Wednesday , 7 December 2016


Is gold a good portfolio diversifier?

While the correlation between bonds and stocks tends to increase during economic turmoil, gold usually becomes negatively correlated with other asset classes in such times. This means that the diversification benefits of gold are maintained and may even increase in during severe crises. [Let me explain further and provide some caveats.]

The above comments, and those below, have been edited by Lorimer Wilson, editor of munKNEE.com (Your Key to Making Money!) and the FREE Market Intelligence Report newsletter (see sample here – register here) for the sake of clarity ([ ]) and brevity (…) to provide a fast and easy read. The contents of this post have been excerpted from an article* by Arkadiusz Sieron/Przemyslaw Radomski (sunshineprofits.com)  originally entitled Is Gold a Portfolio Diversifier? ‏ and which can be read in its unabridged format  HERE. (This paragraph must be included in any article re-posting to avoid copyright infringement.)

Gold is considered to be a good diversifier.

  • What does this mean?
    • Well, generally, diversification allows investor to obtain a desired return without taking as much risk as with an individual security. Thus, a good diversifier is a portfolio addition reduces overall risk in a portfolio.
  • Why is gold believed to have this quality?
    • The answer lies in low or negative correlation with other assets. It is correlated neither to stocks nor bonds nor commodities (excluding silver and an occasional link with crude oil).

The Correlation Matrix presented below shows that gold is generally:

  • positively correlated with silver,
  • negatively correlated with the U.S. dollar and
  • not correlated with the stocks (represented by S&P index), although the precise strength of correlation varies depending on the length of the time horizon.

Picture 1: Correlation Matrix (based on data available on July 20, 2015)

24hGold - Is Gold a Portfolio ...

In addition, gold:

  • has no credit risk and
  • has lower volatility than stocks or commodities.

Thanks to these features, gold can improve the risk-return characteristics of a financial portfolio. Because gold does not generally move with other assets (there are different economic forces which determine the price of gold and other financial assets), it reduces the portfolio’s volatility.

Including gold in a portfolio does not necessarily boost returns but, rather, reduces risk at a given level of expected profits (i.e. to increase risk-adjusted returns). Since gold is virtually uncorrelated with stock returns, it adds no systematic risk to an investor’s portfolio…yet gold has a positive risk premium, which makes it a very useful addition to the investor’s portfolio.

What is important is that the gold’s correlation with other assets is not stable, but changes during periods of financial distress in a way that benefits investors. While the correlation between bonds and stocks tends to increase during economic turmoil, gold usually becomes negatively correlated with other asset class in such times. This means that the diversification benefits of gold are maintained and may even increase in during severe crises.

It should be clear now that being a good diversifier and a hedge or safe-haven are two sides of the same coin. If gold was not a hedge (safe-haven), there would be no point in holding it in a portfolio on average (in times of turmoil), and if gold was not a good diversifier in normal and critical times, it would not be a hedge and a safe-haven.

Gold usually exhibits a relatively high positive skewness

What does that mean? Skewness is an asymmetry from the normal distribution in a set of statistical data (i.e. one side of distribution does not mirror the other). There is negative and positive skewness, depending on whether data points are skewed to the left (negative skew) or to the right (positive skew) of the data average.

While most equity markets demonstrate negative results in this matter, gold is positively skewed, which means that including gold in a portfolio may also improve its skewness (i.e. reduce the possibility of extremely negative outcomes). In other words, if gold is positively skewed its volatility is higher on the upside than on the downside (due to flight-to-safety), while most assets are negatively skewed and fall harder than they rise compared to price increases. It means that in the gold market there is a greater chance of a, say, 5% rise in one day than there is a 5% fall any other day. All in all, the above is simply another way of saying that gold is a good hedge in times of extreme distress as it is then when it shines exceptionally well.

All the above features are strong arguments for including gold in investment portfolios. However, the question remains:

How much of wealth should investors allocate into the yellow metal?

