The Gold Stock at the Top of My List

After the tech bubble in March 2000 popped and before the recent financial and credit crises struck, at least three sectors have managed to post significant gains: bonds; real estate; and small-caps. For some reason, however, gold remained under the radar for most investors. Yet, since the stock market peak, prices have climbed past many psychological marks. The shares of companies that mine the metal have gone for the ride.

The perennial question for any gold investor is whether to buy bullion or gold mining stocks. I favor gold stocks over the higher risk of other commodity options.

While generally favoring gold stocks, I view Newmont Mining Corporation (NYSE/NEM) in particular as a really good investment, because we see this stock bringing value to your portfolio for years to come.

Without a doubt, for those investors looking to hedge their portfolios with gold exposure, Newmont Mining deserves to be at the top of the list. This company stands out among other players for two reasons: 1) size; and 2) low production costs, even in the rising price environment.

Over the years, Newmont has grown rapidly through mergers and acquisitions, as well as the development of its existing reserves. This strategy resulted in the company’s diversified risks; namely, unlike junior producers, Newmont doesn’t depend on one or two of its mines for its future and it is certainly not exposed to politically unstable regions.

In that regard, the risk is spread out, as the company continues to maintain an aggressive worldwide exploration program and is actively participating in and taking advantage of the ongoing industry consolidations.

In terms of costs, Newmont enjoys an overall favorable cost structure, although the recent quarter painted a very bleak picture when it came to capital expenditures. Its South American operations are the major factor in keeping the company’s costs down. This is particularly true with the Yanacocha property in Peru, where cash costs are in the lowest per-ounce price range.

The company’s diversified portfolio of low-cost mines allows it to remain profitable, even during prolonged weakness in the gold bullion market. In the past 10 years, Newmont has posted net losses three times; yet each year it has generated positive operating cash flows.

Over the past five years, Newmont’s investment rate has been around 60% (the investment rate is the percentage of profits the company has returned back to its business operations).

This strategy is consistent with what most producers do; return every dollar earned, and then some, back into the operations. However, with Newmont, it seems to come with ease, adding further to its attractiveness, as it can grow even during periods of depressed gold prices and at a lower investment rate.

Newmont’s cash flows are highly sensitive to the price of gold, because the company remains largely unhedged, thus exposing itself to the whims of the gold market. However, market data and the current economic environment suggest that the gold market is dancing with the bulls, so the company’s unhedged strategy promises profits, as the price of gold rises further.

This is the stock that saw its market price go up double percentage points over the past three years and its sales double every three years. The company is growing aggressively—both internally and by acquisitions—and has sufficient cash in the bank to finance that growth.

Newmont Mining appears to be the perfect choice for investors looking for a company with excellent fundamentals, a proven track record, and experienced and knowledgeable management. Note that this is not a recommendation necessarily to buy the stock right now, but you should definitely take a look at it.

Newmont is a leader in gold. In technology, a company that has fallen on hard times, but that I feel is set for fresh growth is Microsoft, which you can read about in Microsoft May Be Set for Prime Time.

Gold Stocks: There’s Value in Them There Hills

For years, I’ve been a bull on gold mining stocks, but also precious metals stocks in general.

Gold mining stocks and precious metals stocks did not perform very well last year (compared to recent years), but that doesn’t mean there is no value in them. Usually, when a sector like this is beaten down or forgotten by the market in general, value players come in and buy it up (myself, when gold bullion prices dip, I try my best to buy gold-related investment to average down my overall investment cost).

Analysts who follow the mining sector and who have earnings forecasts for these gold mining stocks typically value them as if the price of gold bullion was trading well below its current level. This means that, not only are the gold mining stocks cheap, they are also trading on the assumption that the price of gold bullion will fall to within the range of $1,200-$1,500 an ounce in a few years. Why buy gold bullion when you can buy a quality gold mining stocks at a discount to the price of gold bullion?

It’s been a frustrating time for investors of the gold mining stocks, but if the value players are hesitant to jump in feet first, there are other players who will.

Pan American Silver Corp. (NASDAQ/PAAS), the world’s second-largest primary silver miner, has just offered $1.5 billion in combined cash and stock deal to acquire Minefinders Corp. Ltd. (ASE/MFN), a medium-sized silver producer whose primary assets reside in Mexico. The price tag is a 36% premium to where Minefinders traded last Friday.

This, in my opinion, is just one of the many mining deals that will take place in 2012. The larger mining companies like Barrick Gold Corporation (NYSE/ABX), sitting on $3.0 billion in cash, Newmont Mining Corporation (NYSE/NEM), with over $1.0 billion in cash, and Goldcorp Inc. (NYSE/GG), with almost $1.5 billion in cash, are always searching for ways to grow their businesses.

It is a very attractive proposition for the large miners to buy quality junior and medium-sized gold mining companies, who are trading very cheap in terms of the price of gold bullion today. If the large gold mining companies believe the price of gold bullion will trade much higher, then the acquisitions become even more inexpensive and the value of gold mining stocks that much more attractive.

Be careful, dear reader; the wheat truly needs to be separated from the chaff. There are many promising junior gold mining stocks that will, in the end, offer up just that; promises. The companies that have proven assets, in my opinion, will earn a rich premium for their gold mining stocks in a buyout as the large firms look to improve their growth rates.

In 2012, if the value players in the gold mining industry don’t buy the gold mining stocks aggressively, the large gold mining companies flush with cash will. This will spur other hedge funds and asset managers to take a look at the mining sector more carefully and, in my opinion, will cause a stampede into the gold mining stocks, driving their prices much higher.

