Precious metals have suffered poor returns over the past few years. For example, the major SPDR gold and silver exchange-traded funds, GLD and SLV have lost 8% and 3% of their values, respectively, since the start of 2015. By comparison, the S&P 500 Index has been flat during that time. Looking back farther, the trend is even worse. The GLD and SLV funds have declined by 25% and 31%, respectively in the past two years.
There are a few major reasons for this. The first is that economic growth has recovered since the global financial crisis. As gold and silver typically are viewed as safe-haven investments, they are not as highly coveted when stock markets do well. In addition, inflation has remained low in the United States, and the strong U.S. dollar has caused precious metals prices to fall.
Mutual Funds to Buy for Precious Metals Exposure
For investors interested in adding precious metals to their portfolios through mutual funds, here are three precious metals mutual funds that would benefit significantly from any rally in precious metals.
|Fund/Ticker||YTD Return||Annual Expense Ratio (net)||Morningstar Rating|
|Vanguard Precious Metals and Mining (VGPMX)||-25%||0.29%||4/5 Stars|
|Oppenheimer Gold & Special Minerals (OGMBX)||-24%||1.90%||2/5 Stars|
|First Eagle Gold Fund Class A (SGGDX)||-18%||1.20%||5/5 Stars|
These three funds seek to provide investors with broader exposure to gold and the precious metals markets, by investing in both equity and debt instruments directly related to precious metals miners. The funds invest at least 80% of their assets, allowing for greater participation.
Why Now Could Be a Buying Opportunity
Clearly, precious metals prices have not performed well in the recent past. But that could be a buying opportunity for investors who like to buy assets currently out of favor. The “buy low, sell high” theory could work well for precious metals prices if one of several catalysts comes to fruition over the coming months.
Possible catalysts for a sustained rally in precious metals prices over the next several months could be renewed geopolitical risk or more substantially, the threat of inflation. As the U.S. Federal Reserve keeps interest rates at historic lows, and global central banks in China and Japan continue to pursue policies of aggressive monetary easing, inflation could be a key economic concern going forward. Precious metals prices such as gold and silver tend to perform well in inflationary environments, as hard assets like these are viewed as stores of value.
Another benefit of adding a precious metals mutual fund to an investor’s portfolio is diversification. Precious metals such as gold and silver often trade inversely to the equity and fixed income markets. By investing a modest allocation to gold and silver funds, an investor may mitigate risks of a stock market correction. Some of the best years for gold and silver were 2010-2012, when precious metals handily outperformed the S&P 500.
The three mutual funds listed above each have advantages and disadvantages investors should consider when evaluating them. For example, the First Eagle fund has outperformed its gold and silver mutual fund peers and earned a five-star Morningstar rating as a result. The Vanguard fund offers a very low annual expense ratio of just 0.2%, which could be attractive to investors hoping to minimize costs. The Oppenheimer fund has a higher expense ratio and a lower Morningstar rating than its peers, although the fund does pay a 2% dividend yield. This could be attractive to investors looking to generate income, as the First Eagle fund does not offer a yield.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, investors may be understandably wary of investing in precious metals, given that precious metals prices have collapsed over the past year. But for investors looking ahead, these mutual funds would be among the biggest beneficiaries of any recovery in precious metals prices. This could lead to significant returns for investors who take a contrarian approach and are willing to buy low. ETF alternatives to these mutual funds such as GDX (which tracks gold miners) are another option for investors to consider.
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