Investors cannot time the market…..WRONG

During the last year we have seen Brexit, Donald Trump as President of the U.S.A. and far right parties in Europe making headway in the polls. All of this can be described as Populism. This move if carried to a conclusion is intended to shift wealth away from today`s elite back down to the hands of the lower and middle classes. If anything like this was to happen, then it will mean that corporate profits will fall, and this will be accompanied by falls in the value of  already over-priced multi-nationals on the world`s stock markets. This has already taken place with large oil companies who are seeing renewable energies eat their breakfast. It is simply a question of watch this space.

Now, none of the above is breaking news, yet financial institutions are still advocating that private investors should not be active in the market to protect their investments. Instead they should take a passive approach and let their money be eroded during a market collapse in the hope that in the years to come it will recover.

We at “The Saltydog Investor” know that this way of investing makes no sense and is simply WRONG. The financial press will tell you that it is too expensive to trade your funds. Again they are simply WRONG. If you use a fund supermarket platform then the charges for trading your OEICs are virtually negligible. These same people will tell you that you cannot get the information to time the market. WRONG again.

At Saltydog we produce performance numbers for OEICS, Unit Trusts, ITs and ETFs on a weekly basis presented in an understandable fashion. We have been running a real demonstration portfolio for the last six years funded with our own money. It has avoided the market drops and has gained 59%. What is not to like about that?

As a D.I.Y. investor in the U.K. with the Brexit negotiations coming up close and personal; with The Donald making hay whilst the dollar swings one way and the other. You will need to be active not passive. Good luck.

Don’t believe me? Just read here then

Standard Deviation Report – March 2017

On page 8 of the March 2017 newsletter, there’s a piece about looking at out Unit Trust and OEIC data in a slightly different way, and there’s also an excerpt from a table.

Here’s a copy of the article, and a link to download the complete table.

Here at Saltydog we’re always keen to find different ways to look at the data, to try and identify new trends, and to pick funds ‘on the up’, but in a steady way.

In our regular weekly data, the funds are initially sorted into their Groups, to give us an indication of their volatility, and then we calculate the decile rankings of all the funds in each Group to help us analyse their performance.

In the four week data, we initially sort the funds by their four week decile ranking, and then by the most recent individual weekly decile rankings. We’re looking for funds that have done well over the last four weeks, and that are doing well at the moment.

Here we’ve tried to do something similar, but in a slightly different way.

We’ve looked at all the funds as a big group, and only selected the ones that have gone up by at least 0.8% in the last 10 days. We’re targeting 12% a year, and are allowing for some slippage.

We have then sorted them by their standard deviation over the last 10 days. This is to try and help identify the funds that have been doing well, but with the least volatility.

Finally, we have used colour to highlight where the funds have maintained this rate of growth over four, twelve, and twenty-six weeks.

We’ll keep an eye on the funds that we think look promising from this report, and see how they perform in the coming weeks. If anyone has any suggestions of how we could develop this report please let us know.

Click here for the full report

 

Somewhere a red phone box dies and a little piece of Buckingham Palace breaks off.

Since the declaration of ‘Brexit’, it has become obvious that politicians, House of Lords peers, and BBC reporters have little intention of making our exit a smooth one. None of them were ever going to be kept quiet by a lack of information. Fortunately, there does appear to be a flow of foreign money investing in the UK, taking advantage of cheap sterling and a willing labour force. Let us hope that this continues through the tribulations of the next two years, whilst we re-establish the country as an exporter of technology and manufactured goods – hopefully without losing too much sway in the financial sector. Perhaps then, the media might even start to talk about Great Britain again!

Theresa May has a big enough battle on her hands, both here in the UK and in Europe, if she is to secure an equitable settlement. Then along comes Lord Heseltine, that bastion of free speech and democracy, to say that he believes she is the right person to lead the country, although he is still firmly in the ‘Remain’ camp. To me that sounded a bit like the hangman saying that you have a pretty neck! The kiss of death from the grim reaper if ever there was!

