Why Investors Should Be Digging Gold Mining Stocks

Gold mining stocks have historically delivered outperformance 3 to 5 times that of the metal

John Hathaway, Sprott | April 27, 2020 | SmallCapPower: If gold is not correctly priced for what has transpired and what lies ahead, gold mining stocks are even more inappropriately priced. Based on current metal prices, most companies are generating positive earnings and cash flow and, in many cases, free cash flow that can be applied to higher dividend payouts. Compared to other sectors of the economy, the gold mining industry stands almost alone in looking forward to strong 2020 earnings and a positive outlook for 2021.

(The following is an excerpt from an article originally published on sprott.com on April 20, 2020)

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2020 free cash flow yields for large-cap producers range from 3%-7% and 6%-25% for intermediate producers based on conventional sell-side research. The stats are similar or better for 2021 based on spot gold prices. As Figure 3. shows, mining stocks are inexpensive in absolute terms and have never been so cheap relative to the gold price.

Data as of 3/31/2020. Source: Bloomberg. 12/23/1983 represents the inception of the XAU.

Since 2008, the relative valuation of gold equities to gold bullion has fallen 75% from the prior 25-year average. The ratio of the XAU Index to spot gold averaged 0.2497x for a quarter century through 2008. As of 3/31/2020, the ratio was 0.0501x.

It is undoubtedly true that the industry will suffer health-related mine shutdowns and other shortfalls this year. Much of the disruption potential has already been broadcast and priced into the market. Some downside news may still have yet to surface. However, most miners are not financially levered and should be able to survive a few quarters of lower or no production. Unlike the airline, leisure, retail and manufacturing sectors, gold not produced today should grow in value and be produced at higher prices and lower costs next year and those beyond. It is not the same story for many other sectors of the economy. Based on fundamentals, gold stocks are inexpensive. By contrast, several other sectors of the economy could face long stretches of poor earnings, bad news flow and financial woes.

The gold mining sector registered a decline of approximately 20% in Q1 (as measured by GDX2) as shares did get battered by indiscriminate liquidations during March. However, as of this writing, two weeks after the close of the quarter, most shares trade near to where they stood at the beginning of the year, and have certainly registered outstanding performance in relative terms. It is remarkable that the largest sector ETF, GDX, suffered outflows of $381 million3 during the quarter at what could be the threshold of an upside breakout. In a favorable cycle for the gold price, mining stocks have historically delivered outperformance 3 to 5 times that of the metal itself.

Gold mining shares continue to be viewed by investors with deep skepticism as reflected by valuation and flows. When we scan Figure 4, it appears to us that the sector is on the verge of an upside breakout from a multi-year base should our assessment of the macroeconomic environment prove correct.

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