INVESTING IN GOLD
For thousands of years, gold has been valued as a global currency, a commodity, an investment and simply an object of beauty. As financial markets developed rapidly during the 1980s and 1990s, gold receded into the background and many investors lost touch with this asset of last resort. Recent years have seen a striking increase in investor interest in gold. While a sustained price rally, underpinned by the fact that demand consistently outstrips supply, is clearly a positive factor in this resurgence, there are many reasons why people and institutions around the world are once again investing in gold. This website provides you with the background to these reasons and describes the defining characteristics of the gold market from an investor's point of view.
Gold has attracted investors throughout the centuries, protecting their wealth and providing a 'safe haven' in troubled or uncertain times. This appeal remains compelling for modern investors, although there are also a number of other reasons that underpin the widespread renewal of investor interest in gold.
In volatile and uncertain times, there is typically a 'flight to quality' as investors seek to protect their capital by moving it into assets considered to be safer stores of value. Gold is among a handful of financial assets that do not rely on an issuer's promise to pay, offering refuge from default risk. It provides insurance against extreme movements that often occur in the value of traditional asset classes in unsettled times.
Most investment portfolios are invested primarily in traditional financial assets such as stocks and bonds. The reason for holding diverse investments is to protect the portfolio against fluctuations in the value of any single asset or group of assets that react in a common fashion. Portfolios containing gold are generally more robust and less volatile than those that do not.
Market cycles may come and go, but - over the long term - gold keeps its purchasing power. Its value, in terms of the real goods and services that it can buy, has remained remarkably stable. In contrast, the purchasing power of many currencies has generally declined due to the impact of rising prices for goods and services. As a result, gold is often bought to counter the effects of inflation and currency fluctuations.
Gold is often used as an effective hedge against fluctuations in the US dollar, the world's main trading currency. If the dollar appreciates, the dollar gold price falls, while a fall in the dollar relative to the other main currencies produces a rise in the gold price. While this may also be true of other assets, gold has consistently proved among the most effective in protecting against dollar weakness.
On the whole, gold is significantly less volatile than most commodities and many equity indices. In this respect it tends to behave more like a currency. Including assets with low volatility in a portfolio will help to reduce overall risk, with a beneficial effect on expected returns. Risk factors that may affect the gold price are quite different in nature from those that affect other assets.
Demand and supply
As is true of all asset prices, gold's price moves in response to the changing balance between supply and demand. Mine production is relatively inelastic due to the long lead times that exist in gold mining, which explains why the rally in the gold price since 2001 has still not engendered an increase in production levels. Meanwhile, demand has shown sustained growth, due at least in part to rising income levels in gold's key markets. This has created the foundation for the most positive outlook the precious metal has known for a quarter of a century.
Gold and inflation
The value of gold, in terms of the real goods and services that it can buy, has remained largely stable for many years. In 1900, the gold price was $20.67/oz, which equates to about $503/oz in today's prices. In the five years to end-December 2008, the price of gold averaged around $606. So the real price of gold has endured a century characterised by sweeping change and repeated geopolitical shocks and more than retained its purchasing power. In contrast, the real value of most currencies has generally declined.
Investors in gold can point to a growing body of research supporting gold's reputation as a protector of wealth against the ravages of inflation. Market cycles come and go, but extensive research from a range of economists has demonstrated that, over the long term, through both inflationary and deflationary periods, gold has consistently maintained its purchasing power.
In the short run, experience has shown that gold can deviate from its long-run inflation-hedge price, and, when enjoying a sustained buoyant period, as is currently the case, can offer opportunities for impressive returns.
Gold and risk
Financial instruments usually carry three main types of risk.
Credit risk: the risk that a debtor will not pay
Liquidity risk: the risk that the asset cannot be sold as a buyer cannot be found.
Market risk: the risk that the price will fall due to a change in market conditions.
