2020 has brought dramatic change to asset markets around the globe. As equity and bond markets upended in early 2020, gold shined — playing an important and timely role for many investors as a potentially valuable source of diversification, risk-adjusted returns and deep liquidity that may help mitigate portfolio drawdowns in portfolios. These historic benefits of gold during times of market turbulence have helped earn it a reputation as a potential safe-haven asset.1
Gold may provide unique diversification to portfolios as an asset that has historically maintained a low or sometimes negative correlation to many other traditional asset classes, such as stocks and bonds. And in an environment filled with macro-induced volatility — such as we see today — gold has, on average, outperformed many other alternative assets or commodities often used by investors to navigate market turbulence.2
Gold’s performance during 2020’s market turbulence helps illustrate the role that gold can potentially play in a portfolio to help navigate rising market volatility and risks.
Source: Bloomberg Finance L.P., and State Street Global Advisors, as of September 30, 2020. Gold is represented by LBMA Gold Price PM (USD/oz).
*August 15, 1971 – President Nixon removed gold/US dollar from Bretton Woods system and the price of gold was then determined by open-market forces rather than by being linked to the US dollar. **Bloomberg Barclays US Agg TR Index was launched on January 30, 1976. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Performance above does not reflect charges and expenses associated with the fund or brokerage commissions associated with buying and selling exchange traded funds. Performance above is not meant to represent the performance of any investment product.
With a relatively deep and liquid trading market — even during extreme market volatility — gold averages a daily turnover of $189 billion, a volume on par with the S&P 500 Index of $212 billion.3 Our gold investor conversations have revealed — and history shows — that during volatile markets, investors have often relied on their gold holdings for liquidity purposes — or cash — to meet margin calls or avoid selling other securities that are declining. This dynamic can manifest itself in the gold price initially declining along with equities, but then recovering to go on to find higher ground once liquidity demands abate.
Source: Bloomberg Finance L.P. and State Street Global Advisors, date as of September 30, 2020.
For insights on gold’s liquidity and how it performed during the 2020 COVID-related market volatility, read our Gold Midyear Outlook.
Understanding Gold Today
Gold is not just a tactical asset for times of crisis. Despite gold’s strong 2020 performance, investors often misunderstand the unique and diverse potential benefits of investing in gold on a more strategic and longer-term basis.
Recently, we’ve been asked by clients:
Is gold only useful as a short-term tactical solution during market downturns?
In addition to its potential “safe-haven” appeal during critical market downturns, gold can also play a much longer-term and strategic role for investors — potentially providing portfolios a multifaceted, robust hedge against varying types of unexpected risks and market events.
Gold’s unique risk/reward characteristics, coupled with its diverse sources of demand, enable it to potentially help limit drawdowns and preserve wealth over the long run, across varied business cycles.
And as a tangible asset that has been used since ancient times as a medium of exchange or symbol of wealth, gold holds up as a historical store of value without the counterparty risk of stocks and bonds. Since August 15, 1971, when the gold price was first determined by open market demand, gold has provided a compound annual growth rate of 8.01%.4
Source: Bloomberg Finance L.P., and State Street Global Advisors, date range from December 31, 1970 to September 30, 2020. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Performance above does not reflect charges and expenses associated with the fund or brokerage commissions associated with buying and selling exchange traded funds. Performance above is not meant to represent the performance of any investment product.
Is gold too risky to include in portfolios?
Today’s combination of volatility and lower returns from traditional asset classes means that interest in gold has increased. And as investors are faced with understanding the risk/reward profile of many different assets under a new risk regime, volatility is one measure that can help investors set meaningful guardrails and construct portfolios within their investment objectives.
But many investors may mistakenly view gold’s periodic and short-term price changes as a proxy for the asset’s overall volatility. Although the gold price has sometimes exhibited significant movement on a short-term basis, it’s really been a different story longer term.
In fact, gold’s rolling 3-year annualized volatility over the past 30 years is 11.47% – slightly lower but generally on par with the S&P 500, which posted an 11.77% rolling 3-year annualized volatility over the same period.5
As illustrated below, both gold and the S&P 500 Index’s rolling 3-year standard deviation of weekly returns has generally remained close – other than in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when US inflation was high and the Fed was forced to raise the federal fund rate (upper bound) to 20%.6
Further, if one considers that indices tend to be less volatile than their individual components, gold’s potential volatility may be less of a concern when compared with individual stocks, sectors or other securities.
