Gold Miners: Outperformance to Continue . With gold mining stocks trading at a 58% discount to 2011 levels, gold miners’ shares remain highly undervalued relative to fundamentals in our view. Although reserve depletion is an issue that still needs to be addressed for sustainable long-term growth of the sector, cost management has substantially improved miners’ profitability. With global growth finally starting to gain momentum and seasonality of gold demand historically buoying gold miners’ shares in the third quarter, we believe now may be a good time to raise exposure to gold miners. We maintain our positive view on gold miners and target broad miner valuations to move back to around 2x book value over the next few months, providing potential 30% upside for the DAXglobal Gold Miners Index.
- Although gold miners have rallied 26% since the beginning of the year1, on a price-to-book value basis gold miners’ shares are still trading 33% below their 5-year average.
- Gold miners’ underlying fundamentals are finally improving, with costs falling 18% in Q1 2014 compared to 2013 levels.
- Historically, the third quarter (Q3) has been a strong period of performance for gold miners given the seasonality of gold demand.
An additional supporting factor is the rebound of key leading indicators of global growth, which have historically correlated strongly with broad gold miner share performance, particularly relative to the gold price.
MORE UPSIDE FOR GOLD MINERS’ SHARES
After rising by over 25% since the beginning of the year, gold miners’ shares have recently returned to trade above their book value, according to our calculations (Figure 1). However, their price to book value remains 33% below their 5-year average, potentially setting a medium-term base for the share price. In our opinion, no further write-downs are to be expected in the near future, following a 10% decrease in total reserves and resources in 2013 from a year earlier as miners reassessed their gold price assumptions. With a production-weighted average gold price assumption of US$1,3262, miners’ assets appear to be fairly valued. We believe gold miners’ shares are still undervalued relative to fundamentals and anticipate they will get back to trade around 2x the book value of assets. All things being equal, this means that prices have the potential to rise by 30% in the next few months, to the levels last seen in March 2013
MARKET TIMING APPEARS FAVOURABLE
In terms of timing, we think Q3 may be a good time for investors to look at gold miners due to the seasonality of their returns. On average over the past twelve years, the third quarter has seen gold miners’ shares returning substantially higher gains than in the other quarters (Figure 2). This is particularly true when the OECD Lead Indicator is in expansionary territory. This has to do with the seasonality in gold demand, linked to the Indian wedding and festival season which starts at the end of September. Relative performance of gold mining stocks versus the gold price has varied widely over time, depending on the market environment, risk appetite and other fundamental factors such as political and regulatory events, company-specific developments and macro issues. However, historically, gold miners have tended to outperform gold when the global business activity, as measured by the OECD World Lead Indicator, has been high and rising. Conversely, gold has tended to outperform gold miners when growth has been slowing and the global economy has been in a downturn, as during the most recent financial crisis (Figure 3). With global growth finally starting to gain momentum, we expect the correlation between miners’ shares and gold to reduce and gold miners to start to outperform gold.
IMPROVING FUNDAMENTALS BUT LONG-TERM ISSUES REMAIN
While costs remain a key concern, miners have made good progress in containing expenses and closing down loss-making mines. All-in costs in Q1 2014 were 18% lower than in 2013. However, this was achieved mainly through a reduction in expansionary capital expenditure which is now less than half, on average, than the amount allocated back in 2012 (Figure 4). Expansionary capex and expenses include all costs related to projects that would significantly increase the net present value of existing mines and that are not related to current production, including reserve substitution. While in the short term cost containment is likely to have a positive impact on miners’ bottom line, in the long run this might be detrimental for miners’ production, as depleted reserves are not replaced. This trend is becoming increasingly apparent, as production has been falling at a compounded annual rate of 2% since 2010 while total reserves and resources have lost on average 3% per year over the same period.
We maintain our positive view on gold miners’ shares in the shortterm and believe they will continue to perform strongly over the next few months due to historically low valuations, seasonality factors and rising global growth. However, if the reserve depletion issue is not addressed aggressively in the coming months and years, gold miners longer-term prospects will remain muted.
This communication has been provided by ETF Securities (UK) Limited (”ETFS UK”) which is authorised and regulated by the United Kingdom Financial Conduct Authority (the ”FCA”).