Golden Bulls: Visualizing the Price of Gold from 1915-2020
Some people view gold as a relic, a thing of kings, pirates, and myth. It does not produce income, sits in vaults, and adorns the necks and wrists of the wealthy.
But this too is just myth.
In fact, as a financial asset, gold’s value has shone over time with periods of exceptional performance, one of which may be occurring now.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Sprott Physical Gold Trust and outlines the history of the price of gold from 1915 to 2020 and three bull markets or “Golden bulls” since 1969, using monthly data from the London Bullion Market Association.
But first a little history…
The Gold Standard
*All figures are in USD
During the early days of the American Republic, the U.S. used the British gold standard to set the price of its currency. In 1791, it established the price of gold at $19.75 per ounce but also allowed redemption in silver. In 1834, it raised the price of gold to $20.67 per ounce. The price of gold would retain a nominal value through depressions, civil wars, and wars.
However, $20 today is not the same as $20 in the past. The U.S. dollar may have been convertible at a set price, but the amount of goods that it could buy varies year to year based on inflation. So for example from 1934 to 1938, one ounce of gold would cost $34, but $34 today would purchase a small fraction of an ounce of gold.
While the price of gold may appear cheap in the past, adjusted for inflation it is not as low as you would think. Governments would set the price of its currency against an asset to ensure the stability of prices, however if there would be too many claims against the underlying asset, that asset would run out and the currency would become worthless.
This threat would force the hands of governments to change the standards, as currency became more common and gold reserves more scarce.
An Era of Government Intervention
In the wake of the 1929 stock market crash, investors started redeeming U.S. dollars for its equivalent value in gold, removing currency from the economy. In order to stem the flow of funds into gold and the depletion of government gold reserves, in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt limited the private ownership of gold to discourage hoarding and encourage investing. In 1934, Congress passed the Gold Reserve Act which prohibited the private ownership of gold and nominally raised the price of gold to $35 per ounce.
In 1944, the victorious Allied powers negotiated the Bretton Woods Agreement, making the U.S. dollar the official global reserve currency. The United States ensured an ounce of gold would be worth $35 in its currency—at least until the onset of a stagnant economy in the early Seventies led to the official end of any real gold standard.
Golden Bull #1: December 1969 – January 1980
In 1969, the U.S. gold standard had risen to $42 per ounce in nominal terms, however a period of economic volatility would challenge and change U.S. monetary policy.
On August 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon mandated the Federal Reserve to stop honoring the U.S. dollar’s value in gold at a fixed value, abandoning the gold standard. In 1974, President Gerald Ford would once again allow the private ownership of gold bullion. Energy crises, soaring inflation, and high unemployment stagnated the economy.
By January 1980, the price of gold reached $2,234 per ounce in today’s dollars amidst an environment of double-digit inflation. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker fought this inflation with double-digit interest rates which in turn slowed the economy, causing a recession.
The interest-rate-induced recession would herald in a new global economic boom that defined the Eighties and Nineties. The price of gold dropped to $753.96 per ounce by June 1985, as the economy improved.
From December 1969 to January 1980, gold rose from $285 to $2,234 per ounce, an increase of 684% over 122 months, in inflation-adjusted terms.
Golden Bull #2: August 1999 – August 2011
Expanding household incomes and ever declining interest rates under Federal Reserve chairman Greenspan pushed gold further down to a low of $377.44 per ounce by the end of April 2001.
Loose monetary policy and a reduced tax on capital gains spurred speculative investments into the new internet economy through a growing retail brokerage market and the emergence of venture capital. The tech bubble would eventually pop as these companies were unable to build sustainable businesses and investor money dried up.
Over the year of 2000, investors rushed to exit their speculative tech investments resulting in several market crashes. Then in September 2001, 9/11 happened, marking the beginning of a new era. Gold steadily rose during this period.
In 2008, the Global Financial Crisis shook financial markets and left a recession. Policy makers and central bankers embarked on a controversial policy of quantitative easing to support financial markets. The price of one ounce of gold reached new highs by the end of August 2011, as worries on debt levels mounted for the U.S. and other countries.
From August 1999 to August 2011, gold rose from $394 to $2,066 per ounce, an increase of 425% over 145 months, in inflation-adjusted terms.
Golden Bull #3?: November 2015 – May 2020
In the aftermath of the GFC, the Federal Reserve stoked an economic recovery with cheap money, seeing gold track to a low of $1,050 per ounce by December 2015. It was not until the election of a peculiar American president in 2016 that gold would rise again.
Pressure to increase interest rates, an aging debt-fueled economic recovery, a trade war with China, and the recent COVID-19 crisis has once again provoked economic uncertainty and a renewed interest in gold. With interest rates already at historic lows and quantitative easing as standard operating procedure, global economies are entering unprecedented territory.
There is still little insight into the direction of the economy but since November 2015 to May 2020, the price of gold has risen from $1,146 to $1,726 per ounce, 55% over 55 months.
