After several years of disappointment, gold miners exchange traded funds are thrilling investors to start 2015. Firming gold prices are helping.
After falling more than 2% last year while shedding $3.2 billion in assets, enough to drop it from the 10 largest ETFs, the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD) is up 3.2% since the start of this year. However, a 3.2% in the still nascent new year does not erase the fact that gold finished 2014 lower, its second consecutive year in the red. GLD is off nearly 27% over the past two years.
Even with gold prices faltering, production remains sturdy, an important factor to consider when evaluating ETFs such as the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: GDX) and the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: GDXJ). [More Fuel for Gold Miners ETF Rally]
“Despite the fall in gold prices, production is increasing. This is mainly because most mines are long-term. From January to October 2014, world production was 2,379.6 tons. This is 3.4% higher than the same period last year,” according to Market Realist.
Although the average all-in cost of production for large miners, such as those found in GDX, was $1,350 an ounce in the first half of last year according to Market Realist, that is more than 10% above where gold futures closed last Friday.
Miners also extracted about 559,000 ounces of gold over the third quarter, up 2%, compared to the previous three months. As recently as November, some gold market analysts said industry-wide production costs hovered around $1,300 an ounce. [High Break-Even Costs Weigh on Miners ETFs]
Still, the economics of closing a large gold mine only to reopen it later are less attractive than continuing to produce bullion, even at current prices. Low prices are not prompting increased hedging by miners.