Why Investors Turn to Copper as an Inflation Hedge
Every year, a vast amount of copper is used by the global economy to manufacture a wide variety of goods.
It’s a major ingredient in big-ticket consumer goods like autos, appliances, electronics, and new homes. Simultaneously, copper is also gobbled up for many industrial uses including telecommunications, utilities, construction, and industrial machinery.
An Economic Bellwether
Today’s infographic comes to us from Kutcho Copper, and it shows the red metal’s important role in the economy, as well as why it has become a famous economic bellwether.
When the economy is doing well and new things are being made, demand soars for the red metal.
When demand goes up, it drives the price of copper higher.
All Eyes on Copper
Because of this historic relationship, analysts around the world watch the price of copper closely.
Copper’s long history of predicting economic movements has famously earned it a nickname as the metal “with a Ph.D. in economics”
In other words: when construction and manufacturing are growing, so do sales of copper products. But this link as an economic gauge has other important implications, especially to investors looking to build a robust portfolio.
Rising Prices, Rising Copper
While copper’s link to economic trends is interesting, it’s power to shield a portfolio from inflation is even more compelling.
Rising prices come from an overheating economy with strong consumer spending – the same factor that is an influence on copper prices. As a result of this connection, tor every 1% annual increase in consumer prices since 1992, copper’s price jumped almost 18%.
In an analysis by Bloomberg Intelligence, copper outperformed every major asset class aside from energy as an inflation hedge – and during periods of rising consumer prices, copper had triple the 5.2% gain logged by gold.
A Threat to Portfolios
Inflation can absolutely kill an unprotected portfolio.
Why? If inflation is higher than the portfolio’s rate of return, then that portfolio is actually producing a negative real return. (Example: 2% growth – 3% inflation = -1% return)
In other words, inflation can be a “stealth” threat that chips away at returns, especially for fixed income portfolios. The good news: holding copper or other commodities can protect against rising prices.
Copper: The Inflation Hedge
At the end of the day, other industrial metals are very specialized in their use, and precious metals tend to be driven by investor sentiment.
Copper, on the other hand, is used in a vast array of industrial and technological uses, which makes it a proxy for the economy as a whole.
Copper is more sensitive to inflation and the dollar because of its uses and its growth with the economy.
– Jodie Gunzberg, S&P Dow Jones Indices
The World’s Gold and Silver Coin Production vs. Money Creation
In 2019, the value of global money creation was over 500 times higher than the world’s gold and silver coin production combined.
Global Gold & Silver Coin Production vs. Money Creation
Note: Data has been updated to correct a previous calculation error pertaining to Japanese Yen money supply.
Both precious metals and cash serve as safe haven assets, intended to limit losses during market turmoil. However, while modern currencies can be printed by central governments, precious metals derive value from their scarcity.
In this infographic from Texas Precious Metals, we compare the value of the world’s gold and silver coin production to global money creation.
Total Production Per Person, 2019
We calculated the value of global currency issuance in 2019 as well as precious metal coins minted, and divided by the global population to get total production per person.
Throughout, global money supply is a proxy based on the 5 largest reserve currencies: the U.S. dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, Sterling Pound, and Chinese Renminbi.
|2019 Production||Ounces||Dollar Value||Dollar Value Per Person|
|Global Gold Coins||7,204,982||$10.9B||$1.42|
|Global Silver Coins||97,900,000||$1.8B||$0.23|
|Global Money Supply||$4.3T||$556.33|
All numbers are in USD according to exchange rates as of December 31 2019. Gold and silver values are based on the 2019 year close price of $1,510.60 and $17.90 respectively.
The value of new global money supply was 390 times higher than the value of gold coins minted, and 2,400 times higher than silver coins minted.
Put another way, for each ounce of minted gold coin, the global money supply increased by more than $593,000.
Change in Annual Production, 2019 vs. 2010
Compared to the start of the decade, here’s how annual production levels have changed:
|Global Silver Coins (oz)||95,900,000||97,900,000||2.1%|
|Global Gold Coins (oz)||6,298,331||7,204,982||14.4%|
|Global Money Supply (USD)||$2,936,296,692,440||$4,268,993,639,926||45.4%|
Annual increases to global money supply have increased by half, far outpacing the change in the world’s gold and silver coin production.
Even more recently, how has production changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 Effect
In response to the global pandemic, central banks have enacted numerous measures to help support economies—including issuing new currency.
The global money supply increased by more than $6.8 trillion in the first half of 2020. In fact, the value of printed currency was 930 times higher than the value of minted gold coins over the same timeframe.
Investors may want to consider which asset is more vulnerable to inflation as they look to protect their portfolios.
Want to learn more? See the U.S. version of this graphic.
Visualizing U.S. Money Supply vs. Precious Metal Production in the COVID-19 Era
Amid trillions in COVID-19 stimulus, this graphic compares new U.S. dollars printed to U.S. precious metal coin production.
U.S. Precious Metal Coin Production in the COVID-19 Era
Gold and silver have played an important role in money throughout history. Unlike modern currencies, they can’t be created out of thin air and derive value from their scarcity.
In the COVID-19 era, this difference has become more prominent as countries print vast amounts of currency to support their suffering economies. This graphic from Texas Precious Metals highlights how the value of U.S. precious metal coin production compares to U.S. money creation.
Year to Date Production
In this infographic, we have calculated the value of money supply added as well as bullion minted, and divided it by the U.S. population to get total production per person. Here’s how the January-September 2020 data breaks down:
|Total (Ounces)||Dollar Value||Dollar Value Per Person|
|U.S. Gold Ounces||826,000||$1.6B||$4.79|
|U.S. Silver Ounces||22,261,500||$544M||$1.65|
|U.S. Money Supply||$3.4T||$10,250.16|
Gold and silver dollar values based on Oct 5, 2020 spot prices of $1,915.93 and $24.47 respectively.
The value of new U.S. money supply was more than 2,100 times higher than the value of new gold minted. Compared to minted silver, the value of new U.S. money supply was over 6,000 times higher.
Production Per Day, Per State Over Time
Here’s how production has changed on a per day, per state basis since 2010:
|2010||2020 YTD (Jan-Sep)||Min-Max Production, 2010-2019|
|Minted Gold Coins||78oz||61oz||12oz-78oz|
|Minted Silver Coins||1,945oz||1,631oz||899oz-2,633oz|
Year to date, U.S. precious metal coin production is within a normal historical range. If production were to continue at the current rate through December, gold would be above historical norms at 81 ounces and silver would be within the normal range at 2,175 ounces.
The issuance of U.S. dollars tells a different story. Over the last nine months, the U.S. has already added 400% more dollars to its money supply than it did in the entirety of 2019—and there’s still three months left to go in the year.
A Macroeconomic View
Of course, current economic conditions have been a catalyst for the ballooning money supply. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government has issued over $3 trillion in fiscal stimulus. In turn, the U.S. Federal Reserve has increased the money supply by $3.4 trillion from January to September 2020.
Put another way, for every ounce of gold created in 2020 there has been $4 million U.S. dollars added to the money supply.
The question for those looking for safe haven investments is: which of these will ultimately hold their value better?
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