Gold Going Forward
In an era of tech startups, ETFs, and algorithmic trading, many people consider gold to be a shiny paperweight—however, its performance over time against other assets shows it is far from this.
In 1915, an ounce of gold was worth $488.66 per ounce in today’s dollars and as of May 15, 2020, $1,751 per ounce. Gold has proven its value over time as companies, countries, and governments come and go.
“Golden Bulls” are no periods for idle idol worship. Gold will always be gold, in myth and in fact.
How to Avoid Common Mistakes With Mining Stocks (Part 5: Funding Strength)
A mining company’s past projects and funding strength are interlinked. This infographic outlines how a company’s ability to raise capital can determine the fate of a mining stock.
A mining company’s past projects and funding strength are interlinked, and can provide clues as to its potential success.
A good track record can provide better opportunities to raise capital, but the company must still ensure it times its financing with the market, protects its shareholders, and demonstrates value creation from the funding it receives.
Part 5: The Role of Funding Strength
We’ve partnered with Eclipse Gold Mining on an infographic series to show you how to avoid common mistakes when evaluating and investing in mining exploration stocks.
Part 5 of the series highlights six things to keep in mind when analyzing a company’s project history and funding ability.
View all five parts of the series:
- 1. Common mistakes made with the team
- 2. Common mistakes made with the business plan
- 3. Common mistakes with the jurisdiction of the project
- 4. Common mistakes with the project and technical risks
- 5. Common mistakes with raising money
Part 5: Raising Capital and Funding Strength
So what must investors evaluate when it comes to funding strength?
Here are six important areas to cover.
1. Past Project Success: Veteran vs. Recruit
A history of success in mining helps to attract capital from knowledgeable investors. Having an experienced team provides confidence and opens up opportunities to raise additional capital on more favorable terms.
- A team with past experience and success in similar projects
- A history of past projects creating value for shareholders
- A clear understanding of the building blocks of a successful project
A company with successful past projects instills confidence in investors and indicates the company knows how to make future projects successful, as well.
2. Well-balanced Financing: Shareholder Friendly vs. Banker Friendly
Companies need to balance between large investors and protecting retail shareholders. Management with skin in the game ensures they find a balance between serving the interests of both of these unique groups.
- Clear communication with shareholders regarding the company’s financing plans
- High levels of insider ownership ensures management has faith in the company’s direction, and is less likely to make decisions which hurt shareholders
- Share dilution is done in a limited capacity and only when it helps finance new projects that will create more value for shareholders
Mining companies need to find a balance between keeping their current shareholders happy while also offering attractive financing options to attract further investors.
3. A Liquid Stock: Hot Spot vs. Ghost Town
Lack of liquidity in a stock can be a major problem when it comes to attracting investment. It can limit investments from bigger players like funds and savvy investors. Investors prefer liquid stocks that are easily traded, as this allows them to capitalize on market trends.
- A liquid stock ensures shareholders are able to buy and sell shares at their expected price
- More liquid stocks often trade at better valuations than their illiquid counterparts
- High liquidity can help avoid price crashes during times of market instability
Liquidity makes all the difference when it comes to attracting investors and ensuring they’re comfortable holding a company’s stock.
4. Timing the Market: On Time vs. Too Late or Too Early
Raising capital at the wrong time can result in little interest from investors. Companies in tune with market cycles can raise capital to capture rising interest in the commodity they’re mining.
Being On Time:
- Raising capital near the start of a commodity’s bull market can attract interest from speculators looking to capitalize on price trends
- If timed well, the attention around a commodity can attract investors
- Well-timed financing will instill confidence in shareholders, who will be more likely to hold onto their stock
- Raising capital at the right time during bull markets is less expensive for the company and reduces risk for investors
Companies need to time when they raise capital in order to maximize the amount raised.
5. Where is the Money Going? Money Well Spent vs. Well Wasted
How a company spends its money plays a crucial role in whether the company is generating more value or just keeping the lights on. Investors should always try to determine if management is simply in it for a quick buck, or if they truly believe in their projects and the quality of the ore the company is mining.
Money Well Spent:
- Raised capital goes towards expanding projects and operations
- Efficient use of capital can increase revenue and keep shareholders happy with dividend hikes and share buybacks
- By showing tangible results from previous investments, a company can more easily raise capital in the future
Raised capital needs to be allocated wisely in order to support projects and generate value for shareholders.
6. Additional Capital: Back for More vs. Tapped Out
Mining is a capital intensive process, and unless the company has access to a treasure trove, funding is crucial to advancing any project. Companies that demonstrate consistency in their ability to create value at every stage will find it easier to raise capital when it’s necessary.
Back For More:
- Raise more capital when necessary to fund further development on a project
- Able to show the value they generated from previous funding when looking to raise capital a second time
- Attract future shareholders easily by treating current shareholders well
Every mining project requires numerous financings. However, if management proves they spend capital in a way that creates value, investors will likely offer more funding during difficult or unexpected times.
