as a store of value, as well as holding the potential to grow. There are two key reasons for this. 1) Gold has a low, and at times, negative correlation to other asset classes. That is, it performs differently to other asset classes and its performance is not necessarily associated with what is happening in other asset classes. This is shown in the table below: Australian Equity Global Equity Australian Fixed Income Global Fixed Income Commodities Correlation -0.29 -0.12 0.37 0.06 0.31 Source: Bloomberg data as at 31 December 2019. Correlations are calculated monthly over 20 years in Australian dollars. Australian equity is represented by the S&P/ASX200 Total Return Index. Global equity is represented by the MSCI World Total Return Index. Australian fixed income is represented by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index. Global fixed income is represented by the Bloomberg Global Aggregate Total Return Index. Commodities are represented by the Bloomberg Commodity Total Return Index 2) Gold has the ability to offer positive performance in a range of market conditions, including periods of volatility. For example, if you consider the Global Financial Crisis, gold prices rose 26% while the S&P 500 fell 56%. Even in the current COVID-19 situation, between 19 February and 26 March 2020, gold gained 12.4% compared to the S&P 500 which fell 14.1% and the S&P/ASX 200 which fell 27.8% (all in AUD terms). You can see the performance of gold against other major asset classes in the chart below. Source: Bloomberg, ETF Securities, as at 26 March 2020 This ability to perform in a range of markets comes down to gold’s position as a consumer-driven and investment-driven asset. From a consumption perspective, while around 50% of its use is in jewellery, gold is also heavily used for other purposes such as electronics or even part of medical and diagnostics equipment [1,2] COVID-19: gold price falls and rises Given the facts around gold as a safe-haven asset, investors may therefore wonder what happened when gold prices fell across the week starting 16 March 2020 and how gold has performed across the COVID-19 situation to date. On the whole, gold has seen increased interest and flows during the COVID-19 situation, but markets did see price falls across the week commencing 16th March 2020. It is worth understanding why this happened, as it was less related to any concerns about gold and more related to other activities. Gold can be vulnerable to financial deleveraging – that is, investors needing to free up cash for a variety of reasons. Equity markets were hit simultaneously by the COVID-19 situation and a price meltdown in oil markets. This affected investors with leveraged positions who would have needed to sell other assets to free up cash to pay their liabilities. What this looks like is as follows. An investor using their own money and borrowed money to purchase investments is required to maintain the investment account at a certain value – this is a leveraged position (also called a margin loan account). If the total account falls below that value – generally because the investment itself has fallen in value, then the investor will need to ‘top up’ the account with their own cash to restore the account to its minimum value (this is a margin call). As markets fell across the week of 16 March 2020, many investors would have needed to top up their accounts and will have sold other liquid and performing assets, such as gold, to do so. This has occurred in the past too. During the Global Financial Crisis, gold was briefly sold in October 2008 to meet investors’ cash needs for liabilities from the equity market sell off but then recovered and returned 45% in US dollar terms from its October 2008 low into March 2009, compared to the S&P500 which fell 30% in the same period. Since then, gold has recovered, reaching seven-year highs on 25 March 2020 of A$2746.32 per ounce. Source: Bloomberg, ETF Securities The outlook for gold There are a few factors to suggest gold may continue to hold value across the current crisis. Market volatility from COVID-19 While China has begun to reopen after its COVID-19 lockdown, other countries are either in the midst of it or commencing stages of lockdown. From that perspective, investor concerns and volatility may continue for some time yet. The panic has been swift but recovery could take some time. Some sectors, like technology, are in theory well positioned for both crisis and recovery but investor confidence is a different matter. Other sectors, like retail and travel, will struggle during this period and may find ramping up post the crisis takes some time. From this perspective, many investors may continue to look for defensive assets like gold. They won’t be alone. Even central banks may bulk up their stores of gold across this period. The low interest rate environment and prospect of quantitative easing Gold traditionally performs well in periods of low interest rates, with investors using it rather than cash. Interest rates have been low for some time but have dropped further in the current situation. Australian rates have reached lows of 0.25% while the US has dropped to a range of 0-0.25%. Many countries, including Australia have announced fresh rounds of quantitative easing too. Temporary shortage At the same time as increasing numbers of retail investors seek to purchase physical gold bullion, supply chains have been disrupted by COVID-19 [3]. Refineries in Europe, particularly in Italy, have been unable to keep up with demand forcing traders to move into wholesale markets. While refineries in normal circumstances would be able to manage the surge in interest, lockdowns over COVID-19 may continue to place pressure on supply, in turn pushing prices higher. Accessing gold using an ETF The traditional forms of access to gold were either through physical holdings or an indirect exposure by owning shares in gold mining companies. Both had their challenges – physical holdings namely through prohibitive costs and indirect exposure by opening to assorted company risks. Generally speaking, physical holdings offer a more pure exposure. The first gold-backed ETF was launched in 2003 by ETF Securities, it still trades today as ETFS Physical Gold (ASX:GOLD) and held $1.65 billion in assets as at 27 March 2020. Gold-backed ETFs are literally as described, where physical gold is purchased and stored by a fund manager as part of a trust and investors buy units in the trust for exposure to the market movements of gold. Using an ETF for gold exposure has several features and advantages over the physical holdings. Cost tends to be a foremost consideration. Investors in physical gold may need to consider aspects like freight, storage and insurance, as well as the volumes available through their broker of choice. For example, some brokers may sell by the ounce which may be cost-prohibitive for some retail investors. Units in gold-backed ETFs tend to have management fees that are often cheaper than the costs for individuals to store and insure their own gold The liquidity and ease of use of gold-backed ETFs compared to physical gold is another consideration. Investors holding ETFs may be more easily able to adjust their holdings to reflect activity in the market, buying or selling small quantities when needed compared to those holding physical holdings which may have higher minimum trading quantities and take longer to transact. This can be a challenge for some investors depending on their size and horizon of their investment. ETFs are also typically easier to use compared to physical gold holdings, requiring as little as a trading account to get started and can be done anywhere. It can be less intimidating for many investors who may not be aware of even where to start for physical purchasing and trading. Understanding the risks As an investment tool, ETFs are subject to a range of general investment risks, such as market risk or counterparty risk. Market risk relates to loss of value due to movements in price. Changes in the price of gold relative to an investors purchase price create gains or losses. Counterparty risk is the risk that the other party to your investment defaults or mismanages your assets. For example, the risk that the custodian holding the physical gold (whether for an ETF or individual investor) has not securely stored the gold and it is stolen or lost. Custodians of assets in managed funds, like ETFs, typically use major international vaults to store the physical assets which offer highly sophisticated security arrangements compared to personal safes or small storage companies. Another example of counterparty risk might occur at the time of investment purchase if the trading tool or company doesn’t actually use your funds to buy the selected investment or asset. Using established and credible companies to purchase investments can be an important way of managing this risk. There can also be variation in the way that gold-backed ETFs are managed, so investors should research their options. One crucial difference to watch for is whether the ETF uses allocated or unallocated gold. Allocated gold means you own the physical gold based on your unit holding. In the event of a default by the custodian, your holding is unaffected. ASX: GOLD uses allocated gold and you can redeem your units for the physical gold. Unallocated gold means your cash investment is ‘backed’ by the physical gold holdings of the issuer still providing you with exposure, but these holdings remain the property of the issuer. This form of gold-backed fund has additional credit risk for investors. Should a default occur, you don’t have ownership over the physical gold so your claim is considered and paid alongside all other parties of the issuer who might also have a claim. Unallocated gold is used in many gold-backed ETFs so it is worth investigating the structure and management before you decide to invest. Both physical holdings and ETFs can also be subject to liquidity risk. Liquidity risk is the risk that the physical holding can’t be sold quickly or at a fair price in the market. Investors will need to weigh up all these risks before deciding to buy physical gold or a gold-backed ETF. Why aren’t you investing in gold? While events like COVID-19 and the Global Financial Crisis provide a clear demonstration of gold’s defensive qualities, investors should consider their longer-term strategy. Offering diversification, growth and stability over time, gold can be a suitable inclusion for many investors. In turn, gold-backed ETFs can offer liquid, cost-effective and easy to access exposure all using your existing trading platforms.

