Investors in exchange-traded funds that track gold producers are keeping the faith, even as the metal’s rally shows signs of fading.
On Tuesday, as gold sustained the biggest loss in almost three years, investors still poured into exchange-traded funds backed by the metal. About $350 million went into the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF, the third-largest daily investment this year. The fund, the biggest ETF tracking bullion producers, is forecast to boost its dividend by half to 17.4 cents a share in 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The ETF demand comes after miners cut costs, lowered debt and boosted their productivity to survive three years of falling gold prices. Now, with better balance sheets, producers including Newmont Mining Corp. are a good bet for improved returns going forward, according to Credit Suisse Group AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. That’s key at a time when the average earnings of S&P 500 companies is falling.
“People have woken up to the fact that we have arguably passed the trough in the commodities cycle and things are looking better,” especially for gold producers, said Clive Burstow, lead mining-fund manager at Barings in London. Mining companies “understand that we are in a world where investors are hunting for things like yield. And if they can pay a sustainable dividend, that would attract investors to their shares.”
The metal dropped 3.3 percent on Tuesday, the biggest loss since December 2013. Prices are down almost 9 percent since a July peak as expectations for tighter monetary policy in Europe and the U.S. dent the appeal of the metal.
Bullion prices have jumped 18 percent since the year began. On average, major producers tracked by Bloomberg Intelligence have halved their net debt as a proportion of their earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization in the past two years. A measure of cash costs has fallen by 26 percent since June 2013 while pretax margins more than doubled in the second quarter from the previous three months.
All this comes as yields on more than $11 trillion in government and corporate debt in the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index of investment-grade bonds have fallen below zero. While gold futures dropped 0.3 percent in the third quarter, Goldman said the steps taken by producers to shore up their operations mean they remain attractive.
The spread between the estimated dividend yield of companies on the S&P 500 Index and the BI Global Senior Gold Valuation Peers narrowed to 1.1 percent, from 1.61 percent in February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Meanwhile, both Goldman and Credit Suisse over the past two weeks have flagged prospects for higher dividends among gold-mining companies.
“Investors are hungry for yield,” and an increase in dividends may provide the catalyst for shares to move higher, Goldman analysts said in a Sept. 21 report.
The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners has risen about 66 percent this year, delivering the best return of all equity ETFs tracked by Bloomberg with a market value of at least $5 billion. Among the fund’s biggest holdings are Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont, the largest producers by market value.