Why Junior Gold Mining Stocks Have Performed So Poorly?

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Why has the junior end of the gold mining world performed so poorly over the past two years. In particular, why has it performed so poorly over the past 12 months in parallel with a relatively strong gold market?

Understanding why begins with understanding that in the absence of a mining operation that can be used to PROFITABLY extract it from the ground, gold in the ground has option value only. The option could be valued by the market at almost zero or a lot depending on many factors, the most important variable being the public’s desire to speculate. Furthermore, a gold mining operation that generates losses year after year also has option value only, with the public’s desire to speculate again being the most important determinant of the option’s market value.

In other words, with the relatively illiquid stocks, it comes down to the general public’s desire to speculate.

Hedge funds usually will focus on gold mining ETFs or the larger-cap gold stocks because they need the liquidity. Wealthy professional investors such as Eric Sprott typically will take positions via private placements with the aim of eventually exiting via a liquidity event such as a takeover. It’s the general public that determines performance at the bottom of the food chain and over the past two years the public has become progressively less interested in speculating. Hence, the market values of stocks with option value only have become a lot cheaper.

Although during the course of this year, we have suggested directing most new buying in the gold sector towards profitable producers, we are still interested in gold stocks that have option value only. These are the stocks that will generate by far the largest returns after the general public starts getting interested in the sector. However, sparking that interest probably will require a minimum of all-time highs in the US$ gold price and gold mining indices such as the HUI breaking above their H1-2023 highs, which probably won’t happen until the first half of next year. In fact, based on the historical record, sparking the general public’s interest in speculative gold mining stocks could require the broad stock market to begin discounting the combination of a recovery from recession and much easier monetary conditions, which possibly won’t happen until the first half of 2025.

Until then, most (not all) new buying in the gold sector should be directed towards profitable producers, that is, towards the stocks of real businesses. But, only when they are oversold or consolidating. Don’t get excited and buy them after they have just gone up a lot.

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