People have been trading gold for more than 200 years now. Gold is the one commodity that has remained attractive over the years with gradual gains. However, over the last few years, gold’s price rally reached new heights approaching the $2000 per ounce mark in August 2011. Nonetheless, this year has exhibited reverse characteristics, as gold plummeted to trade at around $1220 per ounce. Gold traded upwards of $1900 per ounce about two years ago, but now has lost about $700 since then. In fact, at the beginning of this year, gold was trading at about $1700 an ounce, which means it has shaved $500 in the last six months.
Why the shift in goal posts?
When gold hit an all time high of $1913 last year, there was a lot of speculation that the world could succumb to another global financial crisis. The Chinese economy had started showing signs of weakness, while Brazil, another BRIC country, struggled to replicate previous growth rates in GDP. Additionally, the Euro zone crises were beginning to threaten escalating to the rest of the world, while the U.S economy struggled to recover.
This prompted investors to seek havens for their money, where they could cushion against inevitable recession. Gold offered the best escape route, thus driving prices up. The U.S. Federal Reserve Board’s Quantitative Easing confirmed that the economy was indeed struggling leaving investors with no choice but to cover potential losses in investments in equity with long positions in gold.
However, since the beginning of this year, the U.S. economy has shown promising signs of recovery, with jobs data improving from one month to another. Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke also hinted that tapering (cutting the level of quantitative easing) could be on the horizon. Some analysts also predict that tapering could begin as early as September this year. This has affected investors’ decisions with several of them now shifting to equities, in an attempt to ride on the recovering economy. This is what has pushed gold prices to levels witnessed in 2010.
Which stocks suffered?
Some believe that Bernanke’s speech did not ultimately rule out quantitative easing, which has resulted into some sort of recovery for the SPDR Gold Trust (ETF) (NYSEMKT:GLD). Could this be a silver lining? Well, judging by the recent recovery some investors think so.
Approximately 85% of Barrick Gold’s revenues comes from Gold bullion sales, a unit that attracts a production cost of about $1000-$1100 per ounce. If we factor in operating costs, there is virtually little to claim as profit margins. This proves why the company announced last month that it was trimming its operations staff of 400 by up to a third, in a bid to minimize operational costs.
Barrick Gold Corporation (USA) (NYSE:ABX)’s most recent quarter revenues fell by 6% from the same quarter last year. It operating loss margin of 8% indicates how the gold prices have affected its profitability.