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ETF MARKET INTEL

ETF Market Intel is your source for timely, actionable trading and investment ideas.

By Spencer Bogart | July 23, 2014
Related ETFs: GULF | MES

MES_YTD_Performance

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

If the financial markets of the Middle East haven’t been on your investment radar, the time may be coming. According to the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia plans to open its markets to foreign investors and, as the largest equity market in the Middle East, it’s a big deal.

But to be sure, many of the Middle East’s financial markets have had a tumultuous few years: Broad indexes tied to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar first rallied 154 percent and 81 percent, respectively, before the UAE-based index slid 17 percent and the Qatar-based index fell 18 percent. Point is, this isn’t your grandpa’s equity investment, and investors better be ready for volatility.

These are the ETFs that target the Middle East:

  • The Market Vectors Gulf States ETF (MES | D-71) provides exposure to the largest companies that are incorporated in or derive the majority of their revenues from GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries. The total exposure to each country is weighted by its GDP. Because Saudi Arabia bars foreign investors from its markets, MES currently doesn’t allocate any assets to Saudi securities, but if Saudi Arabia opens its doors, MES will likely make large allocations to the country.
  • The WisdomTree Middle East Dividend ETF (GULF | D-91) tracks a dividend-weighted index of companies from Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Egypt, Morocco, Oman and Jordan. When compared with MES, GULF includes exposure to countries outside the GCC (Egypt, Morocco and Jordan), and excludes GCC-heavyweight Saudi Arabia.

Regardless of their relative differences, MES and GULF both allocate the majority of their assets to Qatar, UAE and Kuwait. Be careful though—both funds charge high fees, and neither fund is tremendously liquid, so all-in costs may run high here.

By Spencer Bogart | July 23, 2014
Related ETFs: ECON | EMDI | EMCG

Emerging Consumer ETFs Total Return YTD

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

For years we’ve heard about how rising income levels in emerging markets are bringing the consumer sphere into focus for the first time for the majority of the world’s population. This has been a popular investment theme for years, and to that extent, there’s nothing new.

What is new is the ease with which investors can capture this powerful investment theme.

There are at least six ETFs built specifically to target the so-called emerging consumer. Some ETFs target the theme broadly, while others take a country-specific approach to targeting specific consumers. There are many different ways to approach this investment theme, so the methodology of each ETF really matters.

Broad Emerging Consumer ETFs:

  • The EGShares Emerging Markets Consumer ETF (ECON | C-43) selects the 30 largest emerging market companies in the consumer goods and services industry. This concentrated portfolio tilts heavily toward food and tobacco companies and has a heavy bias toward Latin America and South Africa. Of the three broad emerging consumer ETFs outlined here, ECON has the highest price/earnings ratio at 25.
  • The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Consumer Discretionary ETF (EMDI | D-41) holds a more diversified portfolio with 85 securities that tilt heavily toward South Korean automakers. This heavy-handed tilt may not appeal to all, as many consider South Korea to be a developed market. If you do trade this ETF, be careful because it is dangerously illiquid.
  • The WisdomTree Emerging Markets Consumer Growth ETF (EMCG | F-38) takes a different approach to the space, as it selects and weights its securities according to fundamental factors. It also hosts the most diversified portfolio, having more than 200 securities. EMCG makes its largest allocations to China, Brazil and South Africa.

Aside from the ETFs taking a broad approach to the emerging consumer, there are ETFs targeting the emerging consumer for three specific countries: one for China, one for India and one for Brazil.

By Spencer Bogart | July 21, 2014
Related ETFs: UAE

UAE Total Return

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

To say that the United Arab Emirates has been a hot market would be an understatement: The MSCI UAE Total Return USD Index returned more than 185 percent In the 17 months from January 2013 to June 2014.

Much of the furor seemed to center around speculation—and eventually the reality—that the world’s pre-eminent index provider, MSCI, would upgrade the nascent country in its classification scheme from a frontier market to an emerging market.

Still, UAE’s strong returns are the type of performance that breeds complacency—not just in markets but in UAE businesses as well. In this case, the culprit appears to be Arabtec, a Dubai construction company who has been at the center of a property market that’s been even hotter than the stock market.