Nevertheless, with all this unpredictability taking place around our heads we still must continue to mentor our investments and pensions. For the moment, the election of President Trump, and to some extent Brexit, would seem to have produced a nice positive bounce in the world stock markets. This can be seen below in our two demonstration portfolios. Some of our funds are still enjoying the strength of the dollar, which is giving their prices a lift when converted back to sterling. This is also contributing to the Global sectors consistently coming out top in our recent analysis.

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One of the sectors which in recent times has given a consistently positive performance is the technology sector. This all-embracing term covers pharmaceuticals, bio-technology, energy capture and distribution, nano-sciences, gene manipulation, G.M. foods, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The list goes on and on. The speed of change that these sciences are going to bring to the world is going to be breath-taking and it is underway right now. So, as investors, it is essential that some of our money should be in this sector. I have listed below some unit trusts, investment trusts and ETFs which operate in this arena.

3 month gain. 12 month gain.
Henderson Global Technology fund 15.6% 50.7%
AXA Framlington Global Technology fund 15.8% 47.6%
L & G Global Technology Index fund 16.1% 50.0%
Pictet Robotic Fund 12.4% 51.9%
Scottish Mortgage Trust 13.5% 39.5%
Polar Capital Technology Trust 18.2% 67.0%
iShares Automation & Robotics 14.3% N/A

It is difficult to trace how much money these managers are investing into new technologies, as they still have a majority percentage in the information technologies developed over the last twenty years; companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

These are the funds that logically will be investing into the firms of the new age and there must be more that I have yet to recognise. Many of the firms are operating in America and so also gain from the strong dollar.

 

I intend to live forever … so far so good!

Stock markets are rising and would seem to be following this philosophy, even through the drama of Brexit, Trump and the Italian Banks insolvency. Those who are against the political classes and the cruelty of rampant capitalism would seem to be in the ascendency, and the establishment is on the back foot.

We are in a strange world where broadcasters, commentators and the like are taking Mr Trump literally, but not seriously; whilst the people, the voting public, are taking him seriously, but not literally. These same broadcasters and commentators are saying that Brexit is going to be a negotiating disaster for the United Kingdom bringing poverty and famine to the masses as our economy shrivels. Yet John Redwood, a previous Single Market Minister, is saying there is no reason to delay, and exit could not be simpler. We simply give the E.U. Ministers the friendly choice of continuing to trade with the U.K. as they do today, or revert to the U.K. having W.T.O. nation status. After a certain amount of “pushing and shoving”, the European Union would conclude that the present status quo is the best for themselves, and they would opt for the existing tariff free version. Can it really be that simple?

Well, so far so good, but who can foretell with any certainty where the world will be at the end of 2017. One thing is certain however, and that is the “establishment” and those in power who own and control the “assets” have the most to lose from these political changes, and they will fight back. The Trump voters, the Brexiteers, these people from the lower and middle classes of the developed world who missed out on the benefits of globalisation are not going to find the path back to any sort of prosperity a smooth one. However morally, and practically, there does need to be a rebalancing of wealth, and I for one say good luck to them!

So what does this mean for 2017? Probably more uncertainty. Critical elections in Holland, France and Germany pose questions on the longevity of the European Union and the Euro. A potential stand-off between the U.S.A. and China would be uncomfortable. New technologies are arriving at a fast and furious pace, and the changes they bring along will be disruptive and difficult to digest. All or any of these might be sufficient to produce a major market correction. Look at the “Three Peaks” graph and see this as an opportunity to gain as opposed to losing. If such an event was to re-occur then it is necessary to be on top of the numbers and riding the wave and not at the bottom enjoying the dubious joys of a “wipe-out”.

iitlfe_1I know from experience that sitting through a serious market crash with no plan for dealing with it, is extremely disconcerting. Equally, watching a bull run from the sidelines is an equally frustrating experience. That`s why trend investing is so satisfying and rewarding. Whether it is about protecting your money from the downturns, or skilfully moving your assets into a booming sector, trend investing allows you to react and make the right moves at the right time.

