Royalty Financing and Investing In Rapidly Emerging Commodities Outside of Gold and Silver

Investing in royalty financing and emerging commodities outside of gold and silver is increasingly attractive due to lower risk and the ability to provide commodity price leverage and exposure to in-demand commodities and their price movements.

In recent years, royalty and streaming companies have quickly emerged as a popular choice among a broad spectrum of investors. They provide the capital to finance many of the most highly prospective mining projects around the world to provide investors with a perfect storm of minimized risks and economic upside.

With unparalleled exploration, diversification, and project acquisition opportunities, this particular type of alternative financing could be set for significant expansion over the next decade.

What is royalty streaming?

Marin Katusa, chairman of Katusa Research, told Kitco News in an interview, “I would start at the royalty side of things … that’s the easiest place to start because these are teams that are de-risking themselves.”

Royalty agreements and streams have similar structures at face value but key differences set them apart.

  • Royalty agreements: Also known as net smelter returns, these agreements provide royalty holders with a percentage of a specific mine’s revenue generated from production, typically hovering around one to three percent. Another common type of royalty agreement includes net profits interests, where the royalty holder receives a percentage of the profits rather than the revenue.
  • Streams: These contractual agreements provide the right to purchase a certain percent of metal production directly from the mine, typically ranging from five to twenty percent. Streams often will have a predetermined purchasing price for the metal, which is usually either a fixed dollar amount or a fixed percentage of the spot price.

An important distinction between royalty and streaming companies is that these entities are not mine operators. Instead, they seek to find untapped value through financing and working with miners to curate agreements that provide their shareholders with steady exposure to various mineral and metal markets. These agreements enable recipient mining companies to further develop or expand projects, providing greater returns for vested interests and the companies with royalties and stream agreements on the projects.

For junior mining companies, having the financing and support from more established royalty and streaming players can be especially beneficial as it may significantly boost development and exploration efforts and improve balance sheets across highly prospective project portfolios.

Risks and rewards to royalty streaming

In the case of royalty streaming, outlining major pros and cons can paint a clearer picture as to what potential downfalls these agreements have and what makes them one of the most popular financial strategies in 2021.

One of the main downfalls of royalty streaming relates to the structure of the business. Royalties and streaming companies have traditionally had intense competition competing within the precious metals space and needed a large amount of capital to invest in mines, which are raised through stocks or debt. Either companies accumulated debt on their balance sheet or issue stocks, which can involve some unfavorable stock dilution. However, there are very few royalty groups focused on clean energy metals and the costs of deals has been much lower thus far.

Another risk involves actual spot prices and mine production. If spot prices fall, so can revenue generation for royalty companies and metal selling prices for streaming. Additionally, in the case of mine delays, both types of companies may be impacted by a delay of commodity flow. Luckily, there are no costs to holding a royalty so there are no operating costs associated with shutdowns and the G&A required for running royalty companies is very low. .

By avoiding many of the operational costs, royalty and streaming companies cut out significant risks commonly associated with mining investments. While mining companies’ operational costs may rise, royalty and stream holders simply reap the potential benefits of high margins during peak pricing periods for their metals, having acquired them at lower fixed prices according to their agreement.

Another key advantage royalty and streaming companies have is advantageous portfolio diversification and the ability to be selective with their agreements. With the right management and strategic acquisition team, companies can minimize concentrated jurisdictional or asset risk and make agreements with mines already at near-term production staging. Since costs per ounce are contractually defined, this also protects streamers from cost overruns across the life of a mine.

Electric Royalties (TSXV:ELEC) is a royalty company focused on building a premium portfolio that takes advantage of the demand for a wide range of commodities and critical metals like lithium, vanadium, manganese, tin, graphite, cobalt, nickel and copper. Its focus on vital battery and base metal elements leverages the growing demand and global drive toward electrification across virtually all sectors, including transportation, rechargeable batteries, large-scale energy storage, renewable energy generation and more.

The company has a robust commodity portfolio, which helps to diversify investment and mitigate risk for investors and shareholders while leveraging exploration upside, revenue-driven business modelling and more. It currently has a portfolio of 12 royalties with exceptional exploration potential and four additional royalties currently under acquisition.

