With the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD) enjoying one its best performances in several years, it is not surprising that miners exchange traded funds are getting in on the act. Actually, ETFs such as the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: GDX) are doing that and more.
GDX, the largest and most heavily traded gold miners ETF, is up 65% year-to-date, a performance that is better than triple the showing delivered by GLD and other physically-backed gold funds. Yet while GLD, iShares Gold Trust (NYSEArca: IAU) and the ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares (NYSEArca: SGOL) add assets, GDX has not been as fortunate.
Strategists point out that costs keep rising, which has narrowed profit margins among gold miners. Recent mine closures have not improved margins. Current mining operations are also facing deteriorating ore grades. The recent decline in energy prices and depreciating currencies where local miners operate have also had minimal beneficial impact on cash costs.
Gold miners currently trade at about a 59% discount to gold prices since 2009, have a price-to-book value of 1.0x and an average dividend yield of 2.8%, which makes the sector look attractive from a valuation standpoint. Moreover, U.S. economic weakness and speculation of the Federal Reserve pushing back on another interest rate hike have contributed to a depreciating U.S. dollar, which has also helped support USD-denominated gold bullion.
“Despite returns of more than 65 percent in a year when the S&P 500 is up 4 percent, gold miner ETFs have seen half a billion in outflows. That is practically unheard of as inflows and performance are usually highly correlated when it comes to ETFs. Gold miner ETFs, it seems, are the rare exception,” reports Eric Balchunas for Bloomberg.
Making the case GDX’s outflows all the more confounding is the fact that GLD has been on a torrid asset-gathering pace for much of this year. Add to that, nine of the top 10 non-leveraged ETFs on a year-to-date basis are gold or silver miners ETFs, including GDX.