Wealth Creation and Funding Strength
Mining companies that develop significant assets can create massive amounts of wealth, but often the company will not see cash flow for years. This is why it is so important to have funding strength: an ability to raise capital and build value to harvest later.
It is a challenging process to build a mining company, but management that has the ability to treat their shareholders and raise money can see their dreams built.
How the World’s Top Gold Mining Stocks Performed in 2020
The GDX is an ETF that tracks the performance of the top gold mining stocks. How did the GDX and its constituents perform in 2020?
How Top Gold Mining Stocks Performed in 2020
Gold mining stocks and the GDX saw strong returns in 2020 as gold was one of the most resilient and best performing assets in a highly volatile year.
But picking gold mining stocks isn’t easy, as each company has a variety of individual projects and risks worth assessing. This is why the GDX (VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF), is one of the most popular methods investors choose to get exposure to players in the gold mining industry.
While the GDX and gold miners can generally offer leveraged upside compared to gold during bull markets, in 2020 the GDX returned 23%, just a couple of points shy from spot gold’s 25.1% return.
This graphic compares the returns of gold, the GDX, and the best and worst performing gold mining equities in the index.
Understanding the GDX ETF and its Value
The GDX is one of many index ETFs created by investment management firm VanEck and offers exposure to 52 of the top gold mining stocks.
It provides a straightforward way to invest in the largest names in the gold mining industry, while cutting down on some of the individual risks that many mining companies are exposed to. The GDX is VanEck’s largest and most popular ETF averaging ~$25M in volume every day, with the largest amount of total net assets at $15.3B.
In terms of its holdings, the GDX attempts to replicate the returns of the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index (GDM), which tracks the overall performance of companies in the gold mining industry.
How the Largest Gold Miners Performed in 2020
As a market-cap weighted ETF, the GDX allocates more assets towards constituents with a higher market cap, resulting in larger gold mining companies making up more of the index’s holdings.
This results in the five largest companies in the GDX making up 39.5% of the index’s holdings, and the top 10 making up 59.3%.
An equally-weighted index of the top five GDX constituents returned 27.3% for the year, outperforming gold and the index by a few points. Meanwhile, an equally-weighted index of the top 10 constituents significantly underperformed, only returning 18.4%.
Newmont was the only company of the top five which outperformed gold and the overall index, returning 37.8% for the year. Wheaton Precious Metals (40.3%) and Kinross Gold (54.9%) were the only other companies in the top 10 that managed to outperform.
Kinross Gold was the best performer among the top constituents largely due to its strong Q3 results, where the company generated significant free cash flow while quadrupling reported net earnings. Along with these positive results, the company also announced its expectation to increase gold production by 20% over the next three years.
The Best and Worst Performers in 2020
Among the best and worst performers of the GDX, it was the smaller-sized companies in the bottom half of the ranking which either significantly over- or underperformed.
K92 Mining’s record gold production from their Kainantu gold mine, along with a significant resource increase at their high-grade Kora deposit nearby saw a return of 164.2%, with the company graduating from the TSX-V to the TSX at the end of 2020.
Four of the five worst performers for 2020 were Australian mining companies as the country entered its first recession in 30 years after severe COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. Bushfires early in the year disrupted shipments from Newcrest’s Cadia mine, and rising tensions with China (Australia’s largest trading partner) also contributed to double-digit drawdowns for some Australian gold miners.
The worst performer and last-ranked company in the index, Resolute Mining (-36.9%), had further disruptions in H2’2020 at their Syama gold mine in Mali. The military coup and resignation of Mali’s president Ibrahim Keïta in August was followed by unionized workers threatening strikes in September, slowing operations at Syama gold mine. Outright strikes eventually occurred before year’s end.
How Gold Mining Stocks are Chosen for the GDX
There are some ground rules which dictate how the index is weighted to ensure the GDM and GDX properly reflect the gold mining industry.
Along with the rules on the index’s weighting, there are company-specific requirements for inclusion into the GDM, and as a result the GDX:
- Derive >50% of revenues from gold mining and related activities
- Market capitalization >$750M
- Average daily volume >50,000 shares over the past three months
- Average daily value traded >$1M over the past three months
Gold mining stocks already in the index have some leeway regarding these requirements, and ultimately inclusion or exclusion from the index us up to the Index Administrator.
What 2021 Will Bring for Gold Mining Stocks
The GDX has had a muted start to the new year, with the index at -2.3% as it has mostly followed spot gold’s price.
Gold and gold mining stocks cooled off significantly following their strong rally Q1-Q3’2020, as positive developments regarding the COVID-19 vaccine have resulted in a stronger-than-expected U.S. dollar and a rise in treasury yields.
This being said, the arrival of new monetary stimulus in the U.S. could spur inflation-fearing investors towards gold and gold mining stocks as the year progresses.
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