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Precious metals - July 2015

    CPD
    Approx.50min

    Introduction

    But precious metal investors will be keeping an even closer eye on Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen and her colleagues in the Federal Open Market Committee, as this asset class is typically sensitive to rising interest rates.

    Thomas Holl, portfolio manager of the BlackRock Commodities Income Investment Trust, suggests: “Following the end of quantitative easing in the US and continued strong economic data from that economy, the prospects for the dollar are relatively robust. A backdrop of dollar strength has historically been a challenging one for precious metals.”

    As an asset class, precious metals, and gold specifically, has found favour among investors as a supposed safe haven and a form of portfolio diversification – and this still applies.

    James Sutton, portfolio manager of the JPM Natural Resources fund, points out that gold does not trade on supply-and-demand fundamentals. Rather, it’s all about the “greed and fear at the margin”.

    He observes: “I think there’s going to be a lot of fear going into that [US] rate rise and once we’ve got that out of the way, people might start to appreciate that gold is still a good thing to have exposure to in a very low interest-rate environment, which is what we could see for the foreseeable future.”

    As Mr Holl notes: “The rationale for an allocation to gold remains strong, as its role as a hedge against financial market instability, currency weakness and the risk of inflation, continues to be valid.

    “Although the inflation environment is benign, the significant expansion of central bank balance sheets and increasing indebtedness of governments globally may, at some point, result in an increase in inflation.”

    Investors can access precious metals in a number of ways, either in physical form or by investing in mining companies and producers through funds and investment trusts. Gold can also be accessed in exchange-traded product form now.

    The World Gold Council reports that overall investment demand for gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) was up 4 per cent in the first quarter of this year, with gold ETFs recording net inflows.

    Juan Carlos Artigas, director of investment research at the World Gold Council, says: “While ETFs have experienced outflows since [in Q2]… there is far more interest in the asset class than there was in 2014, let alone 2013. This was, in part, a result of geopolitical tensions, ongoing uncertainty surrounding the future of the eurozone, and the more sluggish pace at which the US economy is recovering.”

    He believes the success of physically-backed gold ETFs is “rooted in transparency, ease of accessibility, cost effectiveness and liquidity”.

    Says Mr Artigas: “ETFs are considered efficient vehicles as they overcome a number of barriers to access the market. Yet ETFs are just one of many methods of accessing gold and there is evidence that suggests that in periods of turmoil, investors may rely on [other methods].”

    Ellie Duncan is deputy features editor at Investment Adviser

    In this special report

    CPD
    Approx.50min

    Please answer the six multiple choice questions below in order to bank your CPD. Multiple attempts are available until all questions are correctly answered.

    1. In the first quarter of 2015 China and India together accounted for what percentage of total global consumer demand for gold?

    2. Which of these countries is NOT described as a ‘pocket of strength’ for gold demand, according to the World Gold Council?

    3. In 2014 demand for silver in India increased by what percentage following government restrictions on gold imports?

    4. Overall investment demand for gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) increased by how much in the first quarter of 2015?

    5. Chris Beauchamp suggests that supply fundamentals mean Palladium is expected to see a deficit in supply until at least which year?

    6. Coins accounted for what level of global demand for silver?

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