John Doody: Top 10 Gold Plays Revealed
Source: Brian Sylvester of
The Gold Report
Production stage, location and dividend possibilities separate
top mining and royalty stocks from the rest of the heap. In this
exclusive interview with
The Gold Report, Gold Stock Analyst (GSA)
Newsletter Writer John Doody reveals a few of his top 10 stocks
and what diversifying your gold portfolio really means.
The Gold Report:
What are some of your strategies for picking stellar gold stocks
and limiting risk?
We cover 70 mining and royalty stocks. In the selection process,
we reduce it to our top 10. It's an ideal number because if one
stock falls by 50% in value, it only affects your portfolio by 5%
total. If a couple of stocks double or triple, they can really
pull up the whole portfolio. If someone argues for investing in 8
or 12 stocks, we wouldn't argue with that. But I see too many
people at gold shows who have one or two and think they are
diversified. They aren't. Too many others have 20 or more, which
is too many to follow and too many to have outstanding portfolio
Our premise is that the market is inefficient and doesn't
value all 70 stocks we cover appropriately all the time. Since an
ounce is an ounce is an ounce, GSA's metrics can show which
companies are undervalued and which ones are overvalued. These
are our market capitalization per ounce numbers, market
capitalization meaning shares times price. What's the market
capitalization of an ounce of reserves? What's the market
capitalization of an ounce of production? That's the initial
We look at a whole range of factors and ask the big questions.
Is it a producer or is it just getting started? Where are the
mines located? Are they in politically safe areas or are they
risky locations? Are they open-pit mines primarily or underground
mines? What's the cost to produce an ounce? What's the operating
cash flow from the mines?
We only look at producers or near-producers. No exploration
stocks, because there is no data. Some of these exploration
companies do mature and get our coverage later on.
We build our Top 10 portfolio based upon integrating all of
these factors and don't get over-weighted in one sector or the
other. For example, we have one silver stock in the portfolio.
And, I've always felt silver is a derivative of gold. As gold
goes up, silver will come along. But our real focus is on
Of those Top 10 stocks, how many of those projects have you
About half. A lot of them have a whole bunch of projects, such as
Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G; NYSE:GG)
. I've been to two or three of their mines. But, others only have
Is it correct that you lean more toward mid-tier producers than
you do near-term producers?
Yes. We want data to analyze. With our track record of an average
43% gain per year over the last 10 years, we don't have to go
down the risk spectrum into exploration stories. When analyzing
70 stocks, we find undervalued situations. By looking at
companies that are in production, we eliminate the risk of drill
holes coming up dry or running into a permit problem that you
didn't expect, or some type of environmental issue.
Are you talking to managers of these companies on a fairly
We're on all the analyst calls of the Top 10 companies, as well
as others we're following. We're always looking in the bullpen
for who could be the next for the Top 10.
Mexico's Central Bank bought 100 tons or about US$4.6B worth of
gold in February and March. Do you believe this will trigger
another round of gold buying by Central Banks?
We have had ongoing buying. Russia bought at the same time.
Is this part of a growing trend?
I think so. Everyone, including Central Banks wants to get away
from the dollar because it is sinking. There's not going to be
any change in interest rate policy until after the next election,
in my opinion. President Obama wants to get reelected and the
last thing he needs is higher interest rates, which would worsen
the unemployment situation. I think Chairman Bernanke, who's an
expert on The Great Depression, knows that the Fed screwed up in
the last Great Depression when it started raising rates in the
mid-1930s and tightening the credit standards for bank loans.
That had the effect of slowing down the economy, causing a double
dip. Bernanke's not going to do anything to jeopardize this
A true recovery requires a lot more than one data point so the
recent good U.S. job reports hasn't turned the tide for the
dollar. Countries are looking to diversify reserves. The big one
is China. What will China do? China is already the largest
consumer and producer of gold. It produced approximately 11
million ounces (Moz.) from its own mines last year and had to
import another 8 Moz. to fill demand. India's pretty much in the
same boat, but doesn't have any gold mines. Everything has to be
imported. The issue in both nations, as in the U.S. and Europe,
is the real interest rate. Both China and India currently have
real interest rates of negative 3% to 4%. China and India are not
well banked, so their people save their money in gold.
The real interest rate is the risk-free return from short-term
Treasuries or savings deposits, adjusted for inflation. When the
real interest rate is negative, as in the 1970s and 2000s, cash
loses purchasing power. That's what drives gold. It can protect
against purchasing power loss. That's the single most important
factor. Everything else is just noise.
Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX; NYSE:ABX)
paid US$7.3B for
Equinox Minerals Ltd. (TSX:EQN; ASX:EQN)
, which is primarily a copper producer. Do you expect other large
gold companies to follow suit and diversify into other mine
I don't. I think that people will look at what happened at
Barrick-the stock fell 10%. The gold miners like byproduct
credits. It has become fashionable to report cash costs per ounce
of gold net of byproduct credits.