Electrification: Growing market for royalty streaming companies

The mining royalty and streaming sector have grown steadily from US$2.1 billion in 2010 to more than US$15 billion in 2019. While gold and silver take up a large portion of the streaming market, up-and-coming metals like copper and cobalt continue to show exceptional growth potential as the world shifts to greener alternatives to energy, power and more. Market researchers expect bright futures for both commodities despite disruptions in production in 2020.

Year-to-date:

  • Lithium prices are up 313 percent
  • Copper prices are up 25 percent
  • Zinc prices are up 22 percent
  • Nickel prices are up 18 percent
  • Tin prices are up 82 percent
  • Cobalt prices are up 75 percent

These raw materials expose prospective investors and many royalty streaming companies to multiple sectors, including new economy drivers like electric vehicles, batteries, energy storage, personal electronics and renewable energy platforms including wind and solar. .

Nova Royalty (TSXV:NOVR) is a royalty company focused on copper and nickel discovery as the foundational building blocks in clean energy decarbonization. With a rich portfolio of base metal royalty assets operating out of mining-friendly and highly prospective mining jurisdictions, Nova could become a leading royalty company in the transition to the future of sustainable energy.

With the battery revolution and growing demand for copper and nickel, the company has also strategically positioned itself as a potential frontrunner in the transition to an electric-powered world. As a royalty company, it has a decreased risk across a global portfolio.

Royalty financing: Economic upside potential for investors

For investors, royalty and streaming companies continue to be increasingly attractive due to their lower risk and ability to provide commodity-price leverage and exposure in-demand commodities and their price movements. In addition, investors in streaming companies advantageously leverage the ability to contract metal prices and delivery and tailor metals exposure more than royalty companies can.

Innovative companies are leveraging the momentum behind the transition for decarbonization into green power and investing in these companies outside of precious metal markets like gold and silver. With unprecedented demand and growth in prices for these raw commodities, market researchers predict more money investment opportunities coming into the sector for royalty and streaming companies exposed to these commodities.

Takeaway

Royalty and streaming companies present unparalleled investment opportunities with benefits of low risk, stable metal and mineral market diversified exposure and support for highly prospective mining projects across the globe. With no exposure to issues such as operating cost pressures or capital cost overruns due to predetermined metal pricing and revenue generation agreements, it comes as no surprise that royalty financing has become a significant strategy utilized by new and experienced investors.


Featured

ESG investing best fits socially conscious investors looking for ESG companies focused on environmentally friendly practices to benefit from carbon credits.

Investing in companies based solely on in-depth financial analysis isn’t the only way to evaluate a company these days. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing is a trending investment strategy in which an investor assesses a company’s social presence as it relates to profitability and future returns before making an investment decision.

In 2020, the total worldwide. According to Bloomberg, global ESG assets are on track to exceed $53 trillion by 2025 –– showing no sign of slowing down any time soon. Some of the top ESG stocks, according to RBC Capital Markets, include large companies like Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) and Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) — to name a few.

It is clear that ESG investing has a role to play for the more socially-conscious investors out there. Read on to learn more about the basics of ESG investing and why this trend continues to grow in popularity.

What is ESG investing?

ESG stands for environmental, social and governance. ESG includes a variety of actions and responsibilities that a company takes towards building a more sustainable future. ESG initiatives typically come in the form of company policies, dedication to best practices or responsible operations.

Environmental impact includes all investments that support preservation and conservation of the natural world including climate change, carbon emissions, air and water pollution, biodiversity protection, deforestation, energy efficiency, waste management and water supply.

Social impact includes all investments that support the people and communities affected by a company’s operations including customer satisfaction, data protection and privacy, gender and diversity, employee engagement, community relations, human rights and labor standards.

Lastly, governance issues include investments in standards in which the company operates by, including board composition, board diversity, board independence, audit committee structure, risk and governance committee structure, compensation committee structure, health & safety committee structure, anti-bribery and anti-corruption bodies, lobbying, political contributions and whistleblower schemes.