So how did the Saltydog portfolios perform last year? The Tugboat completely avoided the 16% drop in the market from July 2015 to February 2016. (This portfolio is designed to avoid the drops.) However this more cautious approach meant that it didn`t match the FTSE`s subsequent recovery in the second half of 2016, although it has picked up at the beginning of 2017.

iitlfe_2

Turning to our more adventurous Ocean Liner portfolio, things look more exciting- as they should! Here you can see that our trend investing approach really took advantage of the markets up-turn from June last year, making a sharp jump upwards of 10%. So here we really came up trumps, avoiding the big downturn and reaping the benefits of the subsequent upturn.

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Don’t ask directions from somebody who hasn`t been where you are going.

I do not know about the rest of you, but I feel that we are entering totally unknown territory in regard to politics, religious unrest, and the world`s economic stability. It all seems to be unravelling at the same time and where is the steadying organisation which can put its hand on the tiller and steer us through the oncoming turmoil? I just cannot see the likes of Trump/Clinton aligned with Putin and the European Union improving the situation in the Developed World. I can maybe envisage China, India and the Emerging Far Eastern countries forming a “go it alone” economic block, but who knows what will happen? Today we are just spectators who will eventually become participants in the possible forthcoming accident.

I have to say I feel ashamed for feeling so pessimistic about the future. After all, science and technology is about to gift us with free clean solar energy and sufficient supplies of potable water. Medicine is about to extend our life span and eradicate many of the nastier illnesses. Agricultural developments will mean we can feed ourselves and limit the number of people who go hungry. Robotics and Artificial Intelligence should allow the world`s population to decline rather than increase, as dangerous and repetitive mundane work is handed over to machines. Good as all of this might sound; the unanswered question is still, how will we get to this Promised Land? Where is Moses?

The above is all relevant to the view that we take on our personal finances. Recently a subscriber, who has had a remarkably good run in the last six months, making in excess of 27% on his ISA portfolio, asked me what he should do as he was alarmed for the near future and could no longer see any rising sector opportunities. I suggested that he could not do worse than examine two of Jesse Livermore sayings;

  • The desire for constant action irrespective of underlying conditions is responsible for many losses in Wall Street even amongst the professionals.
  • It is enough for the experienced trader to perceive that something is wrong. He must not expect the tape to become a lecturer. His job is to listen for it to say “Get out!” and not wait for it to submit a legal brief for approval.

I believe that if Jesse Livermore was alive today he would be out of the market and in cash. He would be relaxed and sleeping at night whilst waiting for the market correction to take place. As a matter of interest if the subscriber that I referred to above took his portfolio into cash for the next twelve months he would still be making an 18% annualised return. I would not mind some of that! In these circumstances cash can be regarded as a genuine sector.

On a lighter note, you may be aware that the Bank of England has released £430 billion of Quantative Easing into the U.K. economy. These numbers are just mind blowing and I find them difficult to envisage so I have turned them into something that I can imagine. A £1 coin is 2.5mm thick and the distance to the moon is 384,400 kilometres. By my calculation that means Mr Carney`s £430 billion represents 1,075,000 kilometres and is 2.8 times the distance to the moon. It might have been nicer if he had taken the £430 billion and used it as “helicopter money” and given every man, woman and child in the country £6615! These are numbers and thoughts with which to conjure.  Please point out any errors in these calculations and I will issue a correction.

A lesson learnt the hard way

Commercial Property funds such as M&G, Threadneedle, Kames, Aberdeen, and Standard Life have for the last few years been the stabilising feature of both of the Saltydog portfolios. They have been producing a very nice small regular monthly uplift and we have used these funds as an alternative to cash, with the safer Tugboat carrying a greater percentage than the more adventurous Ocean Liner. Up until the Brexit referendum all appeared to be smooth sailing, but then upon the announcement of a vote to leave all hell was let loose. We have witnessed a mass exodus of money as professional investors overseeing large holdings have reduced the money held in these funds. To defend themselves, the fund managers have been forced to make dramatic reductions in the fund price to discourage these sales (the largest for the moment being 17% made by Aberdeen) with most of the others dramatically closing the door on any further encashment.