As property prices rose and the economy expanded, Arabtec grew rapidly. As Bloomberg reports, “Arabtec shares quadrupled during the CEO’s 15 months in charge.” Then things turned pear-shaped: The CEO departed and concerns mounted that the company would lose its critical state support. Arabtec shares collapsed overnight, created concerns of a more widespread problem and dragged down much of the market with it.

In April, iShares launched the iShares MSCI UAE Capped ETF (UAE) at what appears to have been the short-term peak in the UAE stock market. Since its launch, shares have plummeted more than 7 percent—including nearly 3 percent today.

Only time will tell if this is just another bump in the road or a longer-term turning point for UAE, but the lesson is clear: Be wary of past performance as a guide to future performance.

By Spencer Bogart | July 18, 2014
Related ETFs: PBJ | XHB | ITB | PEJ | PBS

Consumer Niche ETFs

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

With the unemployment rate ticking down and the economy heating up, consumption is a big theme in 2014. Investors broadly divide the consumer market into two groups: cyclicals and non-cyclicals (also called discretionary and staples, respectively).

Cyclicals refers to non-essential goods whose consumption depends heavily on the economic cycle—vacations, for example. In contrast, non-cyclicals are goods that people generally purchase in the same quantity regardless of the economic cycle—health care, for example.

Fortunately, a broad range of ETFs offer exposure to specific niches within each consumer sector. These are some of the most interesting:

Be careful though: Some of these ETFs are relatively illiquid, while others are unnecessarily complex. Check out the fund reports for more information.

By Spencer Bogart | July 17, 2014
Related ETFs: EEM | RSX | ERUS | EEME

Russia_ETFs_YTD_Perf

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

It’s one thing to invest in a Russia ETF or an emerging market ETF, but the challenge is that ETFs offering exposure to the same segment of the market often hold very different portfolios. Today’s case in point is Russia.

For example, take emerging markets. Investors in broad emerging markets funds such as the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM | B-100) get a 5 percent allocation to Russia. But investors using a narrower emerging market fund such as the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets EMEA ETF (EEME | D-30) get a whopping 28 percent allocation to Russian securities.

The distinction matters, too: While EEM has returned 8 percent in 2014 and 14 percent over the past year, EEME has only returned 4 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Even two ETFs targeting the same country can have drastically different portfolios. As their names suggest, the iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF (ERUS | B-94) and the Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX | C-63) both target Russian equities. A big difference between these two ETFs is their exposure to Gazprom—the elephant of the Russian economy.

Gazprom’s sheer size greatly influences the Russian economy and, in turn, Russian equities. Recently, it has also been the subject of heightened sanctions and, in general, much controversy over the past year. While RSX allocates a reasonable 8 percent of its portfolio to the Russian gas behemoth, ERUS goes much further, with a whopping 20 percent allocation.

Remember, two ETFs targeting the same market might offer drastically different exposure. Check their methodology and check their portfolios.

By Spencer Bogart | July 17, 2014
Related ETFs: PBS

PBS_YTD

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

News Monday of Rupert Murdoch-led Fox’s $85 billion bid for Time Warner sent Wall Street into frenzy. The bid was rejected and, even if approved, would certainly face some degree of antitrust scrutiny.

More importantly though, the purported bid drove Time Warner shares up nearly 20 percent and simultaneously lifted the PowerShares Dynamic Media ETF (PBS | B-46). PBS tracks an index that evaluates momentum, quality, value and management actions to select the 30 media companies comprising its portfolio. Those securities are then weighted in tiers.

While PBS’ portfolio includes many of the media’s biggest companies, it doesn’t necessarily include all the largest media companies, as its multifactor selection scheme has the latitude to exclude companies deemed unfavorable.

Importantly though, PBS includes a big 5.06 percent stake in Time Warner as well as notable positions in DISH and DirecTV. Oddly, the portfolio also includes large stakes in Facebook and WebMD—certainly not the first companies that comes to mind when considering media companies.

Unfortunately, investors deterred by PBS’ portfolio or methodology don’t have anywhere else to turn: This is the only media ETF currently on the market. Fortunately, it’s highly liquid and quite efficient.

By Spencer Bogart | July 16, 2014
Related ETFs: SOXX | PSI | XSD

Semiconductor ETFs 1 Year

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

Earlier this week we noted that semiconductors are America’s hottest industry so far in 2014. Now, earnings results are turning that dial even higher. On Tuesday, Intel—by far the biggest semiconductor company—announced earnings that blew the socks off expectations and sent the stock ripping.