ESG funds and stocks reduce portfolio risk and increase returns

Portfolios that include ESG investments have proven to have greater long-term success than those that do not. Part of this is because ESG funds have had progressively higher returns on investment due to resilience in the face of conventional market disruptions. For example, companies with strong ESG track records had less stock price volatility than non-ESG companies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research has also found that ESG stocks produce similar if not better financial results than non-ESG stocks. According to Arabesque, the top quintile S&P 500 companies with ESG initiatives performed more than 25 percent better than the bottom quintile companies from 2014 to 2018.

This reduction in portfolio risk is believed to partly stem from the fact that ESG companies are less likely to be involved in controversies –– whether it be environmental, social or governance due to proactive management.

Environmental is the leading ESG factor

According to recent survey data, among all ESG factors, pollution and waste management ranked top in importance and support from ESG investors. Investor prioritization of pollution and waste management is likely linked to growing concerns around climate change. Both large and smaller companies have responded to this growing concern by either launching or shifting to green models.

Steelcase (NYSE:SCS) is a company that produces furniture and architectural elements. Steelcase minimizes waste through smart product designs that easily allow for product disassembly for use in refurbishing and recycling. Steelcase produces very little waste in addition to reducing pollution through the use of renewable energy and water efficiency.

Hewlett Packard (NYSE:HPE) has also established a recycling program that spans 73 countries and has collected and recycled 90 million kilograms of plastic. The initiative has substantially cut back on landfill waste and reduced heavy metal pollution. Hewlett Packard has also reduced its greenhouse gas emission and water consumption through the use of 100 percent renewable energy in its manufacturing process.

Northstar Clean Technologies (TSXV:ROOF,TSXV:ROOF.WT) is an emerging clean technology company focused on the recovery and repurposing of single-use asphalt shingles. The company has developed a proprietary design process at its Empower Facility in Delta, BC for taking discarded asphalt shingles, otherwise destined for already over-crowded landfills, and extracting the liquid asphalt, aggregate sands and fiber. Northstar’s mission is to become the leading shingle material recovery provider in North America, extracting 99% of the recovered components from single-use asphalt shingles that would otherwise be sent to a landfill.

Carbon credits for ESG investments

The Canadian government recently announced an upcoming Canadian Federal Greenhouse Gas Offset System that will provide carbon credits to a variety of industries. Companies with ESG investments will be well primed for successful carbon credit trading given the expected rising costs of carbon under the Trudeau government.

For companies with ESG-focused models, a federalized carbon credit system will not only provide additional working capital but can improve profitability, growth and ROI potential.

Takeaway

ESG is considered to be crucial to business success. Industries that have not adopted ESG initiatives have received criticism and pressure from various stakeholders. As ESG takes off with billions of dollars in investment, investors may find ESG companies to be of more interest, specifically ESG companies with a focus on environmentally-friendly practices that are well-suited to benefit from carbon credits.

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ROOF:CA

The industrial applications of silver make it an ideal material for driving the green revolution.

Silver is one of the oldest precious metals known to humanity, rivaled only by gold. And like gold, silver demand comes from a variety of different markets that go far beyond traditional jewelry and currencies. This precious metal is heavily used in high-technology, electrical, thermal and many industrial spaces. With such usage versatility, especially in our increasingly electrified world, investors can expect silver demand to grow exponentially.

There are many technology use cases for silver today. Analysts project silver will play a pivotal role in the “green revolution,” playing a fundamental role in green technologies, as well as in the fintech space with its applications in crypto mining and the broader cryptocurrency market.

Before we dive into why silver is a worthwhile investment, it’s important to understand how silver is used in technology today, from its industrial applications to more modern technology products.

Silver’s unique properties in technology

Silver has the highest thermal and electrical conductivity of all metals which makes it highly used in electronics and technological applications today.

Electronics demand silver of the highest purity at 99.99 percent silver. During processing, the precious metal can either be smelted and refined from ore into bars or grains or dissolved in nitric acid to produce silver nitrate, which can be formed into powder or flakes. This material can then be fabricated into contacts or silver pastes, like conductive paste made with a silver-palladium alloy.

How is silver used in today’s technology products?

The number one use of silver in the technology industry is in electronics, making up 35 percent of total silver usage in the United States. The precious metal’s unsurpassed thermal and electrical conductivity among metals means it is a superior metal to less expensive alternatives.

