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Investing in Gold: 5 Ways to Profit on a Rebound in Gold Prices

By Matthew DiLallo – Sep 26, 2015 at 6:01PM

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Thinking about investing in gold? Here’s how to do it.

The price of gold had been on a pretty nice run for nearly a decade, though it has been very weak over the past few years.

Gold Price in US Dollars Chart

Gold Price in US Dollars data by YCharts

Despite the recent weakness, there is certainly a case to be made that the price of gold could move higher as inflation and global economic worries, among others issues, could awake gold out of its doldrums. If you believe that's true, here are five options to play a possible rebound in the gold price.

1. Buy physical gold
It's stating the obvious, but one clear way to invest in a rebound in the price of gold is to simply buy some gold and stash it away. It's the way humans have invested in gold for centuries. On the plus side, it gives the purchaser direct exposure to the upside of the gold price. That being said, there are some costs associated with buying gold bullion or coins such as transaction costs and insurance. Further, gold isn't something that can be stuffed under a mattress, so a gold buyer would need to purchase a safe, or store it at a bank, if he or she wants to keep the gold safe and sound.

2. Buy a physical gold ETF
One of the ways to reduce the costs and hassle of buying gold is to invest in a gold ETF such as the Sprott Physical Gold Trust (PHYS -2.63%) or the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD -2.50%). There are some key differences here as the Sprott Physical Gold Trust owns physical gold bullion that is stored at a third-party storage facility in Canada, while the SPDR Gold Trust represents "fractional, undivided beneficial ownership interests in the Trust, the sole assets of which are gold bullion, and, from time to time, cash" according to its website.

Those differences aside, both track the price of gold relatively well:

Gold Price in US Dollars Chart

Gold Price in US Dollars data by YCharts

However, it is worth noting that it's not a perfect correlation as fees do eat into some of the returns. Though, it's likely these fees would be less than those of buying physical gold and storing it in a safe at home or in a bank safety deposit box.

3. Buy gold mining stocks
For investors who want leveraged upside to the gold market, gold mining stocks are clearly the way to go. These companies produce and sell gold so their profits are driven not just by the price of gold but by their ability to grow gold production. Having said that, this leveraged upside comes with equal leverage to the downside, as management missteps could lead to vast underperformance even if gold prices rise.

For example, leading gold miner Goldcorp (GG) has really struggled in recent years because of cost overruns forcing the company to take billions in asset write downs. In addition, gold miners have been plagued by work stoppages as Goldcorp's results last year were affected by a 43-day work stoppage due to regulatory issues. These issues have resulted in significant underperformance from Goldcorp's stock over the past few years.

Gold Price in US Dollars Chart

Gold Price in US Dollars data by YCharts

4. Buy a gold mining ETF
One of the ways of getting around the operational risks that can befall a gold mining company like Goldcorp is to invest in an exchange traded fund that invests in a group of gold miners. This helps to diversify away some of the risk being right on the price of gold going higher, but wrong on the vehicle used to get to that promised land. Having said that, there is still no guarantee that miners will outperform the price of gold.

5. Buy a gold mutual fund
A final option is investing in a gold mutual fund like the Tocqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX), which tries to give investors the best of both worlds. This fund in particular invests up to 20% of its net assets into physical gold, while the balance of its investments are in gold and precious-metal miners such as Goldcorp, which is among its top ten holdings. As such, investors get the diversification of an ETF with the benefits of active management, as the fund attempts to invest in the best positioned miners instead of a blanket basket of miners. That active management, however, comes at a cost, as the fund's fees are much higher than those of an ETF.

Investor takeaway
There are a number options when it comes to investing in gold. However, there is one important thing to keep in mind: There's a real risk that an investor could be right on the direction of the price of gold, but wrong on the vehicle used to invest in gold. So while options such as mining stocks or funds offer leverage to the upside to the price of gold the only way to guarantee matching gold's rise is to invest directly in gold itself or a gold ETF. 

Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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