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The Golden Dilemma

Author

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  • Claude B. Erb
  • Campbell R. Harvey

Abstract

While gold objects have existed for thousands of years, gold's role in diversified portfolios is not well understood. We critically examine popular stories such as 'gold is an inflation hedge'. We show that gold may be an effective hedge if the investment horizon is measured in centuries. Over practical investment horizons, gold is an unreliable inflation hedge. We also explore valuation. The real price of gold is currently high compared to history. In the past, when the real price of gold was above average, subsequent real gold returns have been below average consistent with mean reversion. On the demand side, we focus on the official gold holdings of many countries. If prominent emerging markets increase their gold holdings to average per capita or per GDP holdings of developed countries, the real price of gold may rise even further from today's elevated levels. In the end, investors face a golden dilemma: 1) embrace a view that 'those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it' and the purchasing power of gold is likely to revert to its mean or 2) embrace a view that the emergence of new markets represent a structural change and 'this time is different'.

Suggested Citation

  • Claude B. Erb & Campbell R. Harvey, 2013. "The Golden Dilemma," NBER Working Papers 18706, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18706
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • N20 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - General, International, or Comparative

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