Recently by Frank Holmes: The Ultimate Gift for Your Gold Lover and 5 Other Amazing Consumer Trends
Our ever-popular Periodic Table of Commodity Returns has been updated through 2012. Investor Alert readers love this chart as it shows a decade of results across 14 different commodities, providing strikingly rich information in a very familiar format.
Last year, 11 commodities rose in value, with wheat rising as the top crop after seeing a significant decline in 2011. It was a similar rags-to-riches story for the next few leaders, including lead, zinc, natural gas and platinum, which all climbed double digits in 2012 after falling in 2011.
Only three commodities declined over the year: Crude oil fell by 7 percent after rising 8 percent the previous year. Nickel declined for the second year in a row. In 2012, the metal lost 9 percent and in 2011, nickel fell another 24 percent.
Coal was the worst-performing commodity in 2012, falling nearly 17 percent. Coal’s been going through a rough spell lately; in fact, the commodity has not been king for five years (although it did record a 31 percent increase in 2010). As Global Resources Fund Portfolio Manager Evan Smith explained to listeners during our recent presentation, for the first time ever in the U.S., natural gas provided more electricity and power than coal did.
As you can see from the table, commodities often have wide price fluctuations from year to year given the many factors affecting supply and demand, such as government policies, union strikes, and currency volatility. That’s why when it comes to commodities and commodity producers, many investors “leave the driving” to active money managers who understand these specialized assets and the global trends affecting them.
Take gold and gold companies, for example. After investing in the mining industry for decades, we’ve taken note of several facts about gold that continue to surprise our investors.
Here are four of the latest:
1. Gold Has Been A Consistent Performer Over The Decade
While the precious metal did not shoot the lights out in 2012, gold’s bull rally goes on. It ended the year up 7 percent, making it a phenomenal 12th year in a row that gold rose in value. In a special gold bar version of the Periodic Table below, you can easily see gold’s rotation among the commodities from year to year.
What’s fascinating is the three-year rising pattern relative to other commodities that emerges when you focus on the bars. Over the past 10 years, gold has risen in position compared with the others for three years in a row, then fallen in relative position in the fourth year before repeating the cycle. Will it follow the same pattern and be in the top half of the Periodic Table in 2013?
2. Gold Should Remain A Hot Commodity In 2013
Considering the global easing cycle and the continuous running of monetary printing presses, I believe the Fear Trade will continue to be a driver of gold over the next several months. Take a look at the projected rise in the balance sheets as a percent of GDP from the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England over 2013. The ECB is estimated to have a balance sheet that is nearly 50 percent of its GDP by the end of the year. The Bank of Japan is right behind the ECB, with its balance sheet projected to be nearly 35 percent of GDP. As Mike Shedlock of Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis said, “The race is on to see which central bank can load up its balance sheet with the most garbage the fastest.”
My friend Ian McAvity also summed it up well in his Deliberations on World Markets: “Gauging from the panicky actions of the major central banks, I would still prefer to own gold than their paper.” With the monetary printing presses warm and real interest rates in the red, gold will likely glimmer for another year.
Frank Holmes is chief executive officer and chief investment officer of U.S. Global Investors Inc. The company is a registered investment adviser that manages approximately $4.8 billion in 13 no-load mutual funds and for other advisory clients. A Toronto native, he bought a controlling interest in U.S. Global Investors in 1989, after an accomplished career in Canada's capital markets. His specialized knowledge gives him expertise in resource-based industries and money management.