ETFs for a gold standard

A number of funds linked to miners and bullion would benefit if central banks moved to a gold standard.

By TheStreet Staff Nov 9, 2010 10:52AM

Gold © Comstock Images/JupiterimagesBy Don Dion, TheStreet


I have consistently advised investors to gain exposure to gold through the use of various ETF products. With economic turmoil still raging across many regions of the globe, prices have risen to staggering all-time highs, making for an attractive destination for frightful investors.


With discussions heating up this week in light of the G-20 meeting, the prospects for the yellow metal and the funds designed to track it appear promising.


In a Sunday opinion piece for the Financial Times, World Bank President Robert Zoellick proposed that leading world economies may want to consider using gold as a standard for their currency valuations in order to inject stability.


Zoellick's surprising suggestion is already drawing criticism, fanning the fiery debate over whether the world would benefit from a return to the gold standard. According to The Wall Street Journal, UBS has already called the idea of returning to the gold standard absurd.

The World Bank president's statement has fueled conversation, but it is unclear whether and how it might influence the discussions when the G-20 representatives meet in Seoul, South Korea, later this week. Still, it is interesting to consider which funds would benefit in the event that a gold standard is adapted.


Moving away from fiat currencies in favor of a gold standard would likely benefit gold-related investing products across the board. Today, investors can gain access to gold through exposure to bullion and miners.


Bullion-backed funds such as iShares Gold Trust (IAU) and SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) track their own respective stockpiles of physical gold held in vaults around the world. These funds are designed to rise and fall with the changes in the prices of the actual metal.


In the event that central banks around the world agree to adapt a gold standard, they will have to increase their stockpiles of the metal. This uptick in demand would, in turn, drive prices higher, benefiting IAU, GLD and other products boasting exposure to physical gold bars and coins.


If a gold standard is implemented and central bank demand for gold takes off, companies such as Barrick Gold (ABX), Gold Fields (GFI) and Goldcorp (GG), which are responsible for unearthing the commodity, will see a lift as well, benefiting from rising prices.


A number of ETFs dedicate their portfolios to companies in this market. The two most popular products to keep an eye on will be the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) and Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (GDXJ).


Investors can also use mutual fund products such as the Toqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX) and the Fidelity Select Gold Fund (FSAGX) to access the gold industry. While, like GDX and GDXJ, these funds are heavily dedicated to miners, in both cases a certain percentage of their assets are dedicated to physical bullion.


Although both miner and bullion-linked products will benefit in the event that central banks return to a gold standard, physically based products will likely be the most stable options. Because of their exposure to equities, the stock market will be a major influence on the performance of funds such as TGLDX and GDX. Despite their exposure to gold, in the event that the markets see a dive, these funds would still be in for a rocky ride.


Whether or not a return to the gold standard is brought up this week when the G20 meets, it will be interesting to pay attention to how the inevitable currency-related conversation plays out.


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