With all eyes focused on semiconductors, it’s time for a breakdown of the ETFs offering exposure to this concentrated, highly cyclical industry:

The iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXX | A-70) tracks a modified market-cap-weighted index of U.S.-listed semiconductor companies. It caps single-company exposure at 8 percent—greatly reducing the influence of giants like Intel, which represents roughly 35 percent of the semiconductor market alone. The cap also tilts the portfolio toward smaller, growth-oriented companies as seen in the ETF’s weighted average market cap ($44 billion) and P/E (25). SOXX is the most popular fund in the segment, and its superior liquidity, combined with its comprehensive portfolio, earns it our Analyst Pick designation.

The SPDR S&P Semiconductor ETF (XSD | A-46) tracks an equal-weighted index of semiconductor companies. XSD’s equal-weighting scheme goes even further than SOXX’s capping-scheme in reducing the influence of the largest companies on its portfolio. Compared with SOXX, XSD tilts much smaller ($10 billion weighted average market cap) with more growth (50 P/E).

Lastly, the PowerShares Dynamic Semiconductors ETF (PSI | C-57) uses a quantitative model to select and weight companies in a bid for outperformance. Like SOXX, PSI holds a concentrated portfolio of only 30 companies in the admittedly small and concentrated semiconductor industry. In selecting and weighting its portfolio, PSI considers risk factors, style classification and valuation factors. This methodology hasn’t produced risk-adjusted outperformance, but it did beat the other funds in the segment over the past year.

By Spencer Bogart | July 16, 2014
Related ETFs: BIK | EEB | BKF

BRICS ETFs 1-Year

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

The BRICs countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have officially unveiled plans to form a self-funded bank to rival the Western-dominated financial institutions that dominate global finance today.

According to Reuters, the bank will invest in infrastructure projects in developing countries and will also include a $100 billion currency reserve pool. The reserve pool is a large sum of cash that will be a resource to “dress the window” in instances like the “taper tantrum” when hot capital rushed out of emerging markets at a destabilizing rate.

The idea is that such an institution will provide the capital and stability necessary for BRICS growth moving forward. For investors looking to add exposure to BRICS countries, there are three ETFs available:

  • The iShares MSCI BRIC ETF (BKF | C-97) is the most liquid fund in the segment and also provides the most comprehensive exposure to BRIC companies.
  • The SPDR S&P BRIC 40 ETF (BIK | B-68) takes a more concentrated approach to BRIC countries, as it holds a portfolio consisting only of the 40 or so largest BRIC companies.
  • The Guggenheim BRIC ETF (EEB | C-55) takes a different approach to the market, as it exclusively holds American depositary receipts (ADRs) and global depositary receipts (GDRs). ADRs and GDRs are securities that trade in London or the U.S. but represent claims of ownership to internationally traded securities. The purported advantage of this strategy is avoiding tax and administrative challenges that arise from trading or owning international securities.
By Spencer Bogart | July 15, 2014
Related ETFs: IEZ | VNQ | SOXX

Three Hottest Industries YTD

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

The S&P 500 returned nearly 8 percent so far in 2014, but three industries have been much hotter:

Oil Equipment and Services

The iShares US Oil Equipment & Services ETF (IEZ | A-71) tracks a market-cap-weighted index of companies supplying equipment and services to oil fields and offshore platforms. IEZ returned more than 17 percent so far in 2014. When we think of the oil industry, giants like Exxon and BP come to mind, but IEZ takes a smaller tilt, as it allocates to specialty suppliers. Other ETFs in the segment haven’t had as much success as IEZ.

Real Estate

The Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ | A-88) tracks a market-cap-weighted index of companies that own or operate real estate in the United States. For only 0.10 percent a year, investors get access to a basket of more than 100 U.S. real estate companies. VNQ is hot: It already returned more than 19 percent in 2014. Real estate has been a hot segment this year no matter which way you cut it, and some ETFs have done even better than VNQ.

Semiconductors

This highly cyclical industry has been white-hot in 2014, as our Analyst Pick for the segment, the iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXX | A-70) returned more than 21 percent. SOXX tracks a modified market-cap-weighted index of semiconductor companies that is adjusted to limit the portfolio impact of Intel and other dominant players in the space.