But the market doesn't like it if you've got too much
byproduct. In other words, if you were half copper and half gold,
the market wouldn't give you a premium for your gold production.
For example, one of the companies we like is
New Gold Inc. (TSX:NGD; NYSE.A:NGD)
. They're basically a gold company now, with three gold mines,
although they do have a small copper byproduct. But they have two
big copper projects coming online that are fully financed. Their
copper byproduct is going to be a big number for them. They
recently bought a pure gold site that they're going to develop to
produce 200 Koz. to 400 Koz. of gold a year and dilute their
cooper. They want the copper to lower their cash cost to produce
gold. But they don't want too much because they'll lose their
gold premium in the stock price.
I think you really have to look at what the mix of copper is
going to be in the Barrick portfolio to see if they've gone
overboard on this or not. When Pascua-Lama and some other sites
come on board, maybe it will make sense.
Isn't all this based on the copper price?
There's no question the market didn't like it because they
knocked 10% off of Barrick's price right away. It's a little
puzzling to me because Barrick already has a big copper-gold
project in its pipeline. That's Donlin Creek, which they own with
NovaGold Resources Inc. (TSX:NG; NYSE.A:NG)
. It has a big copper byproduct. I think buying Equinox probably
pushes back the development of Donlin Creek.
What was the last time Barrick was in your Top 10?
Probably back in the 1990s.
So even when they bought out their hedge book, you didn't take
another look at it?
No. It didn't make them undervalued and that's what we look for.
The most recent big miner member, but not now in the Top 10, was
Newmont Mining Corp. (
. Newmont's been purer. It never really was a hedger. It's been
pure gold and more focused on the metal.
With spot gold about US$1,500/oz., why are the stock prices of
the major gold producers continuing to languish?
It's due to a variety of factors. Two majors-
AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. (NYSE:AU; JSE:ANG;
Gold Fields Ltd. (
-are in South Africa and run the risk of their mines being
totally nationalized. I don't want that risk. I assume other
people don't want it either. We've seen both Anglo and Gold
Fields trying to diversify out of South Africa. But they have to
get permission from the South African Central Bank to do much.
That means they're not going to be able to split the companies
into a South African part and a non-South African part, which
would probably be good for the stocks.
The second reason is that gold producers have had rising cash
costs, although some of it's not their fault. Canada's a great
place to have a mine, but the Canadian dollar has been very
strong. When you translate your Canadian dollar cash cost back
into U.S. dollars, cash costs are higher than before. A lot of
the mines are struggling with rising cash costs, which puts a
greater emphasis on byproducts, but most Canadian mines don't
have the luxury of a copper byproduct.
And, the third reason is growth. There hasn't been
demonstrated growth from a number of the majors. The growth
companies have been the next tier down. Goldcorp and
Kinross Gold Corp. (TSX:K; NYSE:KGC)
show good growth.
Yamana Gold Inc. (TSX:YRI; NYSE:AUY; LSE:YAU)
too, but a little further down. So, when you get to 7 Moz./year
at Barrick, it's really tough. In order to produce 7 Moz., you've
got to find 10 Moz. of new reserves due to recovery losses.
That's basically two world-class mines a year. It's not
sustainable. Newmont is now talking about growing from 5
Moz./year to 7 Moz./year. But that's going to take a couple of
years. You can get growth as you go down to the smaller companies
because of the smaller scale. I think that's what investors are
I look for a combination of growth and yield. I want the
company to do something that competes against the Gold ETF (or
exchange-traded fund), which is a barren asset with no yield.
Dividends open up a whole new class of investors to gold. Pension
funds typically cannot buy a stock that doesn't have a dividend.
Increasingly, the miners are coming to the realization that they
need to pay a dividend.
Is that really providing the best return for investors?
I think dividends are increasingly important to investors. A
dividend-paying gold miner tends to trade at a price that gives a
1% yield, in a range from .5% to 1.5%. That's a growth stock
yield found with tech stocks. That kind of yield is pretty
attractive. Newmont, for example, increased its dividend and said
it was linking it to the gold price and the stock rose. When they
set the new yield, it was about 2%. Then the stock rose. The
effective yield dropped to 1.7% or 1.8%. I think that was a good
move on Newmont's part.
The gold price recently dropped by US$100/oz. to under $1,500/oz.
Is this a sentiment-driven drop or is something else at play?
First of all, the drop is trivial. The US$100/oz. is a big
number, but is 5.8% a big drop? No. That's the same as a $10.00
stock's price falling $0.58. Insignificant. Since the bull market
low in October 2008, we've had five gold price drops of greater
than 5.8%, from 8.5% to 14.7%. Bull market pullbacks are normal
and many would say healthy. The underlying force driving gold
price is the real interest rate. It's what's driving this market.
