The Historical Returns by Asset Class Over the Last Decade
Recently, we’ve looked at different crisis events through history, and the returns by asset classes for each period of time.
Today’s chart is more general and breaks down performance over the last decade. It’s sorted by different baskets of assets such as bonds, commodities, gold, stocks, real estate, and emerging markets. Note that the chart uses indices that serve as a proxy for specific asset classes. For example, the Bloomberg Commodities Index acts as a broad representation of the performance of all commodities in different sectors. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a legend that gives a description for each item on the chart.
There are a few lessons worth noting here. First, despite gold having a difficult last few years, it is actually the best performing asset class over the last decade, returning 10.0% annualized. Gold was also the #1 or #2 performer for five of seven years straight between 2005 and 2011. It just goes to show the intensity of bull and bear markets in the metal, and reinforces the fact that it takes multiple years to cool down that momentum before the next upswing may start.
Next, the importance of diversification is almost self-evident. Stocks in emerging markets, for example, just crush other assets in the good years. In the bad years, they are the worst performing assets on the chart. Imagine having a portfolio of just stocks in emerging markets, and you have a financial roller coaster that would make any investor queasy.
Lastly, outside of highly-leveraged Wall Street traders, most investors consider bonds to be quite boring. In the last decade, returns of the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index have ranged between -2.0% and 7.8%. Bonds are typically considered a relatively consistent and less volatile asset class, which help create a baseline for a portfolio. However, on this chart, bonds are all over the map because it is the other investments that are swinging with volatility. In the 2008 crisis, bonds were actually the best performing class with a 5.2% return.
To be fair, there is much speculation of a bond bubble lately, so bonds may not be boring for long.
Returns by asset class chart legend:
- REITs: Real estate investment trusts, a proxy for property and real estate.
- MSCI EmMkts: Index tracking 838 companies in 23 emerging markets countries.
- MSCI EAFE: Measures performance in Europe, Australasia, and Far East. Essentially a barometer for equity performance outside of the US and Canada.
- Russell 2000: Index tracking 2000 smallcap equities in the United States.
- S&P 400: The S&P Midcap 400 is a benchmark for midcap companies in the United States.
- S&P 500: The S&P 500, one of the most commonly followed indices, covers a diverse set of 500 large companies with common stock on the NYSE and NASDAQ exchanges in the US.
- B’berg Commod: A broadly diversified commodity index tracking the futures of 22 different commodity markets in seven sectors.
- Mkt Neut HFs: Market-neutral hedge funds seek to avoid forms of market risk by hedging.
- Gold: The price of gold.
- Barclays Agg Bond: Broad base index includes treasury securities, government agency bonds, mortgage-backed bonds, corporate bonds, and a small amount of foreign bonds traded in the US.
Original graphic by: Business Insider
The Future of Gold Exploration is Under Cover
Gold exploration has seen diminishing returns for years, but exploring through cover could be a way to unlock the world-class deposits of the future.
The Future of Gold Exploration is Under Cover
Over billions of years, extraordinary amounts of gold and other metals were deposited and spread throughout the Earth’s crust. Humans have been searching for these rich deposits for centuries, and advances in geoscience and technology have helped us become more adept at finding them over time.
However, even with today’s advancements – almost all early-stage prospecting methods are still based on the same key principle: trying to find areas of exposed bedrock, called outcrops, that indicate an orebody is near.
But such outcrops only form in certain circumstances – and what happens when a geological system doesn’t come in contact directly with the surface?
The Problem of Cover
Today’s infographic comes to us from Nevada Exploration, and it identifies the problem behind finding these “hidden” deposits that do not leave a helpful trail of clues on the surface.
Instead of having outcrops where rocks can be readily sampled, these deposits are trapped underneath large amounts of soil and gravel. Geologists call this a covered setting, where they must first find a way to “see through” the cover in order to identify what geological systems really exist below.
Seeing through cover can be expensive and difficult to do, but it also has big potential upside.
There is no reason not to assume as much gold still exists as has been mined in the past, but prospectors, explorationists, and geologists have found the easy gold.
– Dr. Richard Goldfarb, Ph.D., United States Geologic Survey
In fact, many geologists think that the next game-changing gold deposit could be found under cover.
For explorers, it is no secret that the cost per discovery is going up dramatically over time. The reality is that traditional exploration methods are achieving diminishing returns, and as a result companies are settling for lower grade deposits, more complex geological settings, and politically questionable jurisdictions.
Minex Consulting says that between 2007-2016, there has been $65 billion spent globally on gold exploration with only $30 billion worth of discoveries to show for it. Those aren’t exactly inspiring economics for future gold explorers.