By Spencer Bogart | July 15, 2014
Related ETFs: BJK | ITA

Large_Aerospace and Defense ETFs

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

These days you can invest even in what some consider morally sinister activities. For example, the Market Vectors Gaming ETF (BJK | D-85) profits off the gambling market by investing in many of the world’s biggest casino owners and operators.

The same could be said about the global arms trade. This week, the U.S. announced its biggest arms deal yet in 2014: selling $11 billion of patriot missiles and Apache helicopters to Qatar. Not that you necessarily want to go looking for a global-arms-trade ETF (I’m not condoning war), but if you were, aerospace and defense ETFs are a good place to look.

Ostensibly, these U.S.-focused ETFs invest in the domestic economy, but the arms trade is global, and the U.S. is one of the biggest dealers, so exposure is global to some degree. These ETFs hold companies like Honeywell, Boeing and Raytheon—the latter produces the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System.

Of the three ETFs, the iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF (ITA | A-80) earns our Analyst Pick designation for its superior liquidity, efficiency and exposure.

By Spencer Bogart | July 14, 2014
Related ETFs: EFA | EIS | ISRA

Israeli Equities 200 Days

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

Despite the ongoing conflict in the region, Israeli equities are proving resilient. Over the past 200 days, Israeli equities have handily outperformed the MSCI EAFE Index—a broad barometer of developed-market equities—to the tune of 7 percent.

Since July 1, when the most recent conflict erupted, the iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA | A-91) has slid half a percentage point, while the iShares MSCI Israel Capped ETF (EIS | C-47) returned nearly 1.5 percent.

EIS tracks a plain-vanilla index of Israeli equities, and caps individual holdings at 24 percent; it only includes equities that trade on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

The other ETF for exposure to Israeli equities is the Market Vectors Israel ETF (ISRA | C-32), which takes a more expansive view of Israeli equities: In its eligible universe, ISRA includes not only equities traded in Tel Aviv, but also companies deemed to be Israeli by the BlueStar Index Advisory Committee.

ISRA caps individual holdings at 12.5 percent, which, combined with its more expansive eligibility criteria, produces an all-around larger and less-concentrated portfolio.

By Spencer Bogart | July 14, 2014
Related ETFs: RTH | PMR | XRT | RETL

Retail Performance YTD

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

Retailers are missing out on the 2014 stock rally: While the S&P 500 has returned nearly 8 percent so far this year, retail ETFs are flat. The start of earnings season suggests there could be more pain on the horizon too. Various retailers from GAP to Family Dollar to Lumber Liquidators have all missed expectations this earnings season. Container Store CEO Kip Tindell summed it up nicely: “Consistent with many of our fellow retailers, we are experiencing a retail ‘funk.’”

Investors have a few ETFs with which they can invest in (or short) the retail industry:

  • The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT | A-45) tracks an equal-weighted index of companies in the retail industry. XRT’s 2014 returns are marginally negative.
  • The PowerShares Dynamic Retail ETF (PMR | B-48) uses multifactor selection and a tiered weighting portfolio construction scheme in a bid for outperformance. However, results have been anything but—PMR returned negative 1.4 percent so far this year.
  • The Market Vectors Retail ETF (RTH | B-53) tracks a plain-vanilla index of the 25 largest U.S.-listed companies that derive the majority of their revenue from retail. Its biggest holdings include retail titans such as Walmart, Amazon, Home Depot and CVS.
  • Those prone to risk-taking might favor the Direxion Daily Retail Bull 3X ETF (RETL), which provides daily 3x leveraged exposure to a plain-vanilla index of large U.S. retailers. Beware the leverage reset.
By Spencer Bogart | July 11, 2014
Related ETFs: ARGT | EWZ | GXG | EGPT | EIDO | EPHE | EZA | TUR | VNM | INDA | NGE

ARGT-EGPT-NGE-INDA 1Year

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

Bloomberg recently released a report detailing the world’s riskiest countries for business. The robust analysis used 35 equally weighted risk indicators spanning financial, economic and political risks. Some noteworthy inclusions include foreign exchange risk, political violence and the regulatory environment.