Silver’s role as a superconductor makes its uses varied tremendously across the electronic and technology space. Small quantities of silver are used in electronic applications such as contacts in electrical switches and wires, nanosilver conductive inks in printed electronics, automotive innovation, silver oxide high-weight and high-capacity batteries and many everyday consumer devices.

Silver’s versatility also extends to the booming cryptocurrency industry. Unsurprisingly, the metal plays a vital role in the function of circuit boards inside computers and their accompanying keyboards. A computer’s cooling system needs silver’s superconductive thermal properties to keep the system from overheating while expanding the massive amount of energy computers need to compute. Crypto mining rigs run massive clusters of graphic processing units across a network of computers day and night so the necessity for silver conductivity cannot be understated.

Industrial Applications of Silver

According to market research, industrial buyers drive more than 50 percent of silver demand. In 2020 alone, industrial fabrication reached over 486.8 million ounces in demand. With rapid global efforts to decarbonize and electrify the world, three specific areas present highly prospective and high-level silver consumption.

These industries include the automotive sector and electric vehicles, including the associated infrastructure, the solar energy industry and the fifth-generation (5G) broadband cellular networks. By 2025, silver demand in 5G technology could more than double to 16 million ounces and, by 2030, triple to 23 million ounces, according to estimates by Precious Metals Commodity Management.

Additionally, the metal’s high tensile strength and ductility make it an ideal option for brazing and soldering or flattening into sheets for employment across different industries, including chemical production, medicine, photography and more. With so many applications, the highly valuable metal presents exceptional market demand and outlook as a commodity of the future.

Silver in today’s technology markets

At multiple levels of production, silver presents stellar economic growth and investor upside potential. Despite a global pandemic, silver proved its status as a safe-haven asset for investment portfolios, rising to 47.89 percent in 2020. However, before silver becomes a viable resource in the latest technology and industrial applications, markets need silver exploration and development companies to produce the valuable commodity.

Lakewood Exploration (CSE:LWD) is a silver exploration company focused on becoming a multi-mine silver producer. Its growing asset portfolio includes the recently acquired past-producing Silver Strand and Burnt Cabin mines located in the renowned Silver Valley mining district in Idaho, USA–a district that has produced over 1.2 billion ounces of silver and hosts some of the world’s largest silver mines; the Eliza project located adjacent to the historic Hamilton silver district, in Nevada, which produced 40M oz silver in the 1800s; the past-producing Silverton Silver mine also located in Nevada within the same trend as numerous multi-100M oz silver deposits;and the early-stage Lacy gold-silver project in British Columbia.

In August 2021, the company reported high-grade surface samples including 11.79g/t gold and 255g/t silver to further extend the mineralized trend at Silver Strand. “We are very excited with these results which confirm widespread alteration and gold-silver mineralization throughout the property and along the 5.5 km strike,” commented Lakewood Resources President Morgan Lekstrom.

Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) is a mineral exploration and development company operating silver mines in Alaska, Idaho and Mexico. The company has a variety of exploration properties and pre-development projects in six silver- and gold-mining districts in North America. Hecla leverages North America’s politically stable and mining-friendly jurisdictions to meet the demands of current silver markets.

Santacruz Silver Mining (TSXV:SCZ,OTC Pink:SZSMF) is poised to become Mexico’s next mid-tier silver producer. It currently operates its Rosario project and Zimapan project in top mining districts in Mexico. Both properties benefit significantly from exceptional infrastructure, with road accessibility, utility networks, skilled labor, and significant exploration upside and discovery potential in one of the world’s richest silver-producing countries.

Takeaway

Today, silver presents exceptional versatility in usage across some of the world’s most dominant sectors. As a superconductor, the precious metal boasts the highest thermal and electrical conductivity of all metals, which makes it an ideal material for driving the “green revolution” and meeting the demands of increasingly electrified industries and popular crypto mining technologies. Investors could see tremendous economic upside gaining exposure to this safe-haven asset and the exploration companies that supply it to the world.

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LWD:CC

Even as a young market, Michigan has grown exponentially to become one of the largest states in cannabis sales in the US.