But for every industry problem, there is often a precedent to be found elsewhere – and an interesting situation that is analogous was faced by the oil exploration industry years ago. They had reached diminishing returns with shallow water deposits, and developed technology to go deeper. Suddenly, monster deposits were being found again.
Experts involved in mineral exploration see the same thing happening with cover.
With the transition to under cover exploration, the minerals industry is undergoing a transformation much like the petroleum industry transformed to deep sea exploration some decades ago.
– Cam McCuaig, Principal Geoscientist, BHP Billiton
In other words: whoever can figure out how to explore under cover could be reaping big benefits.
In the world’s most prolific gold jurisdictions, there are massive amounts of land that have not yet been explored because of cover. In Canada and in Australia, over 70% of land is covered. In Nevada, which produces the most gold ounces per square kilometer, about 55% of land is covered.
Interestingly, Nevada has produced 225 million oz of gold to date, but the majority of these discoveries have come from outcrop clues on the surface. Imagine what gold could be hidden under soil and gravel within the valleys of the state.
Global data so far suggests that deposits discovered under cover tend to be 2-4x bigger.
Exploring Under Cover
While the idea of unlocking this potential is extremely exciting, it also poses a significant technical challenge.
Conventional tools are poorly suited to covered settings, and existing techniques for systematic exploration don’t work. The end result is high-risk, high-cost exploration.
To successfully explore through cover, companies need:
- New technology to see through cover
- A way to lower the costs of testing targets
- A way to directly test covered bedrock
So far, a few ideas have been pioneered for seeing through cover – and it will be interesting to see what results they bring in.
Biogeochemistry: In Australia, explorers are using biogeochemistry as a hint to see what lays beneath the soil. Plants accumulate pathfinder elements in them, or even tiny amounts of gold, which allows explorers to get a hint at what lies deep below.
Hydrogeochemistry: In a place like Nevada, there are massive valleys in the middle of prolific gold districts that have remained unexplored because they are covered with hundreds of meters of gravel. Testing groundwater might be the key, because groundwater flows by gravity from mountains to deep in the valley centers. On the way, this water interacts with bedrock – and any gold deposits that are hidden beneath the surface.
Explorers are looking at other ideas as well, ranging from regional-scale mapping to adapting other oil and gas industry techniques. If any of them are able to unlock the secret of exploring through cover, it could be the catalyst for industrywide change, as well as the discovery of the monster deposits that will meet our mineral needs of the future.
Why Diversification Makes a Precious Metals Portfolio Stronger
Precious metals like gold and silver have many things in common, but they are ultimately driven by different factors. Here’s why diversification is important.
Precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum have many things in common.
They tend to be heavy, durable, ductile, and malleable – all desirable traits for monetary metals. They also tend to be quite rare, which is part of the reason that investors have put trust in these assets as stores of value for hundreds of years.
Despite all these commonalities, the story of each individual metal is actually quite unique. Each metal is driven by its own set of supply and demand characteristics that are unique from the group. As a result, there is a significant amount of variance in the price patterns between each individual precious metal.
Precious Metals Diversification
Today’s infographic comes to us from Neptune-GBX and it showcases the story of each precious metal.
More importantly, it shows why owning them simultaneously is the only way to get exposure to the unique supply and demand drivers behind each of them in the context of the modern market.
The story of each individual precious metal is quite unique:
Investors and people buy gold bullion or jewelry as a store of value, and the gold price is sensitive to events in financial markets. Its main use is investment, and supply is diversified and global.
Silver is unique “hybrid” metal that is simultaneously driven by its investment and industrial uses. Its main uses are investment and industrial, and supply is diversified and global.
Used in catalytic converters and for other industrial uses. Platinum demand also comes from jewelry and investment sectors. Platinum supply only comes from South Africa, Russia and Zimbabwe, giving it a unique set of supply characteristics.
Palladium is a purer industrial metal than platinum, with 80% of demand coming from catalytic converters. It has similar supply issues to platinum.
Because each metal is different, when one increases in price, the others may or may not follow suit. This creates a problem and an opportunity for investors.
Why Diversification Matters
How do investors minimize the volatility of precious metals investments, while still maximizing returns?
It’s a risk management problem that portfolio managers have been dealing with for decades – and they’ve come up with a proven solution: diversification.
- Reduces risk: All eggs aren’t in one basket
- Preserves capital: Protects against major declines in one asset
- Generates returns: Portfolio can grow in boom or bust
Since the four major precious metals are driven by individual demand and supply factors, diversification can allow you get exposure to the unique drivers behind each metal at the same time.
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