Wall Street’s oldest mantra says that risk equals reward. Only time will tell if investors will actually be compensated for risk in these countries, but fortunately, investing in many of them is easy. Of the 20 riskiest countries, 12 have ETFs dedicated to their economy that trade all day on American exchanges:

To find ETFs targeting other countries on the list, try this ETF Screener.

By Spencer Bogart | July 11, 2014
Related ETFs: SCIN | SCIF | SMIN

India Small Cap ETFs YTD Total Return

After a ripping start to the year, Indian small-cap ETFs may be coming back to Earth. The three India small-cap ETFs returned between 40 and 50 percent since the start of the year, but each fell sharply in trading this week.

  • The Market Vectors India Small-Cap ETF (SCIF | D-60) tracks an index of small-cap companies that are either incorporated in India or earn at least 50 percent of their revenues there. SCIF is priced a bit higher than its competitors, but investors will save on trading costs as SCIF sports the tightest spreads and sees the most trading volume.
  • The EGShares India Small Cap ETF (SCIN | F-55) tracks an index that includes the 75 smallest Indian companies that meet the index’s basic liquidity requirements. This ETF has a heavy skew toward financial firms (39 percent of its portfolio).
  • The iShares MSCI India Small-Cap ETF (SMIN | F-95) tracks an index of the smallest 14 percent of Indian companies by market capitalization. Unfortunately, this fund is dangerously illiquid and trades at prohibitively wide spreads—its average bid/ask spread is currently 1.29%.

For side-by-side comparison of these ETFs, check out the India Small-Cap Segment Report.

By Spencer Bogart | July 10, 2014
Related ETFs: IDX | EIDO | IDXJ

Indonesia ETFs

Voting for Indonesia’s presidential election didn’t begin until Wednesday, but Indonesian equities have been soaring since the start of the month. Despite rumors of a close election that could cause civil unrest, investors appear confident the election and transition of power will go smoothly.

All three Indonesian equity ETFs are up more than 11 percent through the first six trading days of July (markets were closed Wednesday for the election).

There are currently two ETFs providing total market exposure to Indonesia:

  • The iShares MSCI Indonesia ETF (EIDO | B-98) tracks a plain-vanilla index of Indonesian equities. For a 0.61 percent expense ratio ($61 for every $10,000 invested), investors get exposure to a basket of 107 Indonesian equities. EIDO sees more than $13 million in volume most days and can be traded at tight spreads.
  • The Market Vectors Indonesia ETF (IDX | C-78) takes a liberal view of what constitutes an “Indonesian” company, as it includes not just companies incorporated in the country but companies that generate at least 50 percent of revenues from Indonesia. It comes with an expense ratio of 0.57 percent.

There’s also one ETF offering exposure to Indonesian small-caps:

By Spencer Bogart | July 09, 2014
Related ETFs: FONE

FONE 1 Year Total Return

The nascent smart watch industry might finally be coming to fruition: AT&T recently announced it will be the first U.S. carrier to offer LG’s new SmartWatch.

I took a dive into some ETF portfolios to find which ETF might best harness the returns from the smart watch industry. Amusingly, although not shocking, the best ETF for smart watches is the smart phone ETF.

The First Trust Nasdaq CEA Smartphone ETF (FONE | D-12) holds big positions in most of the lead players in the smart watch space, including LG Electronics, Google, Apple, Samsung and Motorola.

That said, investors should be sure they’re convinced before jumping into FONE, as the ETF has its drawbacks. For one, it charges a steep management fee (0.70 percent). Second, it is dangerously illiquid. Lastly, it uses a funky tiered weighting scheme to construct its portfolio. That said, it’s also the only ETF specifically targeting smartphones (and smart watches, albeit accidentally).

By Spencer Bogart | July 09, 2014
Related ETFs: EPS | RWL | EZM | RWK | EES | RWJ

1yr Total Return Earnings & Revenue ETFs

Tuesday’s Alcoa release marks the beginning of earnings season and, as always, revenues will be in focus. Instead of using company size to weight their portfolio securities, some ETFs defy market convention and weight their holdings according to company revenues or earnings.

Two ETF issuers embrace this approach for some of their ETFs: WisdomTree and RevenueShares. Each issuer makes a suite of ETFs that divides the market into large-, mid- and small-cap buckets, and then weights their securities by revenues (RevenueShares) or earnings (WisdomTree).