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Managing volatility for your clients

Apr 02, 2020

The current COVID-19 concerns have rattled markets, with advisers fielding calls from concerned clients. In some cases, advisers may choose to add tilts or hedges for their clients’ investments, while for others, it will be better to stay the course. There are a range of ways to manage market volatility in a portfolio, some universally valuable, others dependent on the individual clients. In this paper, we’ve highlighted some of the most common. Download now In your discussions with clients, these principles can be a helpful starting point in reinforcing your approach and providing comfort in uncertain times. 1. Diversification Reinforcing the value of diversification with your clients can be as simple as the analogy of not having all your eggs in one basket. The current environment has reinforced the importance of diversification within asset classes and sectors, with some companies able to benefit (ie supermarkets) and others needing to close down (i.e. travel and tourism companies). 2. Incorporating more stable, less cyclical investments Holding companies which are able to consistently operate regardless of market conditions, such as essential services infrastructure, can assist in buffering portfolios against falling markets. 3. Alternative investments Investments which are designed to perform differently to equity and bond markets can range in complexity. Gold is a simple asset with a low or even negative correlation with other asset classes which has acted as a safe-haven investment across a number of market events over time. 4. Strategic tilts For some investors, incorporating short-term tilts alongside the long-term core strategy can assist in managing market volatility. Depending on the strategy, this could mean adding a tilt to high growth (and therefore ‘riskier’ assets) or adding more defensive position. ETFs can be an effective tool for managing volatility for your clients. Beyond characteristics including liquidity and cost-efficiency, the wide range available, broad exposures and instant diversification mean they can be suitable across investor types. For more information on our range of ETFs and using them in your clients’ portfolios, please contact us on: Sales Trading Phone +61 2 8311 3488 Email: sales@etfsecurities.com.au Phone +61 2 8311 3483 Email: primarymarkets@etfsecurities.com.au

