The gold miners’ stocks just blasted higher to a major decisive breakout this week! Driven by gold’s own huge bull-market breakout, the gold stocks surged well above vexing years-old upper resistance. The resulting new multi-year highs are a game changer, starting to shift long-apathetic sector sentiment back towards bullish. This will increasingly attract back traders, with their buying unleashing a virtuous circle of gains.
Traders usually track gold-stock fortunes with this sector’s most-popular exchange-traded fund, the GDX VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF. Launched in May 2006, this was the original gold-stock ETF. That big first-mover advantage has helped propel GDX to sector dominance. This week its net assets of $10.5b ran 44.6x larger than the next-biggest 1x-long major-gold-miners ETF! GDX is this sector’s leading benchmark.
And as recently as late May, neither speculators nor investors wanted anything to do with gold stocks. GDX slumped to $20.42 on May 29th, down 3.2% year-to-date. That was much worse than gold’s own slight 0.2% YTD decline then warranted. The gold stocks were really out of favor, largely ignored by apathetic traders. What a difference a month makes though, as their fortunes changed radically in June.
The gold miners started reanimating on May 31st, after Trump unleashed a bombshell warning to Mexico the evening before. He said tariffs would be imposed on all of its exports to the US if it didn’t seriously clamp down on illegal immigration across the US southern border. While Trump subsequently suspended those tariffs on Mexico’s promises to take action, that was the catalyzing event that awoke gold from its slumber.
A couple weeks ago I wrote an essay on the resulting mounting gold-stock upleg, explaining what was going on. But the developments since have been stunning, a colossal bullish surprise. Long neglected, GDX kept on marching higher mid-month leading into last week’s highly-anticipated Federal Open Market Committee decision. GDX closed at $23.67 the day before, already 15.9% higher in only several weeks.
The Fed kowtowed to stock traders’ hyper-dovish expectations and shifted its future rate bias from tightening to cutting, lighting a fire under gold. In last week’s essay I analyzed the gold bull breaking out, which was a momentous sea-change event. Gold rallied 1.0% to $1360 that day with top Fed officials forecasting a new rate cut next year. Gold-stock traders just shrugged at gold’s best close in 2.9 years.
They only bid GDX 1.4% higher to $24.00 after the Fed’s dovish shift. That only amplified gold’s gains by 1.4x, far short of the major gold stocks’ normal upside leverage to gold of 2x to 3x. While gold was high, it had tried and failed for years to break out above its $1350 resistance zone. And gold stocks suffered big and sharp selloffs after those previous forays proved unsuccessful. Traders didn’t expect this time to be different.
That Fed-Day evening New York time, Asian markets reopened as their Thursday morning rolled around. The Asian cultures have a deep cultural affinity for gold, and aggressively piled on in early trading. All that buying catapulted gold from $1358 to $1383 in about an hour! Partially thanks to Iran shooting down a big and sophisticated US surveillance drone overnight, gold’s Asia gains held in last Thursday’s US trading.
Gold closed 2.1% higher that day at $1389, a decisive breakout 1%+ beyond its previous bull-market high of $1365 from way back in early July 2016! That also happened to be a 5.8-year closing high, so gold-stock traders realized big changes were afoot. They poured capital into gold stocks with a vengeance, catapulting GDX 4.4% higher on 3.5x its 3-month-average daily volume! That propelled it to $25.05 on close.
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That was a critical technical level, as this GDX chart shows. It looks at the gold-stock price action of the last several years or so during gold’s own parallel bull market. GDX is rendered in blue, its key 50-day and 200-day moving averages in white and black, and 2.5-standard-deviation bands in light yellow. This leading gold-stock ETF had to decisively best years-old upper resistance at $25 to prove this time is different.
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Since late 2016, GDX has largely been trapped in a giant consolidation basing trend running from $21 support to $25 resistance. $25 had proven a graveyard in the sky for gold stocks since November 2016, and needed to be overcome to change bearish psychology. GDX’s $25.05 close last Thursday on that new secular gold high was right there. But $25 resistance had to be broken decisively to impress traders.
Last Friday gold climbed another 0.7% to $1399 on pure momentum, yet gold-stock traders were worrying again. So GDX’s resulting 0.6% rally was pathetic, actually lagging gold. While not a decisive breakout over $25.25, or 1% above that long-vexing resistance line, GDX’s $25.21 close was darned close. The major gold stocks as measured by this ETF hadn’t been higher in 21.4 months. That was certainly bullish.
Last Friday and this Monday it was becoming evident that new-high psychology was taking root in gold. That is a powerful force motivating speculators and investors to buy. GDX $25 finally being materially surpassed has long been the key to unleashing this self-reinforcing sentiment in gold stocks. A couple weeks ago when GDX had merely climbed to $23.33 at best, I wrote about this coming critical breakout.