Source: Bloomberg Finance L.P., State Street Global Advisors, data from August 20, 1974 to September 30,2020. Index returns are unmanaged and do not reflect the deduction of any fees or expenses. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
For investors more familiar with real asset exposures in their portfolio construction strategy, gold has historically provided lower volatility relative to many other precious metals, commodities and real estate.
Source: Bloomberg Finance L.P., State Street Global Advisors, data from August 31, 2012 to September 30, 2020, reflect annualized monthly averages for 120 months. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
Although gold is unique from many other assets, including how its price has historically moved — which has often been represented by short-term rises and pullbacks that generally operate within a technical support/resistance zone — its overall, longer-term price volatility has tracked near — or below — many other assets, as illustrated above.
If gold doesn’t pay income or dividends, it isn’t as good as bonds, right?
Gold does not pay a coupon or dividend like most stocks and bonds. Instead, gold’s value is rooted exclusively in its price appreciation. But, an investment in gold does not carry the counterparty risk of many bonds, where payments are contingent on the creditworthiness of the underlying bond issuer — many of which have gotten stretched and downgraded in 2020, according to S&P Global Ratings. In fact, during Q2 2020, S&P Global Ratings reported lowering 414 long-term issuer credit ratings, surpassing the prior peak of 331, which was set during 2008–2009 financial crisis in the first quarter of 2009.7
Source: Bloomberg Finance L.P., and State Street Global Advisors, as of September 30, 2020.
And with the high amount of global negative-yielding debt and the risk/reward profile of many bonds becoming less attractive in 2020, the opportunity cost of gold has declined further – meaning that gold may have the potential to outshine some bond strategies – despite not paying dividends.
Ultimately, gold may play a valuable role in investor portfolios during times of crisis and market downturns. But gold is far more than just a “crisis asset” — it may provide a diverse range of benefits that can potentially bring advantages to portfolios during positive markets too.
Today’s uncertain market environment may be an ideal time for investors to rethink many of their perceptions about gold – it’s also a good time for them to consider the strategic and tactical advantages an allocation to gold may potentially bring to investment portfolios in today’s more volatile market landscape.
1 Assets may be considered “safe havens” based on investor perception that an asset’s value will hold steady or climb even as the value of other investments drops during times of economic stress. Perceived safe-haven assets are not guaranteed to maintain value at any time. 2 Source: Bloomberg Finance L.P., State Street Global Advisors, as of September 30, 2020. Analysis of gold’s historical performance in market downturns is measured by peak to trough returns when the S&P 500 TR Index drops ≥ 15% and reflects an average return for the events and time periods noted for each index/asset class. Average returns across the stated downturns for the assets are: Gold (+6.27), S&P 500 TR Index (-24.34%), Hedge Fund Research HFRI Equity TR Index* (-65.28%), Bloomberg Commodity TR Index (-3.80%) and Global Property Research General TR Index –(11.20%) have provided these returns. Notes: 2008 Financial Crisis (8/11/2008 to 3/9/2009); Coronavirus (2/19/20) - (03/23/20); "Black Monday (08/25/87 - 12/04/87); 2002 Recession (03/19/02 - 07/23/02) Dot Com Bubble; (09/29/00 - 04/04/01); Gulf War (07/16/90 - 10/11/90); LTCM & Asian Crisis (07/17/98 - 08/31/98); US Credit Downgrade (07/07/11 - 10/03/11); Subprime Meltdown (10/09/07 - 03/10/08); September 11th (08/24/01 - 09/21/01); Flash Crash (04/23/10 - 07/02/10); Trade War/Recession Fears (09/21/18 - 12/26/18).
*Hedge Fund Research HFRI Equity Hedge TR Index does not include Black Monday (8/25/1987 to 12/4/1987) due to data not being available.
Index returns are unmanaged and do not reflect the deduction of any fees or expenses. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
3 Bloomberg Finance L.P., and World Gold Council, as of September 30, 2020. 4 Bloomberg Finance L.P., and State Street Global Advisors, as of September 30, 2020. 5 Bloomberg Finance L.P., and State Street Global Advisors, January 1, 1990 – September 30, 2020. 6 Bloomberg Finance L.P., and State Street Global Advisors. Note: Federal Funds Target Rate – Upper Bound first reached 20% on March 3, 1980. 7 S&P Global Ratings Performance Analytics: Credit Trends – U.S. Corporate Downgrades Rise To A New High In Second-Quarter 2020, as of July 15, 2020.
Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index A benchmark that provides a measure of the performance of the U.S. dollar-denominated investment-grade bond market. The “Agg” includes public offerings in the US of investment-grade government bonds, investment-grade corporate bonds, mortgage pass-through securities, commercial mortgage-backed securities and asset-backed securities.
Bloomberg Commodity Index A broadly diversified commodity price index distributed by Bloomberg Indexes that tracks 22 commodity futures and seven sectors. No one commodity can compose less than 2 percent or more than 15 percent of the index, and no sector can represent more than 33 percent of the index.
Commodities A basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable, or “fungible,” with other commodities of the same type. Commodities are most often used as inputs in the production of other goods or services For example, crude oil is a commodity that is used to make motor fuels, heating oil and lubricants.
Correlation The historical tendency of two investments to move together. Investors often combine investments with low correlations to diversify portfolios.
Correlation Coefficient The correlation coefficient measures the strength and direction of a linear relationship between two variables. It measures the degree to which the deviations of one variable from its mean are related to those of a different variable from its respective mean.
Credit or Counterparty Risk The potential for an investment loss based on the borrower’s inability to repay a loan or meet other obligations. Credit risk is typically measured by credit ratings maintained by credit rating agencies, such as S&P, Moody’s and Fitch.
Diversification A strategy of combining a broad mix of investments and asset classes to potentially limit risk, although diversification does not guarantee protection against a loss in falling markets.
Diversification Benefits In modern portfolio theory, diversification is an approach used to potentially reduce the overall risk of the portfolio by holding a mix of assets with low correlations to each other. The potential benefit of holding uncorrelated assets is that some investments may rise while others fall.
Federal Funds Rate, or Federal Funds Target Rate The overnight interest rate charged by depositary institutions on funds held at the Federal Reserve. The fed funds rate is set by the Fed’s policy-making body, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).
Global Property Research General Index A broad-based global real estate benchmark that contains all listed real estate companies that conform to General Property Research’s index-qualification rules, bringing the number of index constituents to more than 650. The index’s inception date was December 31, 1983.
HFRI Equity Hedge TR Index An index comprised of investment managers that maintain positions both long and short in primarily equity and equity derivative securities. A wide variety of investment processes can be employed to arrive at an investment decision, including both quantitative and fundamental techniques; strategies can be broadly diversified or narrowly focused on specific sectors and can range broadly in terms of levels of net exposure, leverage employed, holding period, concentrations of market capitalizations and valuation ranges of typical portfolios. Equity Hedge managers would typically maintain at least 50% exposure to, and may in some cases be entirely invested in, equities, both long and short.
Liquidity The ability to quickly buy or sell an investment in the market without impacting its price. Trading volume is a primary determinant of liquidity.
LBMA Gold Price The LBMA Gold Price is determined twice each business day — 10:30 a.m. London time (i.e., the LBMA Gold Price AM) and 3:00 p.m. London time (i.e., the LBMA Gold Price PM) by the participants in a physically settled, electronic and tradable auction.
Risk-Adjusted Return A risk-based profitability measurement framework for analyzing risk-adjusted financial performance; it is designed to provide a consistent view of profitability across different assets.
Spot Gold Price The price in spot markets for gold. In US dollar terms, spot gold is referred to with the symbol “XAU,” which refers to the price of one troy ounce of gold in USD terms.
Standard Deviation A statistical measure of volatility that quantifies the historical dispersion of a security, fund or index around an average. Investors use standard deviation to measure expected risk or volatility, and a higher standard deviation means the security has tended to show higher volatility or price swings in the past. As an example, for a normally distributed return series, about two-thirds of the time returns will be within 1 standard deviation of the average return.
S&P 500® Total Return Index The version of the popular benchmark for U.S. large-cap equities that includes 500 companies from leading industries and captures about 80% coverage of available market capitalization in the US that reflects returns after reinvestment of dividends.
Volatility The tendency of a market index or security to jump around in price. Volatility is typically expressed as the annualized standard deviation of returns. In modern portfolio theory, securities with higher volatility are generally seen as riskier due to higher potential losses.
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Investing involves risk, and you could lose money on an investment in each of SPDR® Gold Shares Trust (“GLD®” or “GLD”) and SPDR® Gold MiniSharesSM Trust (“GLDMSM” or “GLDM”), a series of the World Gold Trust (together, the “Funds”).