There is no simple answer, because everything depends on:

  • the investment objective,
  • the investment horizon,
  • portfolio structure,
  • willingness and ability to take risk,
  • liquidity requirements,
  • tax issues and
  • country.

The estimates vary from 2 to even 25 percent.

  • Sherman (1982) suggests a weighting of 5 percent.
  • Chua (1990) proposes as high as 25 percent.
  • Lucey, Poti et al. (2006) found an optimal weight of between 6 to 25 percent (for investors concerned mainly with downside protection), depending on the time and the other assets.
  • Bruno and Chincarini (2010) suggested allocating 10% of the portfolio in gold for non-US investors.
  • The WGC believes that 5-6% allocation is optimal for investors with a well balanced portfolio.

You will find our take on the above in our gold portfolio report – we name the part of the portfolio where gold is used as a hedge the “insurance” part of the portfolio.

Conclusions

To sum up,

  1. gold has low or negative correlations with other assets, so it is a good diversifier,
  2. including yellow metal in a portfolio may improve its efficiency, in terms of higher reward-to-risk ratios,
  3. the optimal weight of gold in a portfolio is a subject of debate…[but] in our opinion, it still seems to be a good idea to have a 5-10 percent allocation or so)…

*http://www.24hgold.com/english/news-gold-silver-is-gold-a-portfolio-diversifier-.aspx

Related Articles from the munKNEE Vault:

1. Gold – Is It A Commodity, A Currency, Neither or Both?

To answer the question “what drives the prices of gold” we have to determine the nature of gold. Is it a commodity, a currency, neither or both? This article does just that. Read on.

2. The 6 Most Commonly Held Anti-Gold Beliefs That Don’t Hold Water

Many in the investment community swear by the old myths about gold, but is there any truth in them? If investors examined the facts, they would find that the most commonly held anti-gold beliefs do not hold water and, once the general public realizes that these beliefs are not valid, the price of gold will be much higher.

 

3 comments

  1. Here is yet another viewpoint:

    Let us compare owning Insurance to owning PM’s*
    or
    Can PM’s Act As Financial Insurance And If So, How?

    1.) The Global “Economy” is now but a biased shadow of what it was a decade ago as the Central Banks continue to print money overtime and enable their countries Ultra Wealthy to sell Gold using naked shorts, which has the effect of scaring small to medium investors into selling their PM’s because of fear and/or need.
    As the numbers of those with money to spend continually decline, thanks to current monetary practices, the “Global Economy” will continue to collapse, which at some point in the near future cause the current fiscal version of the fiscal-musical chairs game to end with those only holding flat money left out of PM’s recovery!
    I view PM’s, like I do insurance, you purchase it because if something unexpected happens, you don’t want to pay the entire bill for it yourself. Yes, until that something happens you are paying for your insurance (think not making any money from the money invested in PM’s), but that amount is small compared to what you might lose should disaster strike (dramatic loss in value of flat money) which would then require you to accept a huge reduction in the value of your portfolio.

    What percentage of your income do you spend on Insurance?

    2.) Let us compare insurance to PM’s.

    You purchase insurance because if something unexpected happens, you don’t want to pay the entire bill for it yourself. Yes, until that something happens you are paying for your insurance (you do not make any money from the money invested in PM’s while you hold it), but that amount is small compared to what you might lose should disaster strike (consider a dramatic loss in value of flat money) which would then require you to accept a huge reduction in the value of your net worth ( loss to your portfolio because you have no gains in the value of your PM’s to offset the loses to your flat money.

    What percentage of your income do you spend yearly to “own” Insurance?

    Perhaps the same percentage should be used for your PM holdings in your portfolio!

    Because how many readers consider having no insurance as prudent?

    *DISCLAIMER: Stocks/Bonds and PM’s Are NOT Insurance, since their values are completely variable and can go downward quickly instead of being “fixed” (no pun intended) like an insurance policy or annuity that may be variable but their value cannot go down.

    Excerpts from a previous post: http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/85064/screaming-fundamentals-owning-gold#comment-165511