WisdomTree’s suite:

RevenueShares’ suite:

 

By Spencer Bogart | July 08, 2014
Related ETFs: MOO | PEJ

MOO & PEJ 1 Year Total Return

Monday saw the announcement of two acquisitions.

Archer Daniels Midland, the food and agriculture behemoth, plans to buy Swiss-based Wild Flavors—a company specializing in flavors and coloring for healthy eating. Meanwhile, Expedia announced plans to acquire Wotif.com, an Australian travel site.

Each of these acquisitions brings about an interesting ETF play.

Archer Daniels Midland earns a large allocation in the Market Vectors Agribusiness ETF (MOO | C-60). MOO holds a market-cap-weighted portfolio of companies that generate more than 50 percent of revenues in the agribusiness sector.

For an expense ratio of 0.55 percent, investors get access to a portfolio of more than 50 agricultural companies including Deere & Monsanto. MOO is also tremendously liquid, as it sees more than $10 million in volume most days and trades at narrow spreads.

The Expedia merger also produces an interesting play for thematic investors. The PowerShares Dynamic Leisure and Entertainment ETF (PEJ | B-18) charges a hefty 0.63 percent expense ratio for a portfolio of 30 companies in the leisure and entertainment space.

The ETF is a one-stop shop for investors betting on increased leisure spending from U.S. consumers. It’s the only ETF specifically targeting “leisure,” but there are plenty of ETFs offering broader exposure to U.S. Consumer Cyclicals—many of which charge lower fees and are more liquid than PEJ.

 

By Spencer Bogart | July 08, 2014
Related ETFs: CQQQ | QQQC

China Tech ETFs

A recent Financial Times article highlights efforts from the U.S. and other members of the World Trade Organization’s Information Technology Agreement to persuade China to eliminate or curtail tariffs and other measures meant to protect some of China’s fledgling IT sectors.

Tech is hot in the U.S., but it’s even hotter in China. Three ETFs offer exposure to the red-hot Chinese technology sector:

  • Guggenheim China Technology ETF (CQQQ | C-25) holds 60 Chinese tech companies ranging from big names like Tencent and Baidu to lesser-known companies such as TPV Technology—the world’s largest manufacturer of computer monitors. CQQQ exhibits decent liquidity that should be adequate for buy-and-hold investors
  • KraneShares CSI China Internet ETF (KWEB | C-23) adheres to a narrower mandate, as it targets a subsector of technology: Internet companies. The 25-holding portfolio is heavy on software companies and includes a large dose of small- and micro-cap firms. KWEB’s targeted approach is popular with investors: It’s the most popular and most China tech ETF and the most liquid.
  • Global X Nasdaq China Technology ETF (QQQC | D-18) holds roughly half the number of companies as rival fund CQQQ, but viability is the real concern here. The fund’s low asset tally puts it at high risk of closure, while liquidity challenges make the fund difficult to access.

For side-by-side comparison of these three ETFs, check out our China Technology Segment Report.

By Dave Nadig | July 07, 2014

There’s a blog post from Mark Hulbert making the rounds that suggests gold should be fairly priced at $800. A key part of the argument, quoting gold-Svengali Campbell Harvey, is that the reactive peg for gold should be interest-rated, not inflation. Here’s the money quote:

“That model is based on the tendency for gold to decline whenever the ratio of its price to the consumer-price index rises well above its average level of about 3.4, and to rise when it is significantly below that average. With the CPI now at 237.1, this ratio stands at 5.6.”

GoldBig

Notice a few problems with this chart?

Since CPI is a relatively stable number, all the “ratio” is really showing you is whether gold’s been on a tear. Since gold’s been on a tear this last little while, the ratio is up.

Gold seemed to decline just fine in the late ’80s and ’90s without the ratio being anywhere near the magical target of 5.6.

Since most rational expectations of inflation are for slow and steady, all this means is that gold shouldn’t grow faster than 2-3 percent a year.

What’s the moral of the story here? Never forget that gold is first and foremost a psychological investment. Since it has little utility and pays no interest, it’s worth exactly what the mad-crowd of the market thinks it’s worth—no more, no less. Anyone who tells you they’ve got a formula for predicting gold prices might as well be offering you magic beans for your family cow.

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