The Market's Measure
If Gold’s A Good Bet…

If Gold’s A Good Bet…

There are lots of ways to wager.

There’s no denying that life has been breathed into the once-moribund gold market. Bullion is up better than 18 percent over the last three months, far and away beating the returns earned by other alternative assets.

Mining stocks, however, are outshining gold itself. You can see this vividly portrayed on a plot of the SPDR Gold Shares ETF  (NYSE Arca: GLD) price versus the Market Vectors Gold Miners Index ETF (NYSE Arca: GDX). GLD, of course, is a proxy for the bullion price while GDX tracks a broad index of gold (and other precious metals) producers. The GLD/GDX ratio is heading south in a BIG way now, meaning GLD is getting cheap relative to the miners fund.

GDX has shot up 45 percent over the past three months, more than doubling the rise seen in the bullion trust.

It’s important, however, to consider the base for the miners’ gain. The leveraged return earned by gold stocks—the positive leverage—was preceded by negative leverage. So much negative leverage, in fact, that a number of gold miner ETFs, including a sibling of GDX, were forced into reverse stock splits to buoy their share prices. 

No matter. Miners are now bouncing back, and GDX, made up of big producers such as Goldcorp, Inc. (NYSE: GG), Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE: NEM) and Barrick Gold Corp (NYSE: ABX), has been the big beneficiary. The $6.4 billion fund is the sector behemoth.

There are other mining ETFs, though. Among the myriad, three others offer 1x exposure to gold producers analogous to those indexed in GDX.  

The PowerShares Global Gold and Precious Metals ETF (Nasdaq: PSAU) is, as its moniker states, a broad-based fund, not exclusively a gold producers play. It’s also the most geographically diverse, which may account for its relatively high expense.

If volatility tickles you, the Sprott Gold Miners ETF (NYSE Arca: SGDM) ought to keep you laughing. It’s supposed to be a high-beta wager with spot gold, not the equity market, as the bogie. Yet, over the past year, SGDM’s beta has actually been the lowest in the field.

The iShares Global Gold Miners ETF (NYSE Arca: RING) distinguishes itself as the segment’s least expensive fund, which may account, in part, for its high return.  

  1-Year Tot Rtn (%) Sharpe Ratio Expense Ratio (%) Beta vs GLD Alpha vs GLD
GDX 10.72 0.22 0.53 62.42 -8.89
SGDM 11.00 0.24 0.57 61.09 -7.88
RING 16.70 0.36 0.39 63.27 -2.33
PSAU 13.37 0.33 0.75 59.38 -3.03

A quick glance at the funds’ performance over the past year seems to indicate that the iShares RING product has the best set of numbers.


Brad Zigler is REP./WealthManagement's Alternative Investments Editor. Previously, he was the head of marketing, research and education for the Pacific Exchange's (now NYSE Arca) option market and the iShares complex of exchange traded funds.

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