Gold is unique in that it does not carry a credit risk. Gold is no one's liability. There is no risk that a coupon or a redemption payment will not be made, as for a bond, or that a company will go out of business, as for an equity. And unlike a currency, the value of gold cannot be affected by the economic policies of the issuing country or undermined by inflation in that country. At the same time, 24-hour trading, a wide range of buyers - from the jewellery sector to financial institutions to manufacturers of industrial products - and the wide range of investment channels available, including coins and bars, jewellery, futures and options, exchange-traded funds, certificates and structured products, make liquidity risk very low. The gold market is deep and liquid, as demonstrated by the fact that gold can be traded at narrower spreads and more rapidly than many competing diversifiers or even mainstream investments.
Gold is of course subject to market risk, as is clear from the experience of the 1980s when the gold price declined sharply. But many of the downside risks associated with the gold price are very different to the risks associated with other assets, a factor which enhances gold's attractiveness as a portfolio diversifier. For example, should a central bank announce its intention to engage in substantial sales of gold, as happened prior to the Central Bank Gold Agreement in 1999, this would be unlikely to have an impact on equity returns but could reasonably be expected to affect the gold price in the short run. Similarly, the specific risks to which bonds and equities are exposed, including pressure on the health of the government and corporate sector during an economic downturn, are not shared by gold.
One measure of market risk is volatility, which measures the dispersion of returns for a given security or market index. The more volatile an asset, usually the riskier it is. The gold price is typically less volatile than other commodity prices. This is because of the depth and liquidity of the gold market, which are supported by the availability of large above-ground stocks of gold. Because gold is virtually indestructible, nearly all of the gold which has ever been mined still exists, much of it in near market form. This means that sudden excess demand for gold can usually be satisfied with relative ease. And, unlike many other commodities such as, for example, oil or platinum, the geographical diversity of modern mine production further reduces the chances of supply shocks from any specific country or region having an undue impact on the price. As a consequence, gold is generally slightly less volatile than heavily traded blue-chip stock market indices such as the FTSE 100 or the S&P 500.
Gold's extensive appeal and functionality, including its characteristics as an investment vehicle, are underpinned by the supply and demand dynamics of the gold market.
Demand for gold is widely spread around the world. East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East accounted for 70% of world demand in 2008. 55% of demand is attributable to just five countries - India, Italy, Turkey, USA and China, each market driven by a different set of socio-economic and cultural factors. Rapid demographic and other socio-economic changes in many of the key consuming nations are also likely to produce new patterns of demand.
Because a significant portion of investment demand is transacted in the over-the-counter market, it is not easily measurable. However, there is no doubt that identifiable investment demand in gold has increased considerably in recent years. Since 2003 investment has represented the strongest source of growth in demand, with an increase in the last five years in value terms to the end of 2008 of around 412%. Investment attracted net inflows of approximately US$32bn in 2008.
There are a wide range of reasons and motivations for people and institutions seeking to invest in gold. And, clearly, a positive price outlook, underpinned by expectations that the growth in demand for the precious metal will continue to outstrip that of supply, provides a solid rationale for investment. Of the other key drivers of investment demand, one common thread can be identified: all are rooted in gold's abilities to insure against uncertainty and instability and protect against risk.
Industrial, medical and dental uses account for around 11% of gold demand (an annual average of over 440 tonnes from 2004 to 2008). Gold's high thermal and electrical conductivity, and its outstanding resistance to corrosion, explain why over half of all industrial demand arises from its use in electrical components. Gold's use in medical applications has a long history and today, various biomedical applications make use of its bio-compatibility, resistance to bacterial colonization and corrosion, and other attributes. Recent research has uncovered a number of new practical uses for gold, including its use as a catalyst in fuel cells, chemical processing and controlling pollution. The potential to use nanoparticles of gold in advanced electronics, glazing coatings, and cancer treatments are all exciting areas of scientific research.
Gold is produced from mines on every continent except Antarctica, where mining is forbidden. Operations range from the tiny to the enormous and there are several hundred operating gold mines worldwide (excluding mining at the very small-scale, artisanal and often ‘unofficial’ level). Today, the overall level of global mine production is relatively stable, averaging approximately 2,485 tonnes per year over the last five years. New mines that are being developed are serving to replace current production, rather than to cause any significant expansion in the global total.
