The Golden Dilemma
Financial Analysts Journal, vol. 69, no. 4 (July/August 2013) 10-42.
48 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2012 Last revised: 28 Aug 2015
Date Written: May 4, 2013
Gold objects have existed for thousands of years but for many investors gold has only recently become a tradable investment opportunity. Gold has been described as an inflation hedge, a “golden constant”, with a long run real return of zero. Yet over 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20 year investment horizons the variation in the nominal and real returns of gold has not been driven by realized inflation. The real price of gold is currently high compared to history. In the past, when the real price of gold was above average, subsequent real gold returns have been below average. Given this situation is it time to explore “this time is different” rationalizations? We show that new mined supply is surprisingly unresponsive to prices. In addition, authoritative estimates suggest that about three quarters of the achievable world supply of gold has already been mined. On the demand side, we focus on the official gold holdings of many countries. If prominent emerging markets increase their gold holdings to average per capita or per GDP holdings of developed countries, the real price of gold may rise even further from today’s elevated levels. As a result investors in gold face a daunting dilemma: 1) embrace a view that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, there is a “golden constant” and the purchasing power of gold is likely to fall or 2) embrace a view that “this time is different” and the “golden constant” is dead.
Related research: Erb and Harvey (2015), The Golden Constant Erb and Harvey (2012a), An Impressionistic View of the 'Real' Price of Gold Around the World.
Note: This is the final version of the working paper published in the Financial Analysts Journal, vol. 69, no. 4 (July/August 2013): 10–42.
Keywords: Gold, gold price, inflation hedge, gold value, gold standard, currency hedge, gold beta, safe haven, tail protect, insurance, hyperinflation, central bank holdings, asset allocation, diversification, emerging markets, Warren Buffett, Ray Dalio, Jeffrey Gundlach
JEL Classification: G10, G11, G12, G15, G28, E58, N20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation