A week ago, the price of gold broke out to a three-month high of $916.30. For the week ending Thursday, Jan. 29, the spot price of gold rose 6% to $908.65. The move to gold for wealth preservation shows a lack of faith in the future value of the U.S. dollar and other currencies. That's happening as governments worldwide rev up their printing presses to spend billions of dollars to stimulate their flagging economies.
In comments from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,
Chairman Peter Munk predicts gold will top $1,000 an ounce this year as frightened investors seek protection from uncertain markets. A trade above $1,032.70 would break the high point set on March 21, 2008.
For the five trading days under review, the average precious metals fund we track gained 6.7%, excluding inverse funds that sell short metals miners or futures contracts linked to gold bullion.
Demand for gold as an investment has never been higher, with the
SPDR Gold Trust
setting a new record of 843.6 metric tons of gold in their bank vaults. The more cash invested in the SPDR Gold Trust, the more gold bullion bars this fund buys and stores.
The best-performing precious metals funds were closely tied or leveraged to the price of gold, with
E-TRACS UBS Bloomberg CMCI Gold ETN
topping the list at a 14.95% return for the period.
PowerShares DB Gold Double Long ETN
did nearly as well at 12.67%.
At 150% leveraged to the mining shares in the Dow Jones Precious Metals Index, the
ProFunds Precious Metals UltraSector ProFund
With a portfolio of around 200 mining companies, the
US Global Investors World Precious Minerals Fund
returned 10.14%. One holding,
Central Sun Mining
, more than doubled in value, up 105%, in a bidding war between rivals to acquire this Nicaraguan penny stock.
Other big percentage gainers included
New Pacific Metals
, up 71.1%;
, up as much as 60%; and
Great Basin Gold
, up 50%.
When the prices of precious metals rise, the inverse bullion funds fall. For the week ending Thursday, Jan. 29, the silver bullion spot price rose 8.41%.
Multiplying 200% negative leverage to that movement roughly corresponds to the minus 16.03% drop of this week's worst-performing fund,
ProShares UltraShort Silver
ProShares UltraShort Gold
As these types of funds attempt to track the daily performance of underlying indices or commodities, both the long and short funds can decline. So, while the
PowerShares DB Base Metals Long ETN
sank 8.15% on recession-level demand for base metals, the
PowerShares DB Base Metals Short ETN
also had a down week, off 2.91%.
On Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported fourth-quarter GDP shrank at a 3.8% annual pace. This helped the spot price of gold to continue its rally.
As a sign of bullish times for precious metals, demand for gold is high enough that
, a company that buys unwanted gold jewelry from the public, bought a 30-second Super Bowl commercial featuring celebrities like M.C. Hammer and Ed McMahon in need of cash.
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Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by TheStreet.com, covering mutual funds. He joined the Weiss Group in 1997 as a banking and brokerage analyst. In 1999, he created the Weiss Group's first ratings to gauge the level of risk in U.S. equities. Baker received a B.S. degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. with a finance specialization from Nova Southeastern University.