The comparatively long lead times in gold production, with new mines often taking up to 10 years to come on stream, mean mining output is relatively inelastic and unable to react quickly to a change in price outlook. The incentives promised by a sustained price rally, as experienced by gold over the last seven years, are not therefore easily or rapidly translated into increased production.
Recycled gold (scrap)
Although gold mine production is relatively inelastic, recycled gold (or scrap) ensures there is a potential source of easily traded supply when needed, and this helps to stabilise the gold price. The value of gold means that it is economically viable to recover it from most of its uses; at least, that is, where it is in a form that is capable of being, if need be, extracted, then melted down, re-refined and reused. Between 2004 and 2008, recycled gold contributed an average 28% to annual supply flows.
Central banks and supranational organisations (such as the International Monetary Fund) currently hold just under one-fifth of global above-ground stocks of gold as reserve assets (amounting to around 29,600 tonnes, dispersed across 110 organisations). On average, governments hold around 10% of their official reserves as gold, although the proportion varies country-by-country.
Although a number of central banks have increased their gold reserves in the past decade, the sector as a whole has typically been a net seller since 1989, contributing an average of 447 tonnes to annual supply flows between 2004 and 2008. Since 1999, the bulk of these sales have been regulated by the Central Bank Gold Agreement/CBGAs (which have stabilised sales from 15 of the world's biggest holders of gold). Significantly, gold sales from official sector sources have been diminishing in recent years. Net central bank sales amounted to just 246 tonnes in 2008.
The process of producing gold can be divided into six main phases: finding the ore body; creating access to the ore body; removing the ore by mining or breaking the ore body; transporting the broken material from the mining face to the plants for treatment; processing; and refining. This basic process applies to both underground and surface operations.
The world's principal gold refineries are based near major mining centres, or at major precious metals processing centres worldwide. In terms of capacity, the largest is the Rand Refinery in Germiston, South Africa. In terms of output, the largest is the Johnson Matthey refinery in Salt Lake City, US.
Rather than buying the gold and then selling it onto the market later, the refiner typically takes a fee from the miner.
Once refined, the bullion bars (with a purity of 99.5% or higher) are sold to bullion dealers who, in turn, trade with jewellery or electronics manufacturers or investors. The role of the bullion market at the heart of the supply-demand cycle - instead of large bilateral contracts between miner and fabricator - facilitates the free flow of metal and underpins the free market mechanism.
How to invest in gold
There is an increasingly wide range of methods available to investors wanting to buy gold, or gain exposure to gold price movements. From gold coins to complex structured financial products, the most appropriate way will depend on the requirements and outlook of the individual investor.
Coins and small bars
Gold orientated funds
The distinction between the purchase of physical gold and gaining an exposure to movements in the gold price is not always clear, especially since it has always been possible to invest in bullion without actually taking physical delivery.
If you are thinking about investing gold, it is worth giving the same consideration to your purchase as you would to any other investment. The following list of questions is provided as a guide to help you decide on the channel or channels that would be most appropriate for you.
Why have you decided to buy gold?
Do you want a real asset that you can have physically available at all times or do you simply want exposure to the gold price?
Will you want to have the gold delivered to you or would you prefer to have it stored in a vault?
Do you have information about all the costs that may be involved? These may include taxes, commissions, premiums, storage or insurance.
Is the counterparty (the person or company from or through whom you will be making the purchase) reliable and trustworthy?
How does gold fit in with any other investments you may have?
In an economic scenario thwart with uncertainty, the naturally optimistic are betting on the equity markets, which offer bargain deals, while the pessimists are running for wealth protection, predicting darker days still to come. In such a situation, it is the realist and opportune investor who can take advantage, as well as prepare for the worst. This requires some financial planning to go into ones portfolio to finely balance opportunity, prudence and safety. While safety is sought in many forms, one that comes to mind immediately is the most time-tested of all assets, which can also hold its own no matter what: gold. Gold being the one asset with a high intrinsic value, has in the past acted as hedges against inflation, currency debasement, falling equity markets and even helped keep abreast the falling purchasing power of nations.
