The Golden Dilemma

49 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2013

See all articles by Claude B. Erb

Claude B. Erb

TR

Campbell R. Harvey

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2013

Abstract

While gold objects have existed for thousands of years, gold's role in diversified portfolios is not well understood. We critically examine popular stories such as 'gold is an inflation hedge'. We show that gold may be an effective hedge if the investment horizon is measured in centuries. Over practical investment horizons, gold is an unreliable inflation hedge. We also explore valuation. 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 consistent with mean reversion. 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. In the end, investors face a golden dilemma: 1) embrace a view that 'those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it' and the purchasing power of gold is likely to revert to its mean or 2) embrace a view that the emergence of new markets represent a structural change and 'this time is different'.

Suggested Citation

Erb, Claude B. and Harvey, Campbell R., The Golden Dilemma (January 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18706. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2202645

Claude B. Erb (Contact Author)

TR ( email )

CA 90272
United States

Campbell R. Harvey

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
919-660-7768 (Phone)
919-660-8030 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative ( email )

215 Morris St., Suite 300
Durham, NC 27701
United States

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