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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.
|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|
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.
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