People are trying to protect their wealth whether it's here,
China or India.
Actually, if there was a relation or single cause of the $100
drop, I think it was the European Central Bank (ECB) deciding not
to raise rates a couple of days ago. Everybody thought the euro
was going to get a rate bump up, and all the hedge funds had
bought euro in advance to profit. Then when ECB said it wasn't
going to raise interest rates because the economy was too weak,
everybody pulled out of the euro and went back to the dollar.
Gold and the dollar are negatively correlated, so when one rises,
the other usually falls.
How big a drop in the price of gold would cause you concern?
In order to get to its 50-day moving average, a key technical
benchmark, it would have to fall around US$1,340. From the
US$1,560 high; it would have to fall by US$230, but it didn't
fall half of that. Other people say a bear market begins when you
fall 20%. That would mean it would have to fall more than 300
Are there some companies with more direct exposure to gold than
We like companies with low cash costs. One of the Top 10 is a
company with a US$1.5B market cap and a philosophy of paying out
one-third of its earnings in dividends. But, it doesn't trade in
Canada because it doesn't have an NI 43-101 report yet.
Gold Resource Corp. (OTCBB:GORO; FSE:GIH)
is ramping up production in Mexico. The company has been paying
dividends since last August. One of the company's philosophies is
to pay out a third of its cash-flow in dividends. The cash cost
is zero so the company has a big cash flow. It is a poly-metallic
project that produces gold and silver, which is reported as
gold-equivalent. It also produces copper, lead and zinc. The
byproduct cash credit is about $250/ton, so their gold and silver
is effectively free. It's a very rich deposit south of Mexico
City in the state of Oaxaca.
Why don't they do an NI 43-101 report?
The two brothers who started the company already had built and
either depleted or sold six producing mines in the U.S. They
U.S. Gold (TSX:UXG; NYSE:UXG)
. Their philosophy was to get this site into production fast.
Doing an NI 43-101 would take time and they didn't need any bank
financing. Hochschild, the big Peruvian mining company, invested
US$65M, which built the mine and mill.
Hochschild Mining (
owns 27% of the company. It also invested early in
Lake Shore Gold Corp. (TSX:LSG)
, a Canadian company. It is telling that when Hochschild needed
some money to build at some of its own mines, it sold Lakeshore,
but kept Gold Resources.
Let's talk about your newsletter
The Gold Stock Analyst,
which is the only audited gold newsletter. How long has it been
audited and how does that work?
Our results have been audited for the last 10 years. We hire an
independent firm that specializes in auditing investment returns
similar to paying an independent accounting firm to audit your
books. Every trade we make is reported in the newsletter. There
aren't that many trades. We have made one sell and one buy so far
this year. Last year, I think we made two buys and two sells.
It's only 10 stocks, so it's fairly easy to track.
Everyone in the investment management business is basically
audited one way or another. Mutual funds are audited. Hedge funds
are audited. Investment advisors are audited. It is how you prove
to clients that your picks and results are good. But In the
newsletter business, no other newsletter in any field is audited.
And, it's amazing that people are willing to buy a newsletter and
commit their investment funds based upon a track record they
don't even know. They're basically buying a story.
Any parting wisdom for gold investors?
I think we touched on the two key things. One is diversification
across different sectors of the gold market. Owning 10
exploration stocks is not diversification and you've got to be in
politically safe areas. The other part is the macroeconomic
picture. What's driving gold? It's the real interest rate. Focus
on that. If risk-free returns are negative after inflation (and
it's now negative worldwide), then you've got the driver around
the world for higher gold prices. The gold market prices may be
set in London and Chicago, but the demand-the end buyer-is all
around the world. Half of them are in Asia and lots are in the
Middle East. A smaller percentage than one might expect is
comprised of end buyers in the U.S. and Europe.
Thank you for your time.
An economics professor for almost two decades,
became interested in gold due to an innate distrust of
politicians. In order to serve those that elected them,
politicians always try to get nine slices out of an eight-slice
pizza. How do they do this? They debase the currency via
inflationary economic policies. Success with his method of
finding undervalued gold mining stocks led Doody to leave
teaching and start the Gold Stock Analyst newsletter late in
1994. The newsletter covers only producers or near-producers
that have an independent feasibility study validating their
reserves are economical to produce. In the 10 year ending
12/31/2010, GSA's audited returns were an average gain of 43%
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1) Brian Sylvester of
The Gold Report
conducted this interview. He personally and/or his family own
shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview:
2) The following companies mentioned in the interview are
The Gold Report:
NovaGold Resources Inc., Goldcorp. Inc., Gold Fields Ltd.
3) John Doody: I personally and/or my family own shares of the
following companies mentioned in this interview: all. I
personally and/or my family am paid by the following companies
mentioned in this interview: None.
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