This turmoil is the evidence justifying those analysts who have long said that open-ended funds and unit trusts are badly designed to deal with property investments since they provide daily liquidity for an asset that isn`t liquid on a daily basis. Normally unit trusts invest in shares. There is no problem then if investors want to sell units; the fund manager simply sells some shares and the investor gets his money back within a couple of days. However where the fund is invested in property such as office blocks, shopping malls, government buildings, banks and the like, it can take months to achieve a sale and hurrying up this process results in fire-sale prices. This is the reason that the funds carry large sums of cash to cover the normal daily transactions. This time it would seem that Brexit has conjured up in the minds of some investors a vision of the country`s city centres being reduced to ghost towns as the UKs economy exits to the Continent! Under these circumstances it is not surprising that these property funds have had to use extreme measures to protect themselves while commonsense and sanity returns to the market.

What is to be done now with these investments when the sale restriction is eventually removed? We can expect the prices to be lower as the result of property surveys and valuations carried out in the light of Brexit. On the other hand the property tenancy agreements are still in place and rent will still have to be paid. There is therefore no reason for a major reduction in the historical 3% to 4% these funds yield which is still very attractive when compared with the present “soon to be negative” interest rates. Maybe having taken the knock, it will pay to stay invested but with a smaller percentage of your portfolio.

On the other hand perhaps this money could be better invested elsewhere. It is worth looking at what this actually means. Let us say that you had 25% of your portfolio in these property funds and they have taken a 20% hit. This means you have suffered a reduction of 5% on your total portfolio. Not a great outcome, but not one that merits reaching for the poison tablets. It means that you need the remainder of your portfolio to earn you an additional 5.3% to keep the status-quo.

The same Brexit fever that has produced this property “annus horribilis” has produced a 10% fall in the value of Sterling and also contributed to a significant rise in the value of gold. All funds which are earning their money overseas and especially in dollars, have therefore received a rise in value of 10%. If you were also to be invested into the gold mining funds you would be receiving a double whammy. It is however a question for each individual to decide as to whether these conditions will continue whilst the terms for the UK exiting the European Union are hammered out. Also if Mr Carney continues to talk the value of Sterling down and Mrs Yellen in America continues to talk the value of the dollar up, then the Ocean Liner graph below is demonstrating a portfolio that has the right sort of mix to make the most out of the situation.

This is the stuff that goose pimples are made of!

Ocean Liner 160713

“The Butterfly effect”

Edward Lorenz was the M.I.T. meteorologist who coined the phrase the “butterfly effect”. He suggested that a massive storm might have its roots in the faraway flapping of a butterfly`s wings. He was saying that small events can have large, widespread consequences. The butterfly effect has now become a metaphor for the existence of seemingly insignificant isolated moments that alter history and shape destinies. Typically unrecognised at first, they can trigger threads of cause and effect that appear obvious in hindsight, as they go on to change the course of history.

The potential break-up of the United Kingdom after its decision to leave the European Union may be such an example of the butterfly effect at work.

On the 17th December 2010 a Tunisian Street vendor called Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in an act of self-immolation. He did this as a protest at the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that he was subjected to by corrupt municipal officials. His act became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring, inciting riots and social and political protests throughout Tunisia. The public`s anger and violence intensified after Bouazizi`s death, leading President Ben Ali to step down after 23 years in power.

In 2011 the so called Arab Spring then spread across the Middle East from Tunisia into Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria. It was caused by a deep-seated resentment of the ageing Arab dictators, anger at the brutality of the security forces, high unemployment, rising prices and endemic corruption. Unfortunately, there was no firm plan as to how these countries would be run after the overthrow of these regimes. The people wanted to move towards democracy, but had no co-ordinated means amongst the different political groups to achieve this result. Deep divisions between the religious factions then moved into outright warfare and there then followed the destruction of the various countries` infrastructure. Today it is Syria that continues to stay in the headlines, creating many millions of refugees who seek jobs and security in Europe.

