Gold ETFs and Stocks Dominated by Select Few

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Gold has a long history of ups and downs, and it has been considered one of the key measurements of national reserves for centuries. Now that the gold standard is dead, and physically would be next to impossible to ever reinstate in today’s world of massive economies, gold has been very important to certain types of investors.

Some investors prefer to buy gold coins or other forms of gold, and institutions historically purchased gold bars. With the rise of exchange-traded funds, there are many investors of all sizes who purchase the SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE: GLD). This is one of the largest exchange-traded products out there and the largest gold ETF by far with close to $44 billion in total gold holdings on last look at the ETFdb.com site, and it has a 0.40% expense ratio. It is still up over 14% so far in 2019, and it is down less than 4% over the last week and month.

The iShares Gold Trust (NYSE: IAU) was last seen with $16.4 billion in assets and a 0.25% expense ratio, and the SPDR Gold MiniShares Trust (NYSE: GLDM) ETF from State Street, which focuses on a having a lower share price and low 0.18% expense ratio now has $1.05 billion in assets.

There is another class of gold investors who have been purchasing the gold miners. These companies have most of their fortunes tied to mining for gold and profiting from that, and some now finally pay dividends. While there is individual company risk in picking any one company, two major mergers in the gold miners have consolidated the industry down to where gold mining is now dominated by two pure-play large cap stocks.

The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSE: GDX) has pulled back more than gold from its highs, but the ETF is still up about 26% so far in 2019. That is blowing away the Dow and S&P 500. And those gains are after a drop of more than 8% over the last week and a drop of about 10% over the last month. At $27.22, the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF has almost $11.3 billion in assets under management along with a 0.53% expense ratio. While it has 46 holdings, not all are actively traded in the United States and the ETFdb.com site showed that its top 10 stock account for over 61% of the entire weighting, and the top two stocks account for over 22% of the whole ETF.

At this time, there are effectively two giant pure-plays in gold mining, and then there is everyone else. In fact, these two each have a larger market cap than the number three and number four market caps combined — and of the rest with under $10 billion market caps it would take five or six of the top players outside of royalty investor Royal Gold to reach the same market cap as either of the top two companies by market cap.

Newmont Goldcorp Corp. (NYSE: NEM) was last seen trading down 0.5% at $37.73 on Tuesday. It has a $30.9 billion market cap (versus $10 billion and $11.9 billion in expected 2019 and 2020 revenues, respectively) and a 52-week range of $29.06 to $41.23. Its shares have fallen almost 5% in the last week and were down 5.5% in the last 30 days, but it is down 8.5% from its recent highs. Newmont Goldcorp comes with a yield of close to 1.5%.

Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE: GOLD) was last seen trading up 0.06% at $17.34 with a $30.3 billion market cap on Tuesday (versus $9.7 billion and $10.7 billion in expected 2019 and 2020 revenues, respectively). Barrick has a 52-week range of $11.09 to $20.07, and its share performance has been −6.8% in the last week and −10% in the past 30 days. Barrick is down almost 14% from its recent highs. Barrick Gold’s dividend yield is about 0.9%.

There is a second layer of miners in the junior miners, for those with a market cap in the low-billions and down under $1 billion. With 70 holdings in the Van Eck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (NYSE: GDXJ), the ETFdb.com site showed that the top 10 holdings account for just over 42% of the entire ETF and most of the top holdings are generally around a 5% cap-weighting. It has about $4.2 billion in assets and comes with a 0.54% expense ratio.

Now that the massive mergers have taken place, it seems fair to wonder if more gold miners and exploration companies will tie the knot. Franco Nevada Corp. (NYSE: FNV) and Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. (NYSE: AEM) are the only other two gold miners with a market north of $10 billion on a primary US equity exchange but both are Canadian.

It seems easy to imagine more consolidation in the gold mining sector. That said, it’s hard to do cross-border integrations and almost all the larger companies have gold mining and exploration properties located in many countries around the planet.

There are still many mid-cap and small-cap gold miners that can be invested in, and there are other ETFs to choose in mining and in the price of bullion. That said, it’s easy to see that the gold sector has become far more concentrated with a few dominant players followed by many other companies that are going to be some form of a story stock, a niche play or even a value stock.

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