While 2008 was pretty much gold’s year as a commodity and an asset class, it has now fallen from its all time high and along with equities showed a sudden decline recently. The speculations surrounding this range from the gold bubble bursting, correction in gold prices to gold losing its natural characteristics are all partially true and yet none explain the complete picture. This is as the simple truth is that this entire economic meltdown, which has led to erratic movement in various assets, defying their natural tendencies at times, is basically what Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to as a “black swan” event.
While the history of the gold price movement is still being scrutinised, trying to understand as much as we can about gold and the likely economic impact of this global meltdown is the best way one can prepare for what is to come.
While Indians are by far the largest natural buyers of gold, we tend to have a major preference towards gold jewellery when compared to some of its other forms. While these jewellery no doubt hold a high emotional and intrinsic value in the world, they are not the smartest way to go in terms of investments. The main reason for this is one: the uncertainty of quality and two: the high additional cost incurred for the making, which in terms of an investment is pretty worthless if not harmful to the value of gold.
The other options like buying gold coins or bars also pose a problem of quality, authenticity, storage and even insurance, which increases the cost of the asset greatly.
While banks, which sell gold, cut out some of these problems, the insurance issue still remains, as well as the fact that banks do not buy back the gold they have sold.
This leaves purchasers with a relatively illiquid form of gold, which then has to be independently sold to either a jewel shop or another buyer. All in all, this brings us to gold exchange traded funds (ETF’s), which tend to take away the hassle of storage and insurance both, since the gold is stored and insured by the asset management company (AMC).
The gold is also supposed to be authenticated and quality tested, providing investors a chance to invest easily into this asset by merely purchasing units. These units are like shares and change in value as the NAV moves up or down.
While the gold high maybe over, it still remains a powerful asset class and until the world economy stabilises and risk aversion settles down, it will not be bogged down.”
Most investors would be aware that gold is a good hedge against inflation and the best insurance against the markets. However, people may find it odd as to why are we discussing inflation when or falling equities when the markets are looking attractively priced right now. This is mainly due to the high risks that many nations are taking today, be it via offering huge stimulus packages as seen in the US or via increasing their fiscal deficit as seen in the case of India. If either of these scenarios play out, the governments will be left with little choice but to print more money, thereby creating inflation and destabalising the economy as well. In such circumstances, inflation is bound to kick back in and sooner or later, investors will once again have to turn to gold for solace.
On elaborating as to why is gold so essential during the present circumstances, Arvind goes on to explain, “While the world economy is facing a major crisis, right now people need protection. So many countries these days are offering stimulus packages, which means these governments, in order to raise the money for the stimulus packages, will start printing more money. This will debase the currencies and in such times gold is the best protection one can have.
People will be looking to go towards gold to maintain their purchasing power and combat higher inflation, which maybe seen in the next year or so.”
Gold in your portfolio
The first gold coins were struck by King Croesus, ruler of Lydia in western Asia Minor from 560 to 546BC, whose wealth came from the gold from the mines and sands of the River Pactolus. Gold coins have been legal tender ever since. Bullion coins and small bars offer private investors an attractive way of investing in relatively small amounts of gold. In many countries - including the whole of the European Union - gold purchased for investment purposes is exempt from Value Added Tax.
In 1971 President Nixon of the United States broke that nation’s promise to always exchange 35 US dollars for an ounce of gold. Since then the world’s government currencies have been ‘fiat’ currencies (see point 2 below)— they are not defined as a weight of gold, they have no connection to any commodity or anything tangible, and they are only worth what someone else is prepared to trade for them. The fiat currencies now ‘float’ against one another, with their relative values going up and down with economic trends or fashions.
The only significant use of gold today is for investment, that is, as a currency or a store of value. This includes jewelry—the fundamental purpose of gold jewelry is to store something valuable in your personal safekeeping. Gold has some non-investment uses such as in electronics, but the amount of gold used in these ways is relatively tiny. Almost all the gold ever mined is still in use today. Silver is different—the industrial uses of silver (photography, utensils, medicinal, electronics) outweigh its investment use, and much of the silver ever mined has been effectively lost because it is hard to recover.