The recent E.U. Referendum that has just taken place in the United Kingdom resulted in a vote to leave. One of the chief reasons given for this result was fear of uncontrolled immigration into the country – not enough jobs to go around, not enough housing, and not enough space in our hospitals and schools to accommodate this flood of migrants coming from the Middle East. The United Kingdom is leaving to row its own boat and is hoping to control its own borders. This exit result has given the opportunity for Scotland to consider a second referendum to secure separation from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland is also considering following the same route, which would spell the end of a united Britain.

Will the U.K. be alone, or will other countries in the European Union now seek to leave for their own particular reasons? The Mediterranean countries with their struggling economies and massive youth unemployment have even more to fear from unrestricted immigration. How long will it be before other E.U. countries have their own exit referendums? If this were to come about, then it could be the final act for the European experiment.

This is what I mean about the “butterfly effect”. When Mohamed Bouazizi struck the match to commit suicide, little did we realise the string of events that had been put in process which would create the enormous destruction and loss of life in the Middle East leading to the potential break-up of the United Kingdom and the European Union.

M&G Property Portfolio Update

During the last few weeks we have seen the M&G Property Portfolio fall by over 6% and then recover.

The sudden drop took place on the 12th May 2016, when M&G announced that they had moved the pricing basis of the fund from an offer basis to a bid basis. There was a notice put on their website explaining that the decision was taken due to a trend of sustained outflows from the fund, expected to continue in the foreseeable future.

M&G June 2016

I, like many of our members, contacted M&G to ask for further clarification. Most of us got little more than a polite reply encouraging us to look at the announcement on their website. One of our members did get a much more comprehensive response, which he has kindly allowed me to share with you …

“As an asset class, property recovered strongly in the period following the 2008/2009 banking crisis. Indeed, the asset class has produced above-average returns in the last three or so years. The combination of slowing growth in property asset values and the impending referendum on EU membership later this month is the most likely reason why some investors have chosen to reduce exposure to property, resulting in the Fund’s move to a net outflow situation. The M&G Property Portfolio experienced a price swing in March 2013 and also May 2013, with these price swings lasting only a matter of days. Further back in the history of the M&G Property Portfolio, the Fund experienced a more prolonged period of net outflows in the period leading up to, and during, the banking crisis. At that time, the price was calculated on a bid basis between November 2007 and June 2009. Both the Property Portfolio and its Feeder Fund are currently being priced on a bid basis and I hope you will appreciate that it is not possible to say when the price basis for the two Funds will revert to an offer basis.

Looking to the future, Fiona Rowley, the Manager, holds the opinion that in the next three years, returns from the asset class will result from rental income rather than coming from further increases in commercial property values. I must emphasise that this is the Fund Manager’s opinion and should not be taken as advice or a recommendation. It is not possible to make any guarantees about future performance or the way in which commercial property prices will move in the future.

You can find an explanation concerning the move of price basis on our website as follows:

http://www.mandg.co.uk/investor/funds/prices/property-fund-prices/

To provide some more detailed information on the subject, as of 12 May 2016, the Fund’s price basis changed to reflect the fact that the Fund is currently experiencing a net outflow of cash. Being invested directly into buildings, the Fund needs to carry a large cash position, so there is no liquidity issue as such and the underlying value of the Fund’s assets remains unchanged. The price swing mechanism aims to ensure that the value of the Fund is not diluted for remaining investors when the Fund is cancelling shares, rather than creating new shares.

Perhaps I can expand further on the subject. Prior to the change in price basis, the Fund was receiving net inflows of cash. The amount of money going into the Fund, in terms of investor purchases, was much higher than the amount coming out as a result of investor redemptions. As the Fund is open-ended, further shares could be created to meet the demand.

In the scenario I mentioned, the Fund’s price was determined by the cost of creating new shares, which would involve buying more buildings. Property transactions are much more expensive, in percentage terms, than, say, share purchases. A figure of around 6%, representative of land taxes and legal fees, was therefore included in the price when the Fund was creating further shares to meet investor demand. Investors buying shares paid this cost, investors selling their holdings effectively benefited from a bid price which included the high costs of buying property. Since the shares being redeemed by the Manager could be re-used when the Fund was receiving net inflows of cash, withdrawals were priced to reflect the fact that the Fund needed to buy more underlying assets. In this manner, the value of Fund’s underlying assets is not diluted; an ‘offer/creation’ basis for pricing was used, because further shares were being ‘created’.

