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Gold has always been seen as a haven investment in times of market turmoil. It’s no different this time around.

The price of the yellow metal broke through US$1,800 last week. As of Wednesday afternoon, the price was up 19.1 per cent year-to-date, a much stronger performance than any of the major stock indexes, including Nasdaq.

I recommend a gold weighting of between 5 per cent and 10 per cent in portfolios at this time. But one reader wants to go even further. “With gold rising and equities uncertain,” he wrote, “what holdings would you recommend for building a mini-portfolio focused on gold? We already own some Franco-Nevada shares.”

It’s a good question. In fact, there are several ways to own gold and other precious metals, thus providing some degree of diversification. In all cases, however, fluctuations in the gold price will affect valuations.

Franco-Nevada Corp. (FNV) is a good start. It’s a gold streaming company, meaning it does not own any mines but rather purchases a share of the income from producers. In effect, it provides financing in exchange for a percentage of revenue – think of it as a type of mining bank.

For example, the company recently announced it has invested US$100-million for a 1 per cent net smelter royalty from SolGold PLC with reference to all minerals produced from the Alpala copper-gold project in northern Ecuador.

Franco-Nevada stock is up about 49 per cent year-to-date.

With FNV as a starting point, I suggest four additional options for your mini-portfolio.

A gold mining stock

You want a company that owns high-grade producing mines. Don’t invest in exploration companies or startups – there’s no point taking more risk than you need to.

The S&P/TSX Global Gold Index, which covers the broad precious metals industry, is up almost 38 per cent so far this year. However, there’s a wide variation in performance among individual companies. For example, major producer Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. (AEM) is up only 11.2 per cent for the year. But Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX, GOLD) has gained 51.7 per cent during the same period.

There are a variety of reasons why one mining company will outperform or underperform at any given time. For example, Agnico Eagle reported that seven of its eight mines were operating at significantly reduced activity levels in the first quarter because of the impact of COVID-19. Barrick, on the other hand, said first-quarter disruptions were minimal and reported gold production and costs were consistent with guidance.

Between these two, Barrick would be the preferred choice right now for this portion of a gold portfolio. The stock pays a quarterly dividend of 7 US cents a share to yield about 1 per cent.

Whichever gold miner you select, do some research. See how the shares have performed this year, examine the financials and read what the company has said about the impact of COVID-19 on its business.

A gold mining ETF

If you want to cover the broad universe of gold producers and streaming companies, put a portion of your money into the iShares S&P/TSX Global Gold Index ETF (XGD). The exchange-traded fund tracks the performance of the index of the same name. Holdings include some of the world’s top gold producers/streamers including Newmont Corp., Barrick, Franco-Nevada, Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. and Agnico Eagle. It’s ahead 37.9 per cent this year.

A bullion-based ETF

In this case, you are not investing in a portfolio of mining companies but in the metal itself. The world’s biggest ETF of this type is SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), which invests exclusively in physical gold bullion. It has gained 19.2 per cent in 2020, about the same as the price of gold itself. Fund expenses are 0.4 per cent.

Covered call ETFs

Finally, there are two Canadian ETFs that invest in portfolios of gold and precious metals companies but add a kicker – the managers write covered call options to generate additional income. That makes them suitable for investors who need more cash flow.

  • Horizons Enhanced Income Gold Producers ETF (HEP) has a year-to-date gain of 21.7 per cent and a trailing 12-month yield of 4.9 per cent.
  • CI First Asset Gold+ Giants Covered Call ETF (CGXF) is ahead 19.3 per cent for the year but currently shows a higher trailing yield at 6.4 per cent.

A blend of these securities would provide a diversified mix of gold-based assets. But don’t overload your portfolio with them. I believe gold will continue to track higher, as central banks continue to print money at an unprecedented rate, so owning some gold is prudent. Just remember, all things in moderation, especially these days.

Full disclosure: The author owns shares in Franco-Nevada.

Gordon Pape is editor and publisher of the Internet Wealth Builder and Income Investor newsletters.

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