StreetTracks: Road to Gold?

12/17/2004 12:00 am EST

Focus:

Should investors buy the recently launched gold bullion-based ETF? According to a variety of advisors Pamela and Mary Anne Aden, Vivian Lewis, Jim Stack, Michael Norman, and J.D. Steinhilberthe answer to this question is yes, no, and maybe.

(For more on the advisors cited below, please click on their photos.)

"As time passes, we’re more inclined to believe this bull market in gold is going to be a big one, which could surpass the old highs at $850," says Pamela and Mary Anne Aden, editors of The Aden Forecast. "Gold recently hit a 16-year high and despite a temporary decline the major trend will remain up as long as prices stay above $402. We continue to recommend positions in gold, including t he first gold exchange fund now trading on the NYSE, called StreetTRACKS Gold Trust (GLD NYSE). It tracks the gold price and each share represents one-tenth of an ounce of gold. (A second ETF will also soon be launched called iShares Comex Gold Trust.) Overall, we like these new products because they allow you to buy gold easily and you can put them in your IRA account. In our view, the more ways to buy gold, the better for the bull market since it provides new liquidity for gold."

Stack, James "Yes, there are obvious advantages to the StreetTRACKS Gold Trust, as investors now have the chance to own gold-backed shares without the worry of buying and selling, storing, and insuring the actual bullion," notes Jim Stack, editor of InvesTech Market Analyst. "This alternative also eliminates the company-specific risk associated with owning mining stocks. However, this ETF also has some drawbacks. Here are a few points to consider: The IRS will treat shareholders as if they own the underlying gold. Since gold is considered a collectible, gains on shares held more than one year are taxed at a maximum rate of 28%, rather than the 15% rate applied to most long-term investments. Expenses initially are not to exceed 0.4% annually (which is high for an ETF). The fund will cover these expenses by selling gold, which means the amount of gold backing each share will gradually be reduced over time. Thus, while the new StreetTRACKS Gold Trust has attracted interest, we continue to favor Newmont Mining (NEM NYSE), or for fund investors, American Century Global Gold (BGEIX ). As long as the environment is positive for gold, we feel these specific investments should provide more gains than the ETF."

 Lewis, Vivian "I think investors should load up on StreetTRACKS Gold Trust, which I view as an attractive play on continued US dollar weakness," says Vivian Lewis, editor of Global Investing. "We bought the Trust for $44 and change on its second trading day. This is the first pure commodity investment ever listed on the Big Board. While almost any ETF invested abroad will produce a gain during the coming decline of the dollar, remember that most ETFs are aimed at efficiently tracking a foreign index. That means they are invested in the largest foreign companies. These firms in most cases are multinationals, which do a considerable amount of business in the US. Even if they are not making gizmos using yen or euro inputs, the weak dollar will hurt them. The performance of their shares (and the ETFs holding them) will fail to match the full drop in the greenback. We therefore think that commodity-linked ETFssuch as StreetTRACKS Gold Trust are a better way to invest to benefit from a declining dollar than any particular country or region ETF."

"StreetTRACKS Gold Trust finally made its long-awaited debut in November," notes J.D. Steinhilber, editor of Agile Investing . "Investors have traditionally gotten exposure to precious metals through gold stock or mutual funds that own gold stocks, because gold stocks typically outperform bullion when gold is rising and because physical gold is taxed at a long-term capital gains rate. The counter argument is that it is about a third as volatile as gold stocks and is less correlated with the broader stock market. Of course, investors do not need to choose one or the other; they can hold the gold ETF alongside their gold stock investments. In our view, the gold ETF is a welcome addition to the investment landscape. It represents a major innovation in facilitating the ownership of bullion, and opens up a new asset class for investors building diversified portfolios with low-cost ETFs. Given the formidable problems facing the US dollar, gold could still be in the early stages of a multi-year bull market. Moreover, given its lack of correlation to stocks and bonds, a modest allocation to gold can be expected to improve the risk-adjusted returns of a diversified investment portfolio in the years ahead."

Norman, MichaelFinally,  Michael Norman, editor of The Economic Contrarian, wonders, "Could gold’s shining debut as a ‘stock’ be a contrarian sign? The launch of the StreetTRACKS Gold Trust is emblematic of the big, two-year long run-up in gold prices. Exchange traded funds have taken off in recent years and they cover everything from emerging markets to biotech to fixed income. They are easy and effective ways to get participation in niche market sectors or for that matter, entire countries. Gold ETFs have already been listed in England, Australia, and South Africa, but not here in the United States. The US is one of the largest consumers of gold bullion in the world, both for industrial uses and for investment. The ETF comes about after a two-year period that saw the gold price rise nearly $200 per ounce and amid an almost unprecedented recent surge of attention and interest in gold as an investment. I think it is one among a number of important psychological indicators that suggests gold could be near a major top."

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