The gold miners’ stocks remain deeply out of favor, trading at prices seen when gold was half or even a quarter of current levels. So many traders assume this small contrarian sector must be really struggling fundamentally. But nothing could be farther from the truth! The major gold miners’ recently-released Q4’17 results prove they are thriving. Their languishing stock prices are the result of irrational herd sentiment.
Four times a year publicly-traded companies release treasure troves of valuable information in the form of quarterly reports. Required by securities regulators, these quarterly results are exceedingly important for investors and speculators. They dispel all the sentimental distortions surrounding prevailing stock-price levels, revealing the underlying hard fundamental realities. They serve to re-anchor perceptions.
Normally quarterlies are due 45 calendar days after quarter-ends, in the form of 10-Qs required by the SEC for American companies. But after the final quarter of fiscal years, which are calendar years for most gold miners, that deadline extends out up to 90 days depending on company size. The 10-K annual reports required once a year are bigger, more complex, and need fully-audited numbers unlike 10-Qs.
So it takes companies more time to prepare full-year financials