As July creeps to a close, the thermometers in our part of the country are pegged north of 90. It’s hot. Too hot to think about kids going back to school or off to college. Too hot to think about COVID.
On the investment side, let’s add Gold to the hot list. The popular GLD exchange traded fund is up 26% this year and increased 10% in July alone.
In the aftermath of COVID-related economic closures interest rates have plunged to all time lows. Five year Treasury notes only pay .28% and ten year US Treasury notes yield less than .6% which has in turn, pushed mortgage rates to all-time lows. Outside the United States other countries are experiencing the realm of negative interest rates which are manufactured by Central Banks as they attempt to stimulate economic growth.
The global pandemic of low yields is pushing investors to consider their alternatives. Safety-first investors overseas are fleeing negative rates and flocking into gold to avoid losing money. In the US, few investors can stomach tying their funds up for 5 years at a measly 1/4% return. Stock market valuations are stretched as speculators pile into momentum stocks regardless of weak fundamentals. Only folks who can endure stomach churning volatility are chasing this game.
Washington’s response to the COVID shutdown was to offer massive stimulus payments to almost everyone in America. Concerned investors have done a quick mental calculation on the cost of all of this and now realize that our national debt is on the verge of reaching a tipping point. With somewhere between 3 and 6 TRILLION in new debt added to the books this year alone, debt payments run the real risk of engulfing our budget. Exploding debt poses a big risk to the US dollar’s reign as the safe-haven/reserve currency for the world.
This debt spiral has been building for years and it is the main reason that we have long advocated a position in precious metals. We view it as a reasonable insurance policy against the dollar declining in value. Gold prices have responded the confluence of economic events this year with a rally to new all-time highs. The question I’m fielding from friends is “can/should I chase it higher?”
Precious metals are becoming the hot trade and will attract the fast money crowd that likes to chase momentum plays. This will increase volatility (and therefore risk). When this ends, I don’t know. We’re enjoying the ride for now and using the big moves to sell gains down to our pre-determined exposure levels. This frees up cash to re-deploy into other asset classes that are still out of favor. This discipline is the essence of buy low, sell high. It keeps us from getting cooked in the hot trade and smart investors always have a plan to get out of the heat.