“The higher gold stocks climb, the more traders will want to buy them to ride that momentum. The more capital they deploy, the more gold stocks will rally. This normal virtuous circle of improving psychology and buying will become even more exaggerated as GDX $25 is surpassed. Seeing the highest gold-stock levels in several years will work wonders to improve sector sentiment, unleashing widespread bullishness.”
“This gold-stock upleg’s potential gains are massive spanning such a major upside breakout. Remember speculators and investors love chasing winners, so the higher gold stocks rally the more attractive they’ll look.” Nothing drives trader interest and thus capital inflows like major new highs. And GDX was right on the verge of entering that excitement-fueling zone decisively over $25 as markets opened for trading this week.
This Monday gold surged another 1.4% higher to a dazzling $1419 close! That new 6.1-year high was fueled by sheer momentum, there was little gold-moving news that day. Gold’s new-high psychology was already feeding on itself. And that enthusiasm spilled into gold stocks, with traders bidding GDX another 3.8% higher to $26.17. That was the long-awaited decisive $25 breakout, with GDX blasting 4.7% beyond!
The importance of gold stocks powering through to new 2.7-year highs cannot be overstated. Major new highs act like magnets attracting traders’ attention, interest, and capital. They prove that the long-ignored gold stocks are in bull-market-rallying mode again, portending massive gains to come. They also garner media coverage, which greatly increases the number of traders looking to ride the breakout momentum.
Since late May’s depressing low, GDX had rocketed a huge 28.2% higher in just 18 trading days! Stock traders would kill for those kinds of fast gains. And the major gold stocks’ upleg-to-date advance per this ETF had grown to 48.9% over 9.4 months. That would be impressive for any sector, but is actually still on the smaller side for the high-potential gold stocks. Their uplegs have tended to grow much larger in the past.
The last time gold was hitting new bull-market highs was in the first half of 2016. That was the maiden upleg of this bull, where gold soared 29.9% higher in just 6.7 months. The resulting excitement fueled a deluge of capital roaring into gold stocks, which skyrocketed GDX an incredible 151.2% higher in roughly that same span! While that upleg was exceptionally large, the last major gold-stock bull’s uplegs were big.
Before GDX came along, the primary gold-stock benchmark was the classic HUI NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index. Like GDX it tracks most of the same major gold stocks, so HUI and GDX price action are usually indistinguishable. The last gold-stock bull straddling GDX’s birth saw the HUI soar 1664.4% higher over 10.8 years between November 2000 to September 2011! Those gains accrued over 12 separate uplegs.
One was an anomaly, the epic mean-reversion rebound after late 2008’s first-in-a-century stock panic. Excluding it, the other 11 normal gold-stock uplegs in that last bull averaged 80.7% gains over 7.9 months per the HUI! So GDX’s 48.9% upleg-to-date advance as of early this week remains well below precedent to be mature. Odds are it will grow much larger in line with past major uplegs before giving up its ghost.
Gold stocks paid a terrible price as gold drifted sideways over the last several years, trapped under that $1350 resistance zone which masked its in-progress bull. That’s why GDX mostly meandered between those $21 support and $25 resistance lines since late 2016. That chronic inability to break out to new highs gradually scared away the great majority of traders, leaving gold stocks incredibly undervalued. Related: The True Cost Of Opportunity In America
Gold-stock prices are ultimately determined by gold, because it overwhelmingly drives their earnings. So one way to measure gold-stock “valuations” is looking at them relative to gold. This can be done using the GDX/GLD Ratio, the leading gold-stock ETF’s price divided by the flagship gold ETF’s price. That of course is the GLD SPDR Gold Shares. I last wrote about and analyzed the GGR in an early-February essay.
This Monday as GDX finally decisively broke above $25 to close at $26.17, GLD’s shares closed way up at $133.94. That made for a GGR of just 0.195x at the best gold-stock levels in several years. Yet that was still really low by historical standards. The last normal years for the gold market were arguably 2009 to 2012. That stretch was sandwiched between 2008’s stock panic and the Fed’s QE3 stock-market levitation.
The resulting extreme and irrational stock euphoria had a devastating impact on gold. But from 2009 to 2012 before markets became wildly central-bank-distorted and fake, the GDX/GLD ratio averaged 0.381x. That encompassed all kinds of gold environments, from strong bull to budding bear. So there’s no better recent span to approximate gold stocks’ “fair value” relative to gold. Applying that today is super-bullish.
At Monday’s $133.94 GLD close, that historical-average fair-value GGR would put GDX at $51.03. That is a whopping 95.0% higher than its actual close that day! Gold stocks are literally trading at just half of where they ought to be at today’s gold prices, meaning they still need to double just to catch up. And that doesn’t account for higher future gold prices or the GGR overshooting proportionally higher after mean reverting!
