Investors enraptured with gold

For the second time, American Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping's doomsday predictions fell short.

After reaching a recent high of $1,577 on April 30th, the price of an ounce of gold reversed course and dropped dramatically, hitting a low of $1,462 on May 4th, a decline of 7.3% in just four days. But since then gold has been trending upward, gold is currently up over $7 to $1,526 an ounce.

In the days leading up to Rapture and Judgment Day, as predicted to occur on May 21st, 2011 by American Christian radio host Harold Camping, one could be excused for believing that gold might have rebounded even more sharply in the face of complete and total global upheaval. When the world did not end on Saturday in accordance with his predictions, a bewildered Camping’s response was “Give me a day, no interviews today … I’ve got to live with it, I’ve got to think it out.

Doomsday predictions were the subject of media ridicule in the weeks leading up to May 21st, and they seem to have been held in little regard in the world of high finance, to boot. At least one high profile U.S. investor was decidedly not in Camping’s camp. On May 16th, 2011 it was reported that U.S. investment billionaire George Soros, through Soros Fund Management, sold nearly $800 million of gold during the first quarter, as the precious metal surged to record highs. This roughly accounts for 5.3 million ounces of physical gold and caused some to openly question if this was the transaction that signaled, not the end of times, but perhaps the end of the bull market in gold.

But not so fast. A little digging shows that Soros’ fund actually added gold equities to their holdings including Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX), Eldorado Gold (TSX:ELD), Freeport-McMoRan Cooper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) and Goldcorp (TSX:G) during Q1 2011. The fund, most notably, purchased 301,300 shares of Freeport-McMoRan, a transaction worth $15 million. Soros believes that gold equities should benefit directly from the marked appreciation in the price of gold by generating strong cash flow from ongoing gold sales. In turn, shareholders of gold equities should enjoy the rising capital value of their shares alongside any dividend streams flowing to those shareholders; although Soros does not have blind faith, he did sell off some gold miners such as Kinross Gold (TSX:KGC) and Novagold Resources (TSX:NG).

Seeking Alpha contributor Brian Wills took a utilitarian approach when looking at the gold market. He says the gold bull market will end when the world’s governments and their Central Banks become fiscally responsible. Wills reasons that until interest rates move from negative to positive there will be no opportunity cost to holding gold. Reversing this process will therefore reverse the process from accumulating to liquidating gold and drive the price lower. Brian’s advice: until then stay long gold.

So, on Saturday, a tornado in Reading, Kansas killed at least one person and destroyed twenty homes. Iceland’s most active volcano, Grimsvotn, erupted. And more than forty people were killed in dust storms and thunderstorms in Uttar Pradesh, in northern India. But the world didn’t end in a day of fire and brimstone judgment.

When the Canadian markets resumed this morning it was business as usual for gold, meaning a resumption of its upward trend. And two Canadian listed gold equities, in particular, are leading the way on the TSX Exchange. Novagold Resources (TSX:NG), which is partnered in the Donlin Creek gold deposit in Alaska and the Galore Creek deposit in BC, is up $0.74 to $10.89 despite Soros’ stamp of disapproval. While Extorre Gold Mines (TSX:XG), an emerging producer in Argentina, has tacked on $0.70 and is currently trading at $10.59.

Mike Luft

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