In the current scenario, the Manager has needed to move the price basis, as the Fund is experiencing a continual net outflow of cash. At present, the price is based on the value of the Fund’s assets, after deducting the cost of selling property (around 1.15%), as the Manager needs to cancel shares. This reflects the situation if the Fund were to actually need to sell some of the buildings it holds. I should like to reassure you that the Fund has sufficient liquidity to meet redemptions from cash. I hope you will appreciate that it would be unfair to offer a price based on creating shares to investors leaving the Fund, when shares are actually being cancelled. This could ultimately have the effect of diluting the value of remaining investors’ holdings.

With the Fund having a net outflow of cash on a daily basis, investors who sell receive the price as if the Fund is selling its assets. As the costs involved in buying and selling property are high, there is a difference of more than 6% when the price basis changes. We believe this to be a fair and equitable way of mitigating the risk that the value of remaining investors’ holdings is diluted by the net outflow of cash from the Fund. With the price being based on what the Fund would receive if it cancels shares and sells its assets, rather than the cost to the Fund of buying further underlying assets, investors who buy further shares will pay a more favourable price. Those investors selling their shares will receive a price based on the value of the Fund’s assets, less the cost of selling those assets.”

On the 3rd June 2016 M&G announced that the price had swung from cancellation pricing back to creation pricing.

Although we have covered the topic of bid / offer pricing in our newsletters and regular weekly emails, I thought that this response was particularly thorough, and I hope that it has given a useful insight into this aspect of investing in funds.

That was the month that was!

Over the last few years the Saltydog Tugboat portfolio has avoided the frequent stock market drops by having a large percentage of its money invested into the Slow Ahead Group in what we fondly refer to as the ‘Slow Property’ sector. During this time these commercial property funds have consistently made small monthly incremental gains allowing the remaining portfolio money to be invested into the more adventurous sectors of the market. This smaller amount has from time to time been trend-following in Japan, Emerging Markets, India and Gold funds. It has made reasonable gains whilst the larger amount has given the protection against the downside in the Stock Market. For three years this has worked out very well giving a total annualised gain in excess of eight percent whilst taking very little risk.

Recently there has been a fundamental change in the pricing of the ‘Slow Property’ funds.  Funds such as M&G Property Portfolio, Threadneedle UK Property Trust, Henderson Property, Standard Life Property and Aberdeen UK Property would appear to have moved their selling prices from an “offer” price to the lower “bid” price. This has reduced by around 5% the money received by sellers, and similarly reduced the value of stock held by investors in these funds by the same amount. The reason given for this action is that unprecedented large amounts of money have been withdrawn from these funds in the first quarter of 2016. The fund managers, by lowering the unit price, are saying that they are sharing the cost of any forced property disposal between the remainers and the leavers. I guess this is not an unreasonable argument. It does not help us however, and it does beg the question, if the money flows back into these funds, will they then reverse the price back to the offer price? It will also be interesting to see whether these funds return to those nice steady positive monthly increments of old!

The question we have to ask ourselves is why has there been this avalanche of money from these funds? Is it to do with BREXIT or perhaps it is that the “movers and shakers” – the “men upstairs”-  believe that the UK commercial property market has been operating in a bubble and is due a correction? Whatever the reason, we need to decide whether to stay invested or not? It requires a considered decision. Doing nothing is probably not the answer, as staying in the middle of the road, and not making a decision, usually gets you run over. Fortunately our exposure to these funds has been reduced by the foresight of Richard who has been gradually selling them over the last month. I guess if you believe that Britain is likely to stay in Europe and that a sensible price correction has taken place, then why not stay put and remain invested?  You have taken the knock, which has happened and is in the past. Normal service should be resumed. The alternative I guess is to sell up, perhaps take a further dilution charge and move into cash whilst the storm passes overhead and wait to see what tomorrow brings. It would be a great shame if these funds were not to resume their role in the Saltydog investment philosophy.

It is worth remembering that the pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects the wind to change. The realist adjusts the sails.

