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2 gold ETFs to consider to hedge against Brexit uncertainty

By Adam Wong

2 gold ETFs to consider to hedge against Brexit uncertainty

As we all probably know by now, the UK has voted to leave the European Union and Brexit is the word on everyone’s lips. Stock markets around the world reacted sharply and over US$2 trillion was wiped off global stock markets just 24 hours after the news broke. Markets have rebounded slightly since but the volatility is unlikely to ease in the near future as uncertainty looms over Europe.

Investors have traditionally used gold as a hedge whenever stock markets panic. And unsurprisingly, gold prices immediately jumped 6.3% to US$1,336.66 per ounce as investors fled to the asset as a safe haven amid all the doom and gloom.

gold bullion price chart

Chart: Bullion Vault

While gold might be a great hedge during volatile markets, it makes for a bad investment when its returns are compared to stocks and bonds over the long term.

Total returns (including dividends) 5 years 10 years 20 years 30 years
Gold -25.4% 105.2% 174.1% 224.7%
S&P 500 80.6% 102.3% 381.6% 1820.3%
FTSE 100 22.0% 42.4% 237.2% 350.6%
Nikkei 38.5% 37.0% 6.2% 143.9%
Hang Seng 13.9% 106.3% 321.6% 1160.2%
MSCI Emerging Markets -20.8% 46.3% 180.8% 694.1%
JPM Global Bond 6.4% 48.7% 153.2% 421.2%
U.S accummalated inflation 9.2% 38.2% 56.2% 121.5%

Data as at 31 Dec 2015. Source: Truewealth Publishing

In other words, if you think that investing in gold will make you rich, the evidence suggests otherwise. But if you’re looking for a way to hedge against market volatility, then gold can be very useful.

Of course, if you’re looking to buy gold, you don’t actually have to buy physical gold bars (although you could…); it makes more sense to simply buy a gold ETF. So here are two gold ETFs you can consider if you want to hedge against the Brexit uncertainty:

  • SPDR Gold Shares by State Street Global Advisors is the largest gold ETF in the world with over US$39 billion in AUM. Due to its size and popularity, it is also highly liquid and has the highest average traded volume for gold ETFs. SPDR Gold Shares tracks the price of gold bullion and actually holds physical gold in a secure vault in London — unlike a synthetic ETF which tracks an index through the use of futures contracts. The ETF has an expense ratio of 0.40% per annum and minimal tracking error. The ETF trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol GLD. In 2006, the ETF also listed on the SGX under the ticker symbol O87 which makes it highly convenient for Singaporean investors looking to invest in gold.
  • iShares Gold Trust by BlackRock is the second largest gold ETF in the world with over US$8.5 billion in AUM. It’s essentially similar to SPDR Gold Shares and is a physically-backed gold ETF as well. The main difference is that it’s expense ratio is lower at 0.25% per annum. The difference isn’t much but it means that iShares Gold Trust will always perform slightly better to SPDR Gold Shares due to its lower cost. Liquidity isn’t much an issue as well since iShares Gold Trust is the second largest gold ETF around. It trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol IAU.

The Fifth’s Perspective

The full effects of Brexit remain to be seen and it will take at least two years for the UK to formally exit from the EU. In the short term, no one exactly knows how global markets will react as more news emerges of Britain’s withdrawal. Markets could continue to fall or the panic could be short-lived as investors adjust to a post-Brexit world.

In the meantime, if you’d like to stay away from all the uncertainty, then gold might be the best way to hedge against the market volatility.

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Robin Han
Adam Wong
Adam Wong is the editor-in-chief of The Fifth Person and author of the national bestseller Lucky Bastard! which made the Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller's List in 2009 and Value Investing Made Easy which made the Kinokuniya Business Bestseller's List in 2013. In 2010, he appeared on U.S. national television on the morning show The Balancing Act. An avid investor himself, Adam shares his personal thoughts and opinions as he journals his investing journey online.