Is Gold The Best Hedge Against Tail Risk, When Uber-Wealthy Bank Clients Buy Up Tons Of Physical Gold?

A question that has become very prevalent recently is whether in a world denominated in fiat ponzi equivalents, in which central banker intervention is hell-bent on devaluing this very system, whether gold (with a recent Sharpe ratio most portfolio managers can only dream of) is not currently the best hedge against tail risks. Conveniently, the World Gold Council has just released a paper, and, for those with a shorter attention span, a video clip, which provides an affirmative answer to that question. From the WGC: "In the analysis the WGC shows that during the period between October 2007 and March 2009—the height of the global financial meltdown—an investor with a portfolio of US$10 million experienced an additional US$500,000 financial loss simply by not maintaining a position in gold. The study used a composition similar to a benchmark portfolio, which included an 8.5% allocation to gold, to show that total losses incurred during the period reduced by 5% relative to an equivalent portfolio without gold." But before we get into the WGC paper's findings, we would like to point out a special report by Reuters which confirms what all the "goldbugs" have known all along: "The world's wealthiest people have responded to economic worries by buying bars of gold, sometimes by the ton, and moving assets out of the financial system, bankers catering to the very rich said on Monday... A banker said, "We had a clear example of a couple buying over a ton of gold ... and carrying it to another place."" Guess why JPMorgan is doing all it can to preserve as much physical gold within its system before it all runs out, and all those demands for physical delivery skyrocket (even more).

From the Reuters report:

Fears of a double-dip downturn had boosted the appetite for physical bullion as well as mining company shares and exchange-traded funds, UBS executive Josef Stadler told the Reuters Global Private Banking Summit.

"They don't only buy ETFs or futures, they buy physical gold," said Stadler, who runs the Swiss bank's services for clients with assets of at least $50 million to invest.

UBS is recommending top-tier clients hold 7-10 percent of their assets in precious metals like gold, which is on course for its tenth consecutive yearly gain and traded at around $1,317 an ounce on Monday, near the record level reached last week.

In a sign of the uncertain times, some clients go further.

"We had a clear example of a couple buying over a ton of gold ... and carrying it to another place," Stadler said. At today's prices, that shipment would be worth about $42 million.

Julius Baer's chief investment officer for Asia is also recommending that wealthy investors park some of their assets in gold as a defensive stance following a string of lackluster U.S. data and amid concerns about currency weakness.

"I see gold as an insurance," Van Anantha-Nageswaran said. "I recommend 10 percent as minimum in portfolios and anything more than that to be used for trading purposes, to respond to short-term over-bought or over-sold signals."

And below are the summary finding from the WGC report, via report author Juan Carlos Artigas:

In previous studies, the WGC has shown gold to be a highly effective and consistent portfolio diversifier. We can now demonstrate that gold does not only help increase expected risk-adjusted returns, it can also considerably mitigate the potential for wealth to be eroded by extreme events.

“In the last decade we have seen two of the worst bear markets in the last hundred years. As one might expect, sensitivity to risk still runs high for investors around the world, and as assets are rebuilt an ability to protect capital irrespective of market conditions is paramount. Considering portfolio diversification is clearly important, but protecting against systemic risk can be an entirely separate matter. This research shows that gold protects against tail risk events, but equally in more positive times reduces the volatility of a portfolio without sacrificing expected returns.”

The analysis suggests that even relatively small allocations to gold, ranging from 2.3% to 9.0%, can have a positive impact. On average, such allocations can reduce the Value at Risk (VaR) while maintaining a similar return profile to equivalent portfolios which do not include  gold. Conceptually, VaR is a way of measuring the maximum amount an investor could expect to lose in a given period of time, with a certain degree of confidence, in the case of an unlikely, yet possible, event occurring.

A 5-minute summary of the paper can be watched on the clip below:


The full WGC report is below (pdf):