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The conflicting challenges of retirement

Feb 11, 2020

To access the 'No retirement for investments' white paper, please click the download now button above. Important notice: a previous version of this whitepaper incorrectly stated the ASFA comfortable retirement standards for a couple as $43,787/year and superannuation balance of $545,000. These figures relate to the comfortable retirement standards of a single not a couple. The standards for a couple are $61,786/year and $640,000 in superannuation balance. Managing a retirement portfolio for income and growth Retirement portfolios offer a particular challenge in advice, given their more complex needs. They need to generate a stable income, preserve capital and still offer some level of growth to allow investors to manage inflation and longevity risks, along with a reasonable standard of lifestyle. In the paper No retirement for investments, ETF Securities considers how assets, portfolio construction and product selection can be used to manage retirement in the current market environment. You can download the full paper above, or read the summary following. Part of the solution comes down to diversification of the assets used for income. Retired investors have traditionally relied on domestic fixed income to support their yield needs but are now forced to consider other options. Fixed income can still play a role, for example, diversifying to international sources such as US fixed income which currently offers a higher interest rate may be part of the answer. Commonly, investors are being forced into riskier income approaches, such as through dividend streams. High yield equities may work for some retired investors, pending their risk tolerance along with overall portfolio construction. For example, they may consider how to offset the higher risks of high yield shares in other parts of their portfolio. Using alternatives in the form of commodities like gold may assist with offering stability and diversification to manage the volatility which could occur in high yield shares. Alternatively, looking to investments in more stable, less cyclical industries may be more suitable. Infrastructure is one option. It includes many essential services areas like utilities, telecommunications, industrials and transport which tend to be less vulnerable to market movements and cycles. Finally, product choice can be part of the solution to market conditions. Flexibility is important in this environment, but retired investors also need to be conscious of costs, risks and quality. Bearing these in mind, ETFs may be a suitable option due to characteristics such as low costs, ease of use, liquidity and a wide range to assist in meeting specific portfolio needs or gaps. For more information on the solutions ETF Securities offers, please contact us on: Sales Trading Phone +61 2 8311 3488 Email: infoAU@etfsecurities.com.au Phone +61 2 8311 3483 Email: primarymarkets@etfsecurities.com.au

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Five reasons to hold gold at the core of your portfolio

