Review & Outlook

Our take on the investing, financial, & economic themes of the day

The case against investing in gold

14 March, 2011 by Ben O'Brien in Commentary

The Wall Street Journal today features two investment advisors squaring off over the he pros and cons of investing in gold (click here to read it).  There’s been a lot of this in the press lately. Where do I line up in these sorts of  arguments?  Probably in the I-wouldn’t-do-it camp.  Why? Our client portfolios aren’t large enough to put a significant portion of assets in a non-earning asset (gold pays neither dividends nor interest – – but does exact a storage fee).  The recent spike in gold prices occurred after some twenty years of flat or declining gold prices: that’s a long time to wait with no income along the way.  I think our clients would prefer to own a commodity-rich stock, like Exxon, that pays a big dividend while you wait. But gold has risen from $600 an ounce to more than $1400 an ounce in less than 5 years; isn’t that reason enough to buy gold now?   To buy something whose price is going up because its price is going up is the kind of thinking that got people into trouble during the Internet and housing bubbles.   Is there anything that could change my mind?  If a client come to me with a really big portfolio and didn’t care about current income; then I might salt a few million away in gold.

Mark O’Brien