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From the backwaters of marginalization and ridicule to the front pages of reluctant acceptance, gold has endured a very gradual ride to full-fledged legitimacy.
If there is any remaining doubt that gold has reasserted its traditional and rightful place as an asset class of persistent value -- fit for any well-formulated allocation strategy -- let's take a moment to survey the legitimization of gold as seen through the lens of respected sources in the financial realm.
- At the top of Fortune Magazine's list of the 100 Fastest-Growing Companies for 2010 sits none other than Eldorado Gold (NYSE: EGO ) .
- Bloomberg's Businessweek revealed this week that the median 2011 price target among 29 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg calls for $1,500 gold. Randgold Resources (Nasdaq: GOLD ) CEO Mark Bristow, whose company boasts one of the sweetest-looking long-term stock charts in the business, also considers $1,500 a reasonable price target for gold in 2011.
- In a real sign of the shifting tide, The Wall Street Journal recently echoed my long-held contention that gold is not adequately understood when it is viewed as a commodity. The article detailed that gold price movements are significantly more correlated with the U.S. dollar than inflation.
- George Soros spooked the gold market last January when he called gold "the ultimate asset bubble," but Soros Fund Management still holds 5.24 million units of the SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE: GLD ) ... with a present market value above $625 million.
- The Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA) -- the organization that alleges gold prices are suppressed through a coordinated effort to forestall the deterioration of fiat-currency purchasing power -- was afforded serious and respectful consideration in a recent piece by The Financial Times.
- China moved briskly this week to prove that this recent policy directive regarding gold was more than words on paper. The state-owned China National Gold Group (CNGG) is using Vancouver-based China Gold International Resources (in which CNGG is already a 39% stakeholder) as a conduit for consolidating assets outside of China, beginning with a $742 million transaction involving a copper mine in Tibet that features gold and silver by-product. CNGG is the same entity that inked a gold supply agreement with Coeur d'Alene Mines (NYSE: CDE ) in June, and is the leading gold producer in China.
- Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) founder and Chairman Peter Munk, who knows from experience the sharp sting of an imploding hedge book, recently predicted further price gains in gold and reiterated the company's no-hedge strategy. Fellow major producers Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) and Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) display similar confidence in the ongoing price trajectory by avoiding gold hedges altogether.
Of course, the most reputable source of all to convey gold's undeniable return as a legitimate asset class is the market itself. Despite unprecedented nominal prices, global gold demand surged by 36% in the second quarter (including a noteworthy 121% increase in Chinese retail investment demand). According to the World Gold Council, global investment demand through bullion ETFs and similar products increased an eye-popping 414% in the second quarter.
Although gold's renewed legitimacy can scarcely be denied, some will attempt to spin that achievement into signals of a frightful bubble. Since gold was so vehemently shunned and marginalized for decades before this bull market emerged, and because it has only recently garnered serious consideration and respect a full decade into this bull market, I view ample room for an expanded ownership base amid a flourishing price environment.
As Munich-based UniCredit analyst Jochen Hitzfeld said: "Investors' interest is still growing and still hasn't reached a reasonable part of their portfolio. Gold is still an under-owned asset, that's perfectly clear."
People take time to wake up to a new idea; even if that new idea is as ancient as gold's reign as a medium for exchange. I will close with a pair of quotes from former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. The first quote is from 1967, and the second is from 32 years later, in 2009:
- "Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights."
- "What is fascinating is the extent to which gold still holds reign over the financial system as the ultimate source of payment."
Gold's legitimacy was never lost; it was merely forgotten, ignored, and then grossly misunderstood.