3 Of The Best ETFs To Buy For A Play On Gold Stocks

| May 16, 2019

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Gold stocks are rising again

With a few tweets, gold stocks are looking a bit more golden these days. As President Trump announced that a trade deal with China was off the table for now and that tariffs would increase, investors have naturally gotten nervous. Volatility has spiked and markets saw some heavy losses over the last few trading sessions. With that, gold stocks have once again gotten the nod from investors.

Prices for the precious metal have steadily risen on the back of the bad news. Today, June gold futures are clocking at around $1,287.40 per ounce. That’s near their highs for the year.

Those highs are wonderful news for the various gold stocks. Thanks to their fixed costs, the miners make a pretty penny on the difference between what it costs them to produce and what gold is trading at. The difference between the two price points is generally all profit for the major mining firms. So, the higher gold goes, the more money the miners will make. So, with the precious metal trending higher amid the uncertainty, the various gold stocks could be some of the biggest beneficiaries in the current market malaise.

The question is, how can investors take advantage of it? With that, here are three golden ways to play gold stocks.

VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX)

When it comes to buying gold stocks through exchange-traded funds, it’s the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:GDX) and then everyone else. Thanks to its first-mover status, GDX has become the perennial investor favorite. Featuring huge trading volumes and more than $8.8 billion in assets, the ETF is really in a league of its own. And there is a good reason for that.

GDX tracks the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, which is the main benchmark of gold stocks. To be included, miners must derive at least 50% of their revenues from the sale of gold. This creates a portfolio of 46 different miners such as top dogs like Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD) and Franco-Nevada (NYSE:FNV). The ETF is diverse as well and features a global portfolio. About half of the fund’s holdings are from Canada with the U.S., Australia and South Africa rounding out the top nations.

Focusing on the top dogs has been good for GDX’s overall returns.

As of the end of the first quarter, the ETF has managed to produce a 4.42% annual total return over the last three years. While that may not be super impressive on the surface, this return actually bests other large/senior gold stocks ETFs by a wide margin. So, if you’re going to go the index approach, GDX has earned its crown.

Even including the ETF’s high 0.52% expense ratio ($52 per $10,000 invested), GDX remains simply the best broad way to play gold stocks.

Sprott Junior Gold Miners Exchange Traded Fund (SGDJ)

Investors looking for more “oomph” from their gold stocks may want to think small. That is, towards the junior miners.

The junior miners are often exploration companies with just one or two mines. And in many cases, those mines are not operational or producing gold yet. Because of this, they are often buyout targets from larger gold firms. And as such, serve as the valuable first step in future gold supply. Generally, when prices rise, the junior miners are more valuable due to the amount of gold in their potential reserves.

The problem is, they are risky as heck and there’s no guarantee that a claim will actually turn into future production.

This is where the Sprott Junior Gold Miners Exchange Traded Fund (NYSE:SGDJ) could be a great way to bet on these gold stocks. SGDJ is a so-called smart-beta ETF and uses various screens to craft its index. The ETF kicks out the smallest of the small gold stocks and then applies revenue growth and price momentum models onto its holdings. Those stocks that make the cut are added to its index. This eliminates some of the risk associated with the juniors. With it, investors get a portfolio of stocks that actually have the potential to succeed. The strategy seems to be working, with SGDJ providing a 4.91% annual return since its inception in 2015.

In the end, the juniors can be a great gold stock play and SGDJ makes that play easier to swallow. Expenses for the ETF run at 0.57%.

U.S. Global Investors Gold & Precious Metals Fund (USERX)

Index investing is great, but there are some areas where an active touch can help deliver better returns. This seems to be the case with gold stocks and other precious metals equities. And one of the best mutual funds in the sector happens to the U.S. Global Investors Gold & Precious Metals Fund (MUTF:USERX).

USERX has a long history of outperformance in the sector. Making its debut back in 1974 as one of the first no-load mutual funds, the fund has consistently been one of the best ways to play the gold miners. Currently, the fund features a four-star rating from Morningstar. The reason for the high rating and continued outperformance is due to the underlying managers.

Frank Holmes and his team all have backgrounds in geology and mining finance. This gives them plenty of “boots on the ground” knowledge in the sector. Secondly, the fund tends to focus on the senior miners that are currently pulling gold or other precious minerals out of the ground. With that, there’s less overall risk and volatility to the fund. The combination along with U.S. Global’s general focus on “growth at a reasonable price” has made it one of the best performing gold funds.

Over the last five years, USREX has managed to produce a 2.05% annual return. This compares to just 0.76% annual return for the FTSE Gold Mines Index. This is even with the fund’s rather high 1.65% expense ratio.

Overall, when it comes to an effective, actively managed way to play gold stocks, USERX could be it.

At the time of writing on May 14, 2019, Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.


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The author of this article is a contributor to InvestorPlace.com.