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)

In these volatile times it is a good thing to remember this saying which might in particular apply to the subject of gold bullion and mining funds. Should, or should one not be presently invested in this arena? Certainly the financial press would suggest that it is the wise thing to do. They tell us that gold is an insurance against geopolitical unrest, financial distress, war between nations and infrastructure collapse. It also performs well both in times of inflation and deflation. Today, when negative interest rates prevail, gold becomes a high yield asset since zero yield (gold) is higher than negative yield (government bonds).

As a private individual, if one makes the decision to go down this road, then one also must make the decision whether to hold the actual bullion or to invest in the gold mining funds. I know it is irrational, but I feel uneasy about holding gold from the security point of view, even if using outside secure storage. So for me I have gone down the route of investing into mining funds, which I can buy and hold in my portfolio in the same way as any other fund of my choice. By doing this I have to accept that there is not an exact correlation between the movements of the bullion price to the mining fund prices, but they do trend in the same direction.

Looking at the graph of the price of gold over the last hundred or so years it would seem that in times of financial stress the gold price will rise and in the good times it falls in value. There are three distinct peaks:

  • The first is in the 1930’s. In 1900 the US adopted the gold standard, and the official US gold price was fixed at $20.67 (not much higher than it was at end of the 1700s). In 1934 the US Government devalued the dollar (in terms of gold) raising the official price of gold to over $35 per oz. It’s doesn’t look significant on the graph, because it is dwarfed by subsequent rises, but that was equivalent to a 70% increase.
  • Then in the 1980 it went up again, fuelled by concerns over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It went up to $850 per oz., before falling below $260 in 1999.
  • Finally it peaked again in 2011, at just under $1900 per oz.

Gold 100 year graphSince the 1970s, after President Richard Nixon ended US dollar convertibility to gold, the price of gold has fluctuated more widely –  it also appears to rise much more rapidly than it falls. Approximately ten years on the rise and twenty to thirty years on the fall. Surprisingly it would also appear to ignore periods of conflict and has only moved for economic reasons.

Today one could certainly be forgiven for feeling that the financial situation in all the major world economies is far from secure, so perhaps now is the time to have some of your savings invested in this asset.

During most of history, a nation`s gold reserves were considered its key financial asset, intended as a store of value and as a guarantee to pay depositors or secure currency. It is calculated that all the gold that has ever been mined would approximate to 180,000 tonnes and at today`s value that would be in excess of $8 trillion. Apparently most of this gold is still in existence. A United States Geological survey allocated this gold as follows:

  • Jewellery 49%
  • Investment bars and coins 19%
  • Central Banks 17%
  • Industrial 12%
  • Lost 3%.

The top ten central banks control some 12% of all the gold ever mined with the United States being the largest holder with 8100 tonnes, Germany 3384 tonnes, I.M.F. 2800 tonnes, Italy 2450 tonnes, France2400 tonnes, China 1800 tonnes, Russia1400 tonnes, Switzerland 1040 tonnes, Japan 760 tonnes and Holland 600 tonnes. The United Kingdom is now eighteenth on the list with 300 tonnes. I knew about the United States fondness for holding gold as the dollar was until 1971 linked to the gold standard. I was surprised however at the amount held by Germany, Italy, France and Holland. For these countries these holdings represent over 60% of their Forex reserves whereas the U.K.`s holding only represents 8%. These countries are obviously putting more value in the future necessity for holding gold bullion. What do they know that we do not?

Perhaps these governments in the European Union are not confident of a world economic recovery.  Or maybe the recent hike upwards in price simply reflects the buying power of the millions of the “new middle classes” in India, China and the developing countries who want to own and display their new-found wealth in the form of jewellery, coins and gold bars. Gold gives people peace of mind and has for thousands of years been used as a medium of exchange. Possibly now for a number of reasons demand for this precious metal is going to outrun supply and the price may continue to rise.

I am aware that this is a simplistic approach to a complicated subject, but I do feel that now is the time to hold some gold bullion or in my case gold mining funds, then to have the patience to let this situation play out and see if it does bear fruit over the next few years.