article we aim to explain the relationship between the movements in the price
of gold and movements in gold stocks.
tool that measures this relationship is the asset’s “Beta”.
Beta is a measure of risk and compares the historical return of asset X with
the return on the relevant market index over the same time period (eg returns on Google in the past 5 years vs returns on the S&P 500 in the past 5 years).
Beta indicates the asset’s returns generally move in the same direction
as the whole market. A negative Beta indicates the opposite, when the
market is rising the asset is generally falling and vice versa. A Beta of
zero indicates the asset’s price moves independently of the market. A
Beta higher than one indicates the relevant asset moves in the same direction
as the market, but with greater magnitude. In times of market growth, an
asset with a Beta >1 will return more than the market, but conversely, in downturns,
the asset will suffer greater losses than the market’s.
definition, the Beta of the market is one – that is, the returns on the
market are exactly correlated with the returns on the market in direction and
speaking the higher the Beta, the riskier the asset, and the higher it’s exposure to movements in the market. For
example, Ford Motor Company’s current Beta given by Yahoo Finance is
2.28. If the S&P 500 were to rise by 10% over the next ear, one would
expect to see an (approximate) 22.8% rise in Ford’s stock price;
conversely a 10% fall in the S&P would likely see a 22.8% fall in
Ford’s stock. 2.28 is a relatively high Beta, implying Ford is a
relatively risky stock. In contrast, Exxon Mobil’s current Beta is
0.53, implying a lower risk investment, providing gains (or losses) of less
magnitude than the market’s. If one is bullish on the equity market,
higher Beta stocks such as Ford allow for a higher return over stocks such as
Exxon. High Beta stocks are a bull’s best friend.
as with all financial statistics and measures, is based entirely on past
information. It is a tool, not a crystal ball and should be treated with due scepticism applied to all financial statistics.
Beta is dependent on the nature of the industry concerned. Exxon’s low
Beta is likely due to the inelasticity of demand for fossil fuels, and as
such their income stream is relatively constant irrespective of the state of
the market/economy as firms and consumers always need fossil fuels.
Conversely, Ford’s profits are reliant on sales of motor vehicles which
are far less frequent in a downturn; hence Ford suffers greater than Exxon
when market conditions worsen. The converse is also true. When the economy is
growing, vehicle sales pick up at a far greater rate than the demand for
fossil fuels and Ford is a greater beneficiary of a bull market than Exxon.
reasoning above applies to gold stocks versus gold. We can measure the
returns of gold stocks versus the returns of physical gold with the Beta
statistic. Instead of measuring mining stocks against the S&P 500, our
“market benchmark” is now the price of gold. Some straightforward
analysis reveals the following:
above shows gold stocks offering increased exposure to the price of gold, as
the majority of the Betas for these mining stocks/indexes are > 1. Again,
if we expected to see a 10% rise in gold in the next year, we would expect to
see an approximate 10.8% rise in the HUI index (using the 1 year Beta
statistic). At this point one may be thinking, if that is the case, why not
trade mining stocks for increased exposure if one is bullish on gold, as the
return will exceed that on gold itself. The graph shown below should shed
some light on why we believe this is a flawed strategy.
gold and mining stocks usually move together, as is the broad trend above,
there are periods where this is simply not the case. Mid April through to
September 2011 is a period where a gold bull invested in mining stocks would
have been thoroughly underwhelmed with the performance of his stock,
objectively and even more so relative to gold over the same period. His view
on gold was totally correct, but his decision to invest in mining stocks
(Betas of > 1) to increase his exposure to the predicted rise in gold was
punished. This theoretical trader would have rewarded his correct outlook
handsomely by using leveraged instruments that have a direct relationship
with gold, rather than mining stocks which do not. As explained in a previous
article mining stocks are susceptible to various external factors that are
difficult to anticipate and require extensive analysis over and above that of
Whilst it is
true more often than not that mining stocks move in the same direction as
gold, periods where this relationship does not hold are one of the reasons we
currently have no interest in trading or investing in mining stocks. Why form
a bullish view on gold and buy mining stocks based on this view, only to see
gold rise and mining stocks fall, (April 2011).
Trading is primarily involved in trading gold. We primarily focus our
analysis on these two metals and partly attribute our past success to knowing
these commodities and their relevant market forces inside out. Concerning
ourselves with analyzing mining stocks and the various risks and other
factors at play is not the most efficient use of our time, particularly when
various factors that affect mining stocks are almost impossible to
anticipate. To provide you, the subscriber with the best return possible, we
choose to focus purely on gold and trade options based on GLD.
stocks to increase exposure to gold is a terrible strategy in our view.
Leverage is not a constraint in modern finance. Derivatives, ETFs on margin,
leveraged ETNs, and leveraged ETNs on margin all serve the same purpose as a
trader using mining stocks to increase exposure to the gold price, the
difference being these instruments have a direct relationship with
gold. Our preferred strategy is an options trading portfolio that is traded
to optimize and maximize potential profits, using options that are directed
based on the price of gold with no other factors influencing their
The gold bull
using these instruments will always be rewarded concordant to his
view, when gold prices rise. The gold bull using mining stocks to gain
exposure to gold will usually be rewarded with a rise in gold. It is this dubiety we aim to avoid.