Underlying Economic Indicators Dim, but Gold ETFs Retain Their Shine
Americans save for retirement by building wealth through a number of different ways. In addition to personal savings accounts, we build wealth through home equity, pension plans, retirement accounts, and Social Security.
Unfortunately, since 2008, the underlying values of our tried and true wealth management techniques have come under attack. Housing prices are still down 41.0% from their peak in 2007. In fact, 10.5 million homes in the U.S. are in negative equity territory, meaning 21.5% of all residential homes in the U.S. are worth less than their mortgages. (Source: Panchuk, K.A., “CoreLogic: 10.4 million mortgages still in negative equity,” Housing Wire, March 19, 2013.)
At roughly 52.4%, Nevada has the highest percentage of properties with mortgages in negative equity; Florida follows with 40.2% in negative equity, and the housing rebound–rich state of Arizona comes in third, with 34.9% of all properties underwater.
Social Security amounts to $1,237 a month, less than $15,000 a year; that’s not a lot to rely on. And there’s really nowhere to park your extra cash, either. Bank interest rates are a measly 0.5%, bonds are near 3.1%, and jumbo five-year certificates of deposit (CDs) only return around 1.5%.
The downturns in home values, interest rates, and retirement accounts have significantly reduced the amount of wealth available to finance retirement for the average American.
Yes, the Dow Jones is in record-high territory, but the underlying economics can’t support the gains for much longer. Eventually, Wall Street has to reflect Main Street, and right now, it isn’t. Unemployment is hovering near eight percent, as is household debt. Gross domestic product (GDP) is flat. And the economic outlook remains weak.
But let’s get back to the illustrious Dow Jones.
On October 11, 2007, when the Dow Jones hit its then all-time high of 14,198.1, gold was trading at $746.10 an ounce and silver was trading at $13.68 an ounce. Fast-forward to today, and all the hoopla is directed at the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which is only up 365 basis points, or 2.5%. Gold, on the other hand, is up 115% and silver is up about 107%.
And unlike the U.S. economy, the outlook for gold and silver remains bright.
Of the 25 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, 16 expect gold and silver prices to increase this week, while seven were bearish, and two were neutral. That’s the highest proportion of bulls since the first week of March. On the heels of uncertainty, gold and silver prices have been rallying around the future of Cyprus and the European Union as a whole. (Source: Larkin, N., “Gold Seen Extending Rebound as Cyprus Revives Bulls: Commodities,” Bloomberg, March 22, 2013.)
If you don’t want to add actual gold to your investment portfolio you could consider taking a look at a couple gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs). ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares (NYSEArca/SGOL) is designed to offer investors a simple, cost-efficient way to access the precious metals market; with more than 1.1 million ounces, or $1.83 billion, of assets under management.
SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca/GLD) is the largest physically backed gold ETF in the world. SPDR Gold Shares also trade on the Singapore Exchange, the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It has 39.2 million ounces, or $62.7 billion, of assets under management.
And unlike Fort Knox and some central banks, gold ETFs actually get audited, so you know they have what they say they do.
On one hand, the precious metal bears will note that a stronger economy means investors have less reason to add gold to their investment portfolio. The gold and silver bulls, on the other hand, will point out that the smoke and mirrors of the current economic climate means there is a continued need to monitor precious metals.
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