Mythbusting Gold’s Volatility

Gold is a volatile asset class.

This is why we tell investors to put no more than 5-10 per cent of their portfolio in gold, and split that among the bullion itself and those companies tasked with exploring for and producing gold.

However, when compared to other commodities last year, gold looks relatively calm.

This chart from the World Gold Council (WGC) shows the annualized daily volatility for selected commodities such as copper, silver, tin and others.


As you can see, gold was the second-least volatile of the group behind livestock. In fact, the annualized daily volatility for metals like zinc, palladium, lead and nickel were more than twice that of gold.

Gold’s annualized volatility came in at 16.1 per cent in 2010, down from 21.4 per cent in 2009. Last year’s volatility is on par with that of the past 20 years, where gold’s annualized volatility has averaged 15.8 per cent, according to the World Gold Council (WGC). The annualized figures for the S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index and crude oil were 20.84 per cent and 28.4 per cent, respectively.

The latest Gold Investment Digest from the WGC highlights the risk-adjusted performance gold was able to turn in during 2010. This next chart shows gold’s 29.5 per cent return was both higher and less volatile than the likes of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index and the S&P 500 Index.

Return vs Volatility of Various Assets in 2010

Surprisingly, of the asset classes shown, only U.S. Treasuries were less volatile last year but only managed roughly one-sixth the return of gold.

Speaking of volatility, since peaking at a price of $1,420 on the London Exchange on December 7, 2010 gold prices slid 3.7 per cent through January 14, 2011. The gold naysayers, as I affectionately call them, will likely say this is a sign gold’s bull run is over. However, the WGC points out that this is considerably less than one standard deviation move for gold. Over the past 10 years, gold’s average volatility in a given month is 4.9 per cent, according to the WGC.

When investing in gold, it’s important to remember gold’s volatility. Instances like the current gold reversion provide opportunity to get more bang for your buck, which is what many gold investors are looking for in the first place.

The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognised capitalisation-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. By clicking the links above, you will be directed to a third-party website. U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by this website and is not responsible for its content. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalisation index that is designed to measure equity market performance in the global emerging markets. The S&P GSCI Agriculture Index measures the performance of wheat, Kansas wheat, corn, soy beans, cotton, sugar, coffee and cocoa as a subset of the S&P Total Return Index. The DJ-UBS Commodities Index is composed of futures contracts on physical commodities. Commodity futures contracts normally specify a certain date for the delivery of the underlying physical commodity. The DJ-UBSCI is composed of commodities traded on U.S. exchanges, with the exception of aluminium, nickel and zinc, which trade on the London Metal Exchange (LME). The Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index is an unweighted geometric average of commodity price levels relative to the base year average price. The S&P GS Livestock Index measures the performance of livestock as a subset of the S&P Total Return Index. The MSCI ex US Index measures the performance of global markets excluding equities within the U.S. The S&P GSCI Spot index tracks the price of the nearby futures contracts for a basket of commodities. Diversification does not protect an investor from market risks and does not assure a profit. Standard deviation is a measure of the dispersion of a set of data from its mean. The more spread apart the data, the higher the deviation. Standard deviation is also known as historical volatility.

NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at