I've noticed an emerging trend from my newsletter subscribers.*
Two years ago, it was just a whisper. Month by month, email by email, the whisper became a little louder. Today, I'm hearing it loud and clear.
Income investors want to know if they can capture high yields while investing in gold.
So what's behind this rising interest in gold? And more importantly, are there high yields available from the yellow metal?
The flight to gold is all about safety. Safe-haven investors have been responding to the euro zone crisis and fears of a weaker-than-expected recovery by fleeing to gold. The price is up nearly +25% from the average monthly price of $972 in 2009.
This is not a recent phenomenon. Gold has roughly quadrupled since 2001, when it was selling for less than $300 an ounce.
In fact, my husband and I shifted a portion of our assets into gold when we had some fears during the subprime crisis. As it turns out, we didn't need to rely on our gold assets to bail us out of poverty. Instead, we've so far reaped gains of around +50%.
But gold is a tricky investment, and its price fluctuations are hard to attribute to any one event. Many want to hold gold as a hedge . But it's not always a hedge in down markets. In fact, gold prices actually fell in the peak months of the financial crisis in late 2008 and early 2009. And gold doesn't necessarily perform badly in up markets, either. While U.S. and world markets soared in the past decade, gold prices rallied up until the financial crisis.
A likely reason for the strong appreciation in gold prices during the past decade was the precipitous fall in the value of the dollar (gold prices are quoted in dollars). But lately, the dollar and gold have rallied strongly at the same time.
What's going on?
Investors are fleeing the euro amid the debt crisis in Europe and placing money in the relatively safe havens of U.S. dollars and gold. According to The Wall Street Journal , central banks are increasingly shifting money out of euros and into gold. The increased appetite led to the metal hitting an all-time record high price of $1,262 an ounce in June.
Given the uncertainty and risk-aversion that is likely in the months and years ahead, gold seems like a good bet to do well. And don't think the rally can't continue even higher. In the 1970s, the price of gold increased more than 20-fold from an average of about $35 an ounce in 1970 to a high of more than $800 an ounce in 1980. If history is any gauge, gold could have more room to run.
But What about Yields?
I can't sugarcoat it -- finding yields powered by gold can be difficult.
I've been doing some research. I discovered that of the nearly 250 U.S.-based common stocks that are part of the metals and mining sector, only a couple yield more than 5%. And of the 61 companies focused primarily on gold, zero have a yield worth looking at twice.
And then I finally found what I was looking for. I came across some convertible preferred shares from Hecla Mining ( HL ) (on Yahoo! Finance, the tickers for the preferred shares will be " HL-PB " and " HL-PC "). They pay about 6.5%. But while Hecla does have some exposure to gold, it's far from a pure play.
So apart from a few funds, your options are few. The good news is that both income investing and gold investing are becoming more popular in today's environment. I expect some new offerings could pop up soon that fill the "gold/income" void. I plan to keep my eye out and will let you know if I find something with a juicy yield.
*Carla Pasternak is a leading income investing expert, serving as Director of Income Research for High-Yield Investing , High-Yield International , and Dividend Opportunities . Together, these newsletters put her expertise in the hands of more than 200,000 subscribers each month. Click here to learn more about Carla and her focus on income investing.