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Investing in Gold Stocks

Updated: Dec. 17, 2021, 10:18 p.m.

Gold stocks are publicly traded investments focused on gold. The industry consists of the following types of entities:

  • Mining companies: These companies mine and sell gold.
  • Gold-focused exchange-traded funds (ETFs): These funds own physical gold or shares of several gold mining companies.
  • Gold streaming and royalty companies: These companies pay up-front fees to mining companies in exchange for:
    • A percentage of the mine’s revenue (e.g., a mining royalty).
    • The right to purchase the future production of a specific metal at a certain mine for a fixed price (e.g., a mining stream).

There are many benefits to buying gold stocks instead of the physical metal. Gold companies can potentially generate higher total returns than an investment in physical gold. That’s because these companies can expand their production and reduce costs. These factors can enable gold mining companies to outperform the price of gold.

However, not all gold stocks outperform gold. Because of that, investors need to carefully choose the best gold stocks to buy.

Top gold mining stocks

Dozens of companies focus on mining gold. While that gives investors lots of options, a handful stand out as the top gold stocks to buy:

Gold Stock Description
Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD) One of the world's largest gold mining companies
Franco-Nevada (NYSE:FNV) A leading gold-focused royalty and streaming company
VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEMKT:GDX) A gold ETF that holds shares of several large gold mining stocks.

Source: company websites

1. Barrick Gold Corporation

Barrick Gold is striving to be the most valuable gold mining company in the world. The Canada-based company focuses on operating Tier One mining assets, which Barrick defines as:

  • Able to produce more than 500,000 ounces of gold per year.
  • Having at least 10 years of productive life remaining.
  • Featuring low-cost operations, as defined by total costs per ounce.

By focusing on operating large mines with significant remaining resources, Barrick can produce gold at a relatively steady pace for years. The company expects to produce an average of about 5 million ounces per year through 2030.

Barrick also forecasts that its all-in sustaining costs will decline in the coming years from roughly $1,000 per ounce in 2020 to around $800 per ounce by 2025. Because of its focus on reducing costs, Barrick’s profits should continue to rise even if gold prices modestly decline.

Barrick complements its top-tier gold mining portfolio with a strong balance sheet. It has focused on paying down debt over the past several years through free cash flow and the sale of non-core assets. As a result, the company has reduced its interest costs. Its increasing financial flexibility and strength enables Barrick to pay a growing dividend.

2. Franco-Nevada Corporation

Franco-Nevada is a Canada-based streaming and royalty company. It has a diversified portfolio, with agreements tied to gold, silver, the platinum group metals (PGMs), iron ore, and oil and gas. In the second quarter of 2021, 56% of its revenue came from gold.

A major benefit of Franco-Nevada's focus on royalties and streaming is that it reduces risk. It doesn’t face the capital and operating cost overruns that have historically plagued mining companies. At the same time, Franco-Nevada’s agreements position it to profit as its mining partners complete exploration and expansion projects.

Franco-Nevada's streaming and royalty contracts provide it with the ability to generate lots of cash by selling the physical commodities it receives. That cash flow enables it to invest in new deals and pay a dividend, which the company has increased each year since its initial public offering (IPO) in 2008. The company also boasts a debt-free balance sheet -- a rarity in the mining industry -- giving it even more financial flexibility to invest in new royalty and streaming agreements.

Because Franco-Nevada can profit from gold mining without exposure to the risks of mine development, its stock has historically outperformed the price of gold and other gold mining stocks. All of these factors make it ideal as a gold mining stock.

Gold mine cart on its railroad track in a mine tunnel with a golden background

Source: Getty Images

3. VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF

The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF holds the stocks of large gold mining companies. It’s one of the largest gold ETFs, with more than $13 billion in assets as of late 2021.

At the time of this writing, the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF held shares in 55 gold mining companies. Its top five holdings by value are:

These five stocks account for more than 44% of this gold ETF’s assets, with Newmont Goldcorp comprising more than 14%. The gold stocks have market capitalizations ranging from Newmont Goldcorp’s $43 billion to Wheaton’s $18 billion.

With the exception of Wheaton Precious Metals and Franco-Nevada, these top holdings are the world's largest gold mining companies. Franco-Nevada and Wheaton Precious Metals are the leading gold streaming and royalty companies.

This gold ETF enables investors to easily own a diverse, high-quality group of large-scale gold companies. The ETF also has a reasonable expense ratio of 0.51%, making it a relatively cost-effective way to invest in many gold stocks.

Picking the best gold stocks

Many factors affect the price of gold, including monetary policy and inflation. For years, gold had been the top choice of investors seeking to hedge against these risks. However, the rise of cryptocurrencies could cause gold to lose its luster, which is an emerging risk that investors need to monitor.

That aside, one of the best ways to invest in the gold market is through gold mining companies. That’s because they benefit from rising gold prices and their ability to increase production and reduce costs. Consequently, top gold mining companies can often outperform the price of gold.

The top-tier gold miners have low cost structures, manageable debt levels, and limited exposure to risky mining projects. Meanwhile, gold streaming companies generally offer the best risk/reward potential among gold-focused investment options. They are well-positioned to benefit from higher gold prices without assuming the risks associated with mining physical gold.

Finally, investors who don’t want to try to identify the best individual gold mining stocks can consider buying shares in gold exchange-traded funds. They are more convenient and cost-effective options for investing in gold stocks. A gold ETF offers broad exposure to the sector by owning either shares of gold companies or physical gold. Because of the wide availability of gold stocks and ETFs, you don't have to be a stock-picking guru to participate in the gold industry's upside.

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