ETFs trade like stocks, are subject to investment risk, fluctuate in market value and may trade at prices above or below the ETFs’ net asset value. Brokerage commissions and ETF expenses will reduce returns.
Commodities and commodity-index linked securities may be affected by changes in overall market movements, changes in interest rates, and other factors such as weather, disease, embargoes, or political and regulatory developments, as well as trading activity of speculators and arbitrageurs in the underlying commodities.
Frequent trading of ETFs could significantly increase commissions and other costs such that they may offset any savings from low fees or costs.
Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss.
Investing in commodities entails significant risk and is not appropriate for all investors.
Important Information Relating to GLD and GLDM:
GLD and the World Gold Trust have each filed a registration statement (including a prospectus) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) for GLD and GLDM, respectively. Before you invest, you should read the prospectus in the registration statement and other documents each Fund has filed with the SEC for more complete information about each Fund and these offerings. Please see each Fund’s prospectus for a detailed discussion of the risks of investing in each Fund’s shares. The GLD prospectus is available by clicking here, and the GLDM prospectus is available by clicking here. You may get these documents for free by visiting EDGAR on the SEC website at sec.gov or by visiting spdrgoldshares.com. Alternatively, the Funds or any authorized participant will arrange to send you the prospectus if you request it by calling 866.320.4053.
None of the Funds is an investment company registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “1940 Act”). As a result, shareholders of each Fund do not have the protections associated with ownership of shares in an investment company registered under the 1940 Act. GLD and GLDM are not subject to regulation under the Commodity Exchange Act of 1936 (the “CEA”). As a result, shareholders of each of GLD and GLDM do not have the protections afforded by the CEA.
Shares of each Fund trade like stocks, are subject to investment risk and will fluctuate in market value.
The values of GLD shares and GLDM shares relate directly to the value of the gold held by each Fund (less its expenses), respectively. Fluctuations in the price of gold could materially and adversely affect an investment in the shares. The price received upon the sale of the shares, which trade at market price, may be more or less than the value of the gold represented by them.
None of the Funds generate any income, and as each Fund regularly sells gold to pay for its ongoing expenses, the amount of gold represented by each Fund share will decline over time to that extent.
The World Gold Council name and logo are a registered trademark and used with the permission of the World Gold Council pursuant to a license agreement. The World Gold Council is not responsible for the content of, and is not liable for the use of or reliance on, this material. World Gold Council is an affiliate of the Sponsor of each of GLD and GLDM.
GLD® is a registered trademark of World Gold Trust Services, LLC used with the permission of World Gold Trust Services, LLC. MiniSharesSM and GLDMSM are service marks of WGC USA Asset Management Company, LLC used with the permission of WGC USA Asset Management Company, LLC.
For more information, please contact the Marketing Agent for GLD and GLDM: State Street Global Advisors Funds Distributors, LLC, One Iron Street, Boston, MA, 02210; T: +1 866 320 4053 spdrgoldshares.com
ETFs trade like stocks, are subject to investment risk, fluctuate in market value and may trade at prices above or below the ETFs net asset value. Brokerage commissions and ETF expenses will reduce returns.
Standard & Poor's®, S&P® and SPDR® are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC (S&P); Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC (Dow Jones); and these trademarks have been licensed for use by S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC (SPDJI) and sublicensed for certain purposes by State Street Corporation. State Street Corporation's financial products are not sponsored, endorsed, sold or promoted by SPDJI, Dow Jones, S&P, their respective affiliates and third party licensors and none of such parties make any representation regarding the advisability of investing in such product(s) nor do they have any liability in relation thereto, including for any errors, omissions, or interruptions of any index.
Distributor: State Street Global Advisors Funds Distributors, LLC, member FINRA, SIPC, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of State Street Corporation. References to State Street may include State Street Corporation and its affiliates. Certain State Street affiliates provide services and receive fees from the SPDR ETFs. ALPS Distributors, Inc., member FINRA, is the distributor for DIA, MDY and SPY, all unit investment trusts. ALPS Portfolio Solutions Distributor, Inc., member FINRA, is the distributor for Select Sector SPDRs. ALPS Distributors, Inc. and ALPS Portfolio Solutions Distributor, Inc. are not affiliated with State Street Global Advisors Funds Distributors, LLC.
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