In July 2021, Michigan’s marijuana sales hit a record-breaking net high of US$171 million. Since its cannabis legalization in December 2019, Michigan has been pulling numbers many newly emerging cannabis markets would only dream of.

Shifting legal frameworks and the rapidly growing popularity of cannabis use throughout the Western world have made Michigan’s emerging marijuana market a big beneficiary of legalization in the US. Not only has Michigan’s cannabis market been big, but it is also rapidly becoming one of the biggest.

This article will outline Michigan’s rise as a dominant force in cannabis sales through the US and current opportunities the state presents to investors and cannabis companies looking to get unparalleled exposure to the internationally growing cannabis market.

The Michigan cannabis market: An overview

In December of 2019, Michigan became the 10th state in the US to legalize adult-use cannabis. With significant enthusiasm and proactive growth, first movers in the state were quick to establish strong positioning in various economic avenues surrounding cannabis, which have had tremendous growth ever since.

According to the Michigan Marijuana Regulator Agency, the state saw a combined US$985 million in sales from medical and adult-use in 2020 alone. With over 2.62 percent of the Michigan population being medical marijuana cardholders, seeing these numbers in this emerging market presents a massive opportunity for investors and cannabis companies.

One of the biggest contributors to Michigan’s exponential growth in cannabis sales has been its medical cannabis industry. Despite recreational market legalization in 2019, medical cannabis has been legal in the state since 2008. “We found that Michigan is doing more than US$100 million a month in cannabis, so the medical and recreational opportunity is there to take a bigger market share,” said Gage Growth (CSE:GAGE) Chairman Bruce Linton, the former CEO of Canopy Growth (TSX:WEED,NASDAQ:GCG). Gage Growth currently stands as one of the largest cannabis companies operating in Michigan.

With the onset of the pandemic, the newly legalized cannabis industry remained open under its essential status despite other industries taking significant hits and suffering massive disruptions. Recent data found that sales in Michigan and other states like Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington increased more during the COVID-19 pandemic than in the previous two years.

Increasing openness for medical cannabis in the realm of mental health and recreational use across the state, especially in the past year, has pushed prospective growth to new heights.

With recreational sales growing from US$9.8 million in January 2020 to US$128.3 million by July 2021, there’s no questioning Michigan’s potential.

Michigan positioning in US markets

Less than a year into its recreational cannabis use legalization, Michigan already outpaced Nevada to take the top spot as the fifth highest-grossing state for cannabis sales and US$1 billion in projected sales..

“Michigan has historically boasted the second-largest medical cannabis program in the country, and therefore, the adult-use market has a phenomenal base of consumers to grow from,” explained CEO and Director Fabian Monaco, president of Gage Growth.

Additionally, Michigan’s first-mover positioning allows it to capitalize on slower moving states and establish a more dominant footing across the national cannabis landscape. Its unique geographical location brings in consumers from neighboring states, some of which only allow medical purchases or none at all.

This external customer base could be a big contributor to the state’s top spending across individual consumers and entities who are especially attracted to the state’s premium cannabis brands and products.

Major cannabis player in Michigan

Brands operating within the state are expanding their services to keep up with the Michigan consumer demand. The state’s emerging markets host a mix of established cannabis companies and up-and-coming brands.

Gage Growth is a premier cannabis cultivator and retailer in Michigan, US. Its core values in providing premium cannabis to market, positively shaping cannabis culture and nurturing community primes the company for success and rapid economic growth.

The company is currently one of the largest vertically integrated cannabis companies in Michigan with nine cultivation facilities (three Gage operated and six contracted cultivation assets), and a retail portfolio of 15 provisioning centers throughout the state. Gage has control of plant growth, cultivation, processing and retail aspects of its business. This centralized business model and strategic partnerships ensure cannabis licensing best practices and the highest-quality product for its consumers.

The company also recognizes the advantages of partnering with other highly visible and respected brands as well. Along these lines, Gage has exclusive brand partnerships with industry stalwarts including Cookies, Lemonnade, Grandiflora Genetics, Khalifa Kush, Pure Beauty, Blue River, and more. These relationships expand not only Gage’s product offerings but its marketing reach as well, enabling the company to message a much wider audience than if it chose to go it alone

For example, in July 2021, Gage announced exclusive partnerships with Wiz Khalifa’s Khalifa Kush and Pure Beauty.

