Gold Miners - Biggest Losers? That's What Oil Says
March 3, 2022 (Investorideas.com Newswire) After the war-driven gold rally, oil is starting to outperform. History between these two has already shown that someone may suffer. Many suggest: gold miners.
The precious metals corrected some of their gains yesterday, but overall, not much changed in them. However, quite a lot happened in crude oil, and in today's analysis we'll focus on what it implies for the precious metals market and, in particular - for mining stocks.
As you may have noticed, crude oil shot up recently in a spectacular manner. This seems normal, as it's a market with rather inflexible supply and demand, so disruptions in supply or threats thereof can impact the price in a substantial way. With Russia as one of the biggest crude oil producers, its invasion of Ukraine, and a number of sanctions imposed on the attacking country (some of them involving oil directly), it's natural that crude oil reacts in a certain manner. The concern-based rally in gold is also understandable.
However, the relationship between wars, concerns, and prices of assets is not as straightforward as "there's a war, so gold and crude oil will go up." In order to learn more about this relationship, let's examine the most similar situation in recent history to the current one, when oil supplies were at stake.
The war that I'm mentioning is the one between Iraq and the U.S. that started almost 20 years ago. Let's see what happened in gold, oil, and gold stocks at that time.
The most interesting thing is that when the war officially started, the above-mentioned markets were already after a decline. However, that's not that odd, when one considers the fact that back then, the tensions were building for a long time, and it was relatively clear in advance that the U.S. attack was going to happen. This time, Russia claimed that it wouldn't attack until the very last minute before the invasion.
The point here, however, is that the markets rallied while the uncertainty and concerns were building up, and then declined when the situation was known and "stable." I don't mean that "war" was seen as stable, but rather that the outcome and how it affected the markets was rather obvious.
The other point is the specific way in which all three markets reacted to the war and the timing thereof.
Gold stocks rallied initially, but then were not that eager to follow gold higher, but that's something that's universal in the final stages of most rallies in the precious metals market. What's most interesting here is that there was a time when crude oil rallied substantially, while gold was already declining.
Let me emphasize that once again: gold topped first, and then it underperformed while crude oil continued to soar substantially.
Fast forward to the current situation. What has happened recently?
Gold moved above $1,970 (crude oil peaked at $100.54 at that time), and then it declined heavily. It's now trying to move back to this intraday high, but it was not able to do so. At the moment of writing these words, gold is trading at about $1,930, while crude oil is trading at about $114.
In other words, while gold declined by $30, crude oil rallied by about $14. That's a repeat of what we saw in 2003!
What happened next in 2003? Gold declined, and the moment when crude oil started to visibly outperform gold was also the beginning of a big decline in gold stocks.
That makes perfect sense on the fundamental level too. Gold miners' share prices depend on their profits (just like it's the case with any other company). Crude oil at higher levels means higher costs for the miners (the machinery has to be fueled, the equipment has to be transported, etc.). When costs (crude oil could be viewed as a proxy for them) are rising faster than revenues (gold could be viewed as a proxy for them), miners' profits appear to be in danger; and investors don't like this kind of danger, so they sell shares. Of course, there are many more factors that need to be taken into account, but I just wanted to emphasize one way in which the above-mentioned technical phenomenon is justified. The above doesn't apply to silver as it's a commodity, but it does apply to silver stocks.
Back in 2004, gold stocks wiped out their entire war-concern-based rally, and the biggest part of the decline took just a bit more than a month. Let's remember that back then, gold stocks were in a very strong medium- and long-term uptrend. Right now, mining stocks remain in a medium-term downtrend, so their decline could be bigger - they could give away their war-concern-based gains and then decline much more.
Mining stocks are not declining profoundly yet, but let's keep in mind that history rhymes - it doesn't repeat to the letter. As I emphasized previously today, back in 2003 and 2002, the tensions were building for a longer time and it was relatively clear in advance that the U.S. attack was going to happen. This time, Russia claimed that it wouldn't attack until the very last minute before the invasion. Consequently, the "we have to act now" is still likely to be present, and the dust hasn't settled yet - everything appears to be unclear, and thus the markets are not returning to their previous trends. Yet.
However, as history shows, that is likely to happen. Either immediately, or shortly, as crude oil is already outperforming gold.
Investing and trading are difficult. If it was easy, most people would be making money - and they're not. Right now, it's most difficult to ignore the urge to "run for cover" if you physically don't have to. The markets move on "buy the rumor and sell the fact." This repeats over and over again in many (all?) markets, and we have direct analogies to similar situations in gold itself. Junior miners are likely to decline the most, also based on the massive declines that are likely to take place (in fact, they have already started) in the stock markets.
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Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA
Sunshine Profits: Effective Investment through Diligence & Care
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