Nov 20, 2019

Published: 20 November 2019 Product in focus: ETFS Physical Gold Key Points: Gold has long been considered a safe-haven asset used by investors to hedge against event risk but is often not appreciated for the way in which it can aid portfolio returns in different market conditions. Over the long-term gold has close to zero correlation with share markets. This is good for investors. Uncorrelated assets provide diversification and help improve returns or reduce risk within a portfolio. ETFS Physical Gold (ASX: GOLD) is a simple and cost-effective and efficient way to access gold by providing a return equivalent to the movements in the gold spot price. At ETF Securities, as manager of Australia’s largest and the world’s oldest exchange traded gold product (ASX: GOLD), we spend a lot of time looking at how gold can work for our clients to improve outcomes across their portfolios. Gold is well-known as a hedge against event risk and as a way of preserving capital against inflation, but people often don’t appreciate how well a long-term holding can aid portfolio returns in different market conditions. When we talk about using gold in a portfolio, we tend to focus on its role as a core strategic holding, not an asset to trade in- and out- of on a regular basis. This article outlines five key reasons you should consider gold as a core holding. 1. Gold is an effective hedge against unpredictable events Gold has been one of best performing assets globally over the past year and has attracted a lot of attention. In Australian dollar terms gold has never been more valuable, having risen 32% over the 12-month period to the end of September. Not only has gold performed very well, but it has done so against a backdrop of rising geopolitical risk, periodic bouts of equity market volatility, global growth concerns and an abrupt shift in monetary policy, both domestically and abroad. The recent past is just one example in gold’s long history of performing well when markets are in turmoil or when risks are heightened. Other prominent examples include[1]; the 1987 stock market crash; gold rose 6% while the S&P 500 fell 33% the global financial crisis; gold rose 26% while the S&P 500 fell 56% the European sovereign debt crisis; gold rose 9% while the S&P 500 fell 19% It is not surprising, therefore, that many people use gold as a safe-haven asset in much the same way they would use insurance to protect their physical assets. Of course, you don’t just take out home insurance when you feel a flood or fire may be imminent, which is why we advocate holding gold long-term to protect against events that are inherently unpredictable. 2. The price of gold is driven by many factors and is difficult to predict Gold does not conform to traditional financial asset principles and there is no widely accepted model to determine a fair price for gold. While many different models exist, it is fair to say that the price of gold is driven by a wide range of variables and is difficult to predict. Gold is both a consumption and an investment asset, which often makes it both pro- and counter-cyclical at the same time. Levels of economic growth are positively related to demand for gold for use in jewellery and technology products, while expectations of lower growth may drive investment or safe haven buying. Gold is used as a store of wealth and as protection against inflation, while it is also in demand when interest rates and inflation are low and economic prospect look poor. Further, central banks are key investors and have massive reserves and a wide range of different motivations for owning gold, which can heavily influence demand. With such an array of competing factors for which to account, forecasting changes in the price of gold and the timing of changes is extremely difficult. We therefore rarely recommend gold as a trade-in/trade-out investment, where market timing is key. Instead we focus on how gold can be used as a core strategic holding. Depending on their circumstances, we often see investors using gold with a 2%, 5% or 10% allocation across their portfolios. 3. Gold’s long-term returns are better than many other asset classes Since gold became a freely traded commodity in 1971 its price has increased by an average of 11.7% per year in Australian dollar terms. Chart 1 shows how gold has performed relative to other major asset classes from the perspective of an Australian investor. While some investors worry that gold produces no regular income, its overall returns have out-stripped many more widely used investments. Gold has significantly outperformed both fixed income investments and diversified commodities. Its long-term returns are comparable with share market returns. Chart 1. Source: Bloomberg data as at 30 September 2019. Returns shown are compounded annual growth rates. Australian Equity is represented by the S&P/ASX 200 Total Return Index. Global Equity is represented by the MSCI World Total Return Index. Australian Fixed Income is represented by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index. Global Fixed Income is represented by the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Total Return Index. Commodities are represented by the Bloomberg Commodity Total Return Index. 4. Gold helps diversify your portfolio when you need it most Over the long-term gold has close to zero correlation with share markets. This is good for investors. Uncorrelated assets provide diversification and help improve returns or reduce risk within a portfolio. Table 1 shows correlations between gold and other major asset classes over 20 years and you can see that gold generally has low correlations with other assets. It tends to be negatively correlated with equities, while being mildly positively correlated with bonds and commodities. Table 1. Source: Bloomberg data as at 30 September 2019. Correlations are calculated monthly over 20 years in Australian dollars. Australian Equity is represented by the S&P/ASX 200 Total Return Index. Global Equity is represented by the MSCI World Total Return Index. Australian Fixed Income is represented by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index. Global Fixed Income is represented by the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Total Return Index. Commodities are represented by the Bloomberg Commodity Total Return Index. Not only has gold’s correlation with share markets been low, it has the nice property that it has tended to become more negative when stock markets are falling. Chart 2 shows the correlation between gold and global equities separately considering periods where the equity returns are positive, and then negative. This contrasts with other uncorrelated or “alternative” assets that became highly correlated with stock markets during the GFC. Not only does gold benefit from safe-haven buying during times of market stress, unlike most other financial assets, it has no element of credit risk, which immunises it from extreme market dislocations. Chart 2. Source: Bloomberg data as at 30 September 2019. 5. Gold can improve risk-adjusted returns over the long-term To demonstrate the impact that a core gold position can have in a portfolio, we have simulated adding a gold holding to a collection of typical asset allocation models that include Australian and international equity and fixed income assets with four different allocations representing Conservative, Balanced, Growth and High Growth profiles. Charts 3 - 6 below show the outright return, volatility or risk (measured by standard deviation), maximum drawdown or biggest loss and the risk-adjusted return (measured by the Sharpe ratio) for each asset allocation portfolio and for each portfolio with the addition of 2%, 5% and 10% gold. Source: Morningstar Direct data from 31 March 2003 to 30 September 2019. Conservative, Balanced, Growth and High Growth portfolios are represented by the Vanguard LifeStrategy funds, which have been live since February 2003 or longer. Gold is represented by ETFS Physical Gold (ASX: GOLD), which has been live since March 2003. Figures quoted are in Australian dollars and are net of fees. What we observe is that the addition of gold to an otherwise diversified portfolio has aided performance in every case. Outright returns are higher and increase as the gold allocation is increased. From a risk perspective, however, the impact of gold is even more important. The addition of gold reduces risk through gold’s ability to provide diversification. Risk-adjusted returns are higher and importantly drawdowns, or worst-case scenarios, are significantly improved. [1] Bloomberg data as at 30 November 2018

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