Amid an inglorious sea of red on the big boards of Wall Street, I spy only one outlier of resilient strength: Gold.
Without reading excessively into daily market swings, Tuesday's woeful, indiscriminate, and global sell-off of shares across all sectors left some investors wondering where they might turn for safety. Reeling from startling inputs like a 16% deterioration in consumer confidence from May to June, U.S. equities exacerbated overnight weakness from both Asian and European markets. As of this writing, declining stocks on the big board outnumbered advances by more than 7 to 1.
On this day, it mattered not which sectors one favored. Shelter was scarce, which induced buying in U.S. Treasuries that ushered in a fresh all-time low yield on the two-year note of 0.59%. Commodities like copper took a nose-dive, and major producer Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO ) notched a 5% dip. Fears of some possible stagnation in China's growth rate took center stage, and broad sector plays like Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) and Bucyrus (Nasdaq: BUCY ) were delivered back into what I consider attractive valuations. Coal shares also were beaten to shreds. The Market Vectors Coal ETF (NYSE: KOL ) declined more than 5% intraday, with certain individual members down much more.
I spy gold
As CAPS blogger EPS100Momentum pointed out, even most gold mining stocks offered no near-term safe haven from the indiscriminate selling. While the stocks remain mired in this sea of negative sentiment, however, gold itself staged an impressive reversal from morning weakness to move into positive territory above $1,240 per ounce.
Since the last time indiscriminate selling struck the equities markets back in 2008 and 2009, gold's special status as a safe haven in times of fiscal distress and economic crisis has moved more firmly into the collective investment psyche. As a result, I submit that in subsequent rounds of widespread selling, gold will begin to exert its strategic advantage over U.S. Treasuries as a safe haven asset.
Although gold mining shares can certainly get caught in a raging torrent of selling interest, over the long haul, I expect low-cost producers like Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) and Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) to offer a similar bastion of safety as the underlying metal.
Spies spy gold
Providing some corroboration of the relentless opacity that I and other gold investors observe within the global gold market, it now appears that Russian intelligence may have been interested in access to the same kind of reliable information on the gold market that investors continue to pine for.
In a scantly reported aspect of the unfolding story regarding alleged Russian spies arrested in the U.S., a portion of the official complaint suggests that handlers considered gathered intelligence regarding the gold market "v. usefull" [sic]. If Russian intelligence relied upon long-term, embedded operatives to gather intelligence about the "prospects for the global gold market," then perhaps Fools might be well advised to keep spying on the gold market as well.