Takeaway

Even as a young market, Michigan has grown exponentially to become one of the largest states in cannabis sales in the US. Between medical cannabis and adult use, the state has already pushed over a billion in sales in 2021, with positive projections for the future. For emerging and established cannabis companies and investors alike, Michigan presents exceptional economic upside and growth potential as shifting legal frameworks create new opportunities for cannabis innovation.

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cannabis plant layered with German flag graphic
Dmytro Tyshchenko / Shutterstock

Catch up on some of the biggest news of the week for the cannabis investment world.

Three political parties have formed a coalition in Germany, leading to a new government, and it has promised cannabis reform in the European nation.

Meanwhile, a popular cannabis retailer confirmed consumers will now find its products available for delivery on the Uber Eats mobile application in Ontario.

Keep reading to find out more cannabis highlights from the past five days.


Coalition of parties promises forward-looking cannabis policy

Germany, a country with comprehensive and elaborate medicinal rules for cannabis, is in a time of transition as a new government is set to begin to take over after 16 years of Angela Merkel.

Olaf Scholz, the proposed next chancellor of Germany, leads a three party coalition that will become the country's governing body. As part of its promises, talk of adult-use cannabis regulation has now gained even more momentum. A report from MJBizDaily quotes a German policy document that shows the coalition's stance:

"We are introducing the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption purposes in licensed shops. This controls the quality, prevents the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantees the protection of minors."

However, despite the promise and excitement, it remains to be seen how these ideas will be applied since no formal regulations have been drafted or approved yet.

Canadian cannabis retailer partners with popular delivery app

Tokyo Smoke, a cannabis retail operator in Canada owned by Canopy Growth (NASDAQ:CGC,TSX:WEED), announced a collaboration agreement with Uber Canada (NYSE:UBER) whereby cannabis consumers will be able to use the Uber Eats app to order products before they visit stores.

While the app won't let consumers get cannabis delivered to them, this new method opens the doors to more dynamic ways of buying cannabis.

"As a market leader in innovation and a platform used by so many Canadians, we believe this is the ideal next offering that can be done safely and conveniently on the Uber Eats app," Mark Hillard, vice president of operations with Tokyo Smoke, said in a press release.

A report from the Canadian Press indicates Ontario is considering allowing dispensaries to have delivery and pickup options made available to consumers permanently. The province allowed some of these purchasing options at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but then removed them.

Lola Kassim, general manager of Uber Eats Canada, said this new end-to-end experience will provide consumers with responsible access to legal cannabis products.

Cannabis company news

  • Organigram Holdings (NASDAQ:OGI,TSX:OGI) issued financial results for its Q4 2021 period. In its report, the company notes a net loss of C$26 million despite a 22 percent uptick in net revenue to C$24.9 million. Beena Goldenberg, the newly appointed CEO of the firm, is encouraged by the market share position earned by the company, which said it became the fourth biggest producer in Canada during the reporting period.
  • Halo Collective (NEO:HALO,OTCQB:HCANF) confirmed the decision for Akanda, its spinoff company focused on international cannabis opportunities, to begin trading on a US exchange. "The number of shares to be offered and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined," the company told investors in a press release.
  • High Tide (NASDAQ:HITI,TSXV:HITI) announced the acquisition of 80 percent of NuLeaf Naturals, a CBD product wellness developer, for an estimated US$31.24 million. The deal includes a three year option clause for High Tide to complete a total acquisition. "As international markets open up and as export regulations evolve, NuLeaf's cGMP-certified facility positions us to take advantage of the global CBD business opportunity," Raj Grover, president and CEO of High Tide, said.
  • Humble & Fume (CSE:HMBL,OTC Pink:HUMBF) released the financial report for its first 2022 fiscal quarter to shareholders and the market. "As the legal cannabis market in North America continues to mature, Humble remains agile and focused on providing a leading solution for brands to scale quickly and retailers to focus on their customers," Joel Toguri, CEO of Humble, said.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Cannabis for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

gold bars

2020 was a banner year for gold-backed ETF inflows, but interest has lagged this year as investors become more comfortable taking risks.