Sometimes patience is required in a market. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that value has always produced winners in the end.

Michael’s Personal Notes:

Another startling statistic that gave me pause: government benefits are now required for nearly half of Americans.

In the latest census data, covering the period of the second half of 2010, 48.6% of Americans received social security, unemployment insurance or another type of government benefit payout (Source: Wall Street Journal).

This past recession has hit harder than most. Only seven percent of Americans who lost their jobs during this recession have attained their previous financial position (Source: Rutgers University).

Without government assistance, imagine where we would be. The fact that the government has to help so many people illustrates the damage that this great recession has caused America and shows how far we still need to climb to get ourselves back to where we once were.

Researching these statistics gave me an idea. What if we removed government benefits (government transfer payments) from personal income to see how the average working American is doing?

This is a more pure form of the data, because it calculates income from work—the jobs market—with government assistance excluded.

To give us some perspective, let’s go back to the 1960s and look at personal income excluding government transfer payments. During this period of economic growth, this measure gained anywhere from 10% to 25%—people enjoyed strong personal income growth in a strong jobs market.

How did people do during recent recessions? In the late 1970s recession, the personal income growth rate slowed to just six percent. In the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the personal growth rate dropped to merely three percent, while the recession that visited us in the early 2000s saw a personal income growth rate of five percent in a very difficult jobs market.

How about today and since 2008? Here comes the shock-and-awe part. Not in 50 years has this statistic once showed negative personal income growth, despite having experienced four recessions in that span. Is it different this time? You bet.

In the middle of 2011, real personal income excluding government transfer payments fell 5.1%. Currently it stands at negative 3.6%. Translated, salaries for the average worker are 3.6% lower than they were in 2008. What jobs market?

So, dear reader, not only are close to half of Americas receiving some form of government benefit, but also real personal incomes for those working is actually falling, which means that the average working American is being squeezed by inflation (through higher food and gas prices), while purchasing power is being further eroded by salaries that are below 2008 levels in a stagnant jobs market.

In case we dare to look outside, this is 2012. So I ask, where is the growth in consumer spending going to come from if the average American is witnessing the first post-recession decline in personal income in 50 years?

Where the Market Stands; Where it’s Headed:

Joe Granville came out yesterday and said that the stock market is going to dive 4,000 points this year. (Can you believe he is past 80 years of age?) I’ve been reading other reports that say the bottom is about to fall out of stocks, because the market is oversold and volume is thin.

But when I look at the number of stock market advisors who are bullish vs. bearish (a reliable stock market indicator I follow), it’s not a frightening spread just yet.

We are in a bear market rally in stocks that started in March of 2009. This bear market rally has further upside potential.

What He Said:

“For the economy the message from retail stocks is quite clear: Consumer spending, which accounts for roughly 70% of U.S. GDP, is in jeopardy. After having spent like “drunkards” during the real estate boom years, consumer spending is taking the same trend as housing prices, slowing down faster than most analysts and economists had predicted. As news of the recession continues to make headlines in the popular media, the psychological spending mood of consumers will continue to deteriorate, lowering earnings at most high-end retailers and bringing their stock prices down even further.” Michael Lombardi in PROFIT CONFIDENTIAL, January 28, 2008. According to the Dow Jones Retail Index, retail stocks fell 39% from January 2008 through November 2008.

By Michael Lombardi, MBA for Profit Confidential

Simple Equation Explains Long-term Effect of Money Printing

The U.S. Labor Department reported yesterday that the Producer Price Index (a measure of wholesale prices) rose by 0.3% in November, an annualized rate of 3.6%. The Labor Department also reported that Import Prices rose 0.7% in November, an annualized rate of 8.4%!

The numbers being released confirm my fears about rapid inflation ahead. If you think the rally in gold bullion is over, look at the inflation numbers coming from the Labor Department and you can’t but help rethink your opinion.

Government debt gone made, a central bank buying U.S. Treasuries, and an unprecedented expansion of the money supply, we can’t escape rapid inflation!

The only place deflation is happening is in the housing market!

Yesterday, the standard rate fell to 3.94% (Source: Freddie Mac). You can get a home mortgage in the lowest interest rate since 1971, just before the energy crisis hit.

But hold on a minute. Won’t rapid inflation eventually lead to higher interest rates? Yes is the answer to this question. And won’t that mean mortgage rates will rise, further punishing theU.S. housing market? Yes is the answer to that question, too.

Two trillion dollars: that’s how much the Fed has increased its balance sheet by buying securities. And where did the two trillion dollars come from? It was created. My final question for you, dear reader: how can you create two trillion dollars, on top of the five trillion the Obama administration has expanded its debt, and have rapid inflation not become a problem?

Here is the simple formula: rising government debt plus lots of money printing = rapid inflation, which = higher interest rates, which = higher gold bullion prices, which = higher prices for quality gold mining stocks.

Michael’s Personal Notes:

Happy to see someone’s buying stock…

The year 2011 has been a difficult year for the stock market considering how well stocks performed in 2009 and 2010. Looking at the stock market and all the negative news we hear about the economy and the eurozone, it sounds like investors are avoiding the market. Wrong.

Appetite for stocks in the last quarter of this year has been exceptionally strong for IPOs with a good story. Consider these new IPOs:

Zynga Inc., the biggest maker of games for the web site Facebook, will raise about $1.0 billion in it initial pubic offering today, making it one of the hottest of this week’s IPOs. This offering values Zynga at $7.0 billion, almost seven times revenue.

Michael Kors Holdings Limited (NYSE/KORS) jumped 21% yesterday on its first …