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There are those who strongly believe that emerging-market growth is fueling fantastic demand for metals of all kinds -- precious metals, industrial metals and semiprecious metals. Others look at the U.S. dollar's decadelong slide, viewing commodities as an effective currency hedge against continuous greenback devaluation.
Regardless of your reason for investing in precious metals such as gold and silver, and regardless of your reasons for getting exposure to nickel, tin or zinc, you've gotten the upper hand on most stock assets this year. Metal mania is backed up by sterling year-to-date percentage gains.
In spite of the enormous success investors are having with traditional metal investments, there's a cadre of forward-thinking people who want access to rare earth metals. Yet there isn't an exchange-traded vehicle for accessing the 15 rare earth elements numbered 57 through 71 on the periodic table of elements.
Your ninth-grader may be more familiar with these metals than you. From lanthanum to dysprosium, from terbium to neodymium. Until recently, in fact, many might not have believed rare metals had much in the way of commercial applications.
Major aerospace and defense projects require them, for everything from combat helicopters to the fins on smart bombs. And hybrid cars can't operate without one or more of them.
That's why governments are showing increasing concern over the reality that China accounts for 97% of the world's rare earth metal production. Equally compelling, Aluminum Corp. of China invested $1.5 billion in several rare earth metal companies just last week.
As an investor, then, what's the best approach to cashing in? Some writers suggest buying shares of "REM" miners. Yet mining stocks are often quite speculative and certainly more volatile than the commodities themselves.
So what else can you do? In previous "rare earth" commentary, I suggested that investors take a look at
China Small Cap(HAO). My thesis was that the middle-class Chinese consumer accounts for 60% of the world's rare earth metal consumption; that is, the Chinese consumer is responsible for buying the most electric and hybrid cars.
Other investment alternatives have come to the forefront.
Global X China Consumer(CHIQ) tracks an index that endeavors to reflect the performance of the consumer sector in China. This ETF capitalizes on Chinese consumption of rare earth metals as well the increasingly consumer-driven Chinese economy. While
China Small Cap(HAO) is still a better proxy for the domestic Chinese economy as a whole, CHIQ has 11% direct exposure to automobiles.
There are still thousands of folks who would rather get exposure to a diversified basket of the rare metals instead. Again, it doesn't exist today.
With that said, Dacha Capital -- which just changed its name to
Dacha Strategic Metals -- is an investment company focused on the purchase, storage and trading of rare earth metals. It may be the closest thing to an ETF of rare metals at the present time, as it has a diversified rare metal inventory.
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