At best GDX has powered 151.2% higher within gold’s current bull. But during gold’s last secular bull, the HUI skyrocketed an astounding 1664.4% higher over 10.8 years! Gold stocks are one of the highest-potential sectors in the entire stock markets. When they really start running the resulting gains can truly generate life-changing wealth. That’s why contrarians are willing to suffer between their mighty bull runs.
This week’s long-awaited GDX $25 breakout is a critical technical milestone that is likely signaling much-bigger gains to come. The gold-stock surge this month is really special, actually the strongest early-summer performance for this sector in modern gold-bull history! Normally this time of year I’d be updating my gold-summer-doldrums research, highlighting the weakest time of the year seasonally for gold stocks.
Hopefully I can find time next week. This chart looks at the HUI’s average summer performances in all modern gold-bull-market years. Each summer is individually indexed to its final close in May, keeping gold-stock price action perfectly comparable regardless of prevailing gold levels. The yellow lines show 2001 to 2012 and 2016 to 2017. Last year’s summer gold-stock action is rendered in light blue for comparison.
All these lines averaged together form the red one, revealing the center-mass drift trend of gold stocks in market summers. Gold stocks’ current 2019 summer action is superimposed over all that in dark blue. As you can see, this past month’s action is the best summer start gold stocks have seen since at least 2001! They are even tracking better than the summer of 2016 in this gold bull’s mighty maiden upleg.
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This chart really illuminates how unique gold stocks’ powerful June rally has been. This is more evidence that a sea-change sentiment shift is underway in this long-neglected sector. That sure implies the gains to come will be much larger than traders expect, driving GDX towards its own new bull highs on balance. In early August 2016, GDX hit its bull-to-date high of $31.32. That’s 19.7% higher than Monday’s breakout close.
The major gold miners’ fundamentals remain strong and bullish too, supporting much-higher stock prices. After every quarterly earnings season, I dig deep into the GDX gold miners’ fundamentals. They finished reporting their latest Q1’19 results about 6 weeks ago, and I wrote a comprehensive essay analyzing them. At that point GDX was still really out of favor, languishing under its $21 multi-year support line.
Stock prices are ultimately determined by underlying corporate earnings, and for the gold miners that is totally dependent on prevailing gold prices. Gold-mining costs are best measured in all-in-sustaining-cost terms. In Q1’19 the GDX gold miners’ AISCs averaged $893 per ounce. That’s right in line with the prior four quarters’ trend of $884, $856, $877, and $889. Gold-mining profits are going to soar with higher gold. Related: China Prepares New Cybersecurity Law
Gold averaged $1303 in Q1 when the major gold miners were producing it for $893. That implies they were earning $410 per ounce mined. $1400 and $1500 gold are only 7.4% and 15.1% higher from there. As the GDX gold miners’ AISCs reveal, gold-mining costs are largely fixed from quarter to quarter and don’t follow gold higher. So assuming flat AISCs, gold-mining profits surge to $507 at $1400 and $607 at $1500.
That’s 23.7% and 48.0% higher from Q1’19 levels on mere 7.4% and 15.1% gold gains from that quarter’s average price! And as of earlier this week, gold had already climbed 9.2% of that. The major gold miners’ fundamentals are already bullish, but improve greatly at higher prevailing gold prices. With earnings growth hard to come by in general stock markets this year, the gold stocks will be even more alluring.
All the stars are aligning for big gold-stock gains in coming months, with their technicals, sentiment, and fundamentals all looking very bullish. This breaking-out gold-stock upleg has excellent potential to grow much larger later this year, greatly rewarding contrarians buying in early. More and more traders are becoming aware of this sector’s huge potential, and their buying will push the gold stocks much higher.
This is not the summer to check out, but to do your homework and get deployed in great gold stocks. All portfolios need a 10% allocation in gold and its miners’ stocks! Many smaller mid-tier and junior miners have superior fundamentals and upside potential to the majors of GDX. And by the time gold stocks get really exciting again hitting their own new bull highs, much of the easy gains will have already been won.
The bottom line is gold stocks have joined gold with their own decisive breakout! GDX finally burst back above its long-oppressing $25 upper-resistance line this week. These multi-year highs are a game changer for gold stocks, ushering back long-absent bullish psychology enticing traders to return. They’ve been gone for so long that this entire gold-mining sector is deeply undervalued relative to prevailing gold prices.
That portends huge upside potential as gold and its miners’ stocks return to the limelight on their major breakouts. Traders love chasing winners to ride their upside momentum, and buying begets buying. Of course gold-stock uplegs don’t power higher in straight lines, periodic selloffs to rebalance sentiment are normal and healthy. So any material gold-stock weakness should be used to accumulate sizable positions.
By Adam Hamilton