2. Gold and silver are the only currencies not created and controlled by governments. All of today’s other currencies (dollars, euros, yen, pounds, renminbis, rupees, etc) are ‘fiat’ currencies, which means they do not represent anything tangible but are only worth something due to government decree (namely legal tender laws).
The term ‘fiat currency’ came about because the legal tender laws that give it value are a ‘fiat’ (or authoritative pronouncement) of government. A fiat currency is a currency brought into existence by government decree (that is, by fiat).
The value of gold, on the other hand, is independent of any government laws. Unlike fiat currencies, gold is accepted as valuable without needing protection by laws.
3. Governments always end up creating too much fiat currency out of thin air. All fiat currencies in the past have ended up worth very little, collapsing into hyperinflation or threatening to. All of today’s fiat currencies have been fiat currencies for less than 34 years (all government currencies were convertible to gold until 1971).
Fiat currency is created at the whim of politicians and bureaucrats. History’s lesson on this point is clear: those in charge of a fiat currency always, eventually, due to some urgent government priority, create too much of the currency and it becomes worth less, and ultimately worthless.
As a government creates more of its fiat currency then there is an increasing amount of currency to pay for the same amount of goods and services, so the prices of the goods and services rises. The increase in the quantity of currency is called ‘inflation’, and the consequent rise in prices is measured to some degree by the CPI (consumer price index). The ‘value’ of a currency (how many goods and services a unit of the currency can buy) depends in the long run on how much the country’s government inflates its currency.
Gold, on the other hand, treats everyone equally. Unlike fiat currency, no one can conjure gold up out of thin air to spend for themselves and get others to do their bidding. Gold has to be mined, ounce by hard-won ounce. Because the supply of gold can only ever increase slowly, prices in terms of gold tend to stay roughly constant for centuries—changing mainly due to technological influences that make some goods relatively easier or harder to make.
There have been hundreds of fiat currencies in the past, in various countries at various times. In every single case, the currency eventually became worth much less and was abandoned because the people in charge of making it eventually succumbed to the temptation of making far too much of it.
Tanishq is a very interesting brand. Interesting because it is a brand that is trying to change the rules of an industry which is very fragmented. Tanishq is one of the first brands to create a national brand in the Rs 40,000 crore Indian Jewelery market.
The Indian jewelery market is huge and India is the second largest consumer of gold trailing behind USA. But the jewelery market is highly fragmented. The branded jewelery segment is hardly 5% of the total market.
Tanishq was launched in 1995. Since then , the brand has grown to a Rs 1200 crore brand even overtaking Titan watches interms of the turnover.
Tanishq is a retail brand. It is the chain of jewelery shops set up by Titan across the country. According to the company website, Tanishq has more than 104 stores across 71 cities. The chain is operating through a franchise system.
Titan has also another brand of retail outlets which is known as Gold Plus which is targeting the urban/semiurban consumers and small towns. Gold Plus has presence in more than 20 towns and Titan is planning a major expansion of these stores.
To tide over this issue, Tanishq came out with small priced collections which to an extend corrected the perception problem.
According to the company website, Tanishq had a turnover of over Rs 1200 crores.
The brand is very active across the media. Tanishq have a two prong branding strategy. The company have the main brand Tanishq and lot of sub brands for its different collections. Some of these brands are Solo, Aria, Diva , Collection G etc.
Tanishq recently roped in the new Bollywood diva Asin to endorse a collection.To tide over the issue of low margins, Tanishq has recently launched the diamond collection which is considered to be a high margin product line.
Tanishq has been trying to differentiate on the designs. It had built lot of product lines and has branded these lines. The brand feels that consumers will chose Tanishq for its designs.
Regarding the promotional strategies, Tanishq have the major issue is fighting the regional players. Consider the Kerala example, the brand Tanishq have zero visibility compared to the local