In 2020, gold-backed exchange-traded fund (ETF) inflows ballooned to an impressive 877 tonnes, marking the largest one year intake in ETF history.

Investor appetite was fueled by economic stimulus mixed with concerns about COVID-19 closures, which together brought risk-averse buyers to the yellow metal in droves, propelling investment demand.

"Over the first three quarters of 2020, gold ETFs accounted for almost two-thirds of total investment demand," notes a monthly ETF report released by the World Gold Council (WGC) in January.


"This is significantly higher than any previous full year. Gold ETF demand was also equivalent to a quarter of the average annual gold mine production over the past five years."

Since then, gold ETF demand has waned as investors become more comfortable taking risks. So far, 2021 has seen outflows of 269.1 tonnes compared to 87.6 tonnes of inflows. Of the first 10 months of the year, six registered net outflows from the ETF segment.

In fact, a large part of gold's muted Q3 price performance has been attributed to a 7 percent decline in demand coming largely from the ETF segment. This trend continued in October, when gold ETF holdings shed 25.5 tonnes.

"Global gold ETF holdings fell to 3,567 tonnes (US$203 billion) during the month — notching year-to-date low levels — as investor appetite for gold diminished in the ETF space following price declines in August and September," an October WGC gold ETF report states.

After two months of pressure pushed the gold price to a six month low at the end of September, October saw the metal begin to rebound from the US$1,750 per ounce range to US$1,819.

Adam Perlaky, senior analyst at the WGC, told the Investing News Network (INN) that gold's price positivity in October was largely driven by growing inflationary tones.

"In recent years, gold has been inversely correlated with nominal interest rates, and yet gold strengthened during the month despite higher nominal rates," he said via email. "This is likely a result of rising inflation expectations, though changes in the relative move in interest rates may have had an impact."

He added, "Though higher rates could be a headwind for gold, broader concerns of inflation and a potential recession highlight gold's value as an effective portfolio hedge."

The role of gold amid uncertainty

Gold's use as a hedge against inflation is likely to come into focus in the coming months, a sentiment that was echoed by Juan Carlos Artigas, head of research at the WGC.

Artigas explained that while some are of the belief that the "elements of high inflation we've seen so far are transitory" and will dissipate, there will be longer-term reverberations from the current inflation, and potential secondary effects from the fiscal and monetary policies that were put in place to restart the economy.

In mid-November, JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM) said it anticipates that the US Federal Reserve will raise rates in September 2022 by 0.25 percent, followed by 25 basis point increases on a quarterly basis until real rates hit zero.

"Gold still can face headwinds from potentially higher interest rates," said Artigas.

"(The) opportunity cost of holding gold is one of the drivers of performance, and especially in the short and the medium term, interest rates tend to influence gold's behavior significantly, especially in a period where investors are looking to understand how central banks will behave."

However, as the head of research at the WGC pointed out, there are also some tailwinds that could move gold higher, including inflation that may not be transient, but more structural.

He also pointed out that interest rates are still historically very low, which has pushed investors to make their portfolios more risky. Hedging against this type of exposure is positive for gold's investment side. Additionally, on the consumer side, US infrastructure spending could also serve as a catalyst to more gold upside.

"What we know historically is that better economic growth tends to support consumption of gold, whether it is in the form of jewelry or technology, and 2021 is a good example of that, where you saw the contraction in gold-backed ETF holdings, you (also) saw an increase in demand coming from jewelry, technology and even bar and coin investment," Artigas commented to INN.

Another factor the researcher is watching is central bank gold holdings, which are on track for a 12th consecutive year of inflows. Artigas noted that a 2021 survey of central bankers conducted by the WGC found that the monetary institutes are interested in "expanding the role that gold has in foreign reserves."

"We do expect central banks to continue to be net buyers," he said, adding, "We have seen investors, especially more strategic longer-term investors, taking advantage of the price pullback that we saw in previous months as an opportunity to add gold to their portfolios."

For investors wanting to look at the strategic role gold has played throughout history, the WGC recently released a five part documentary series titled The Golden Thread.

The price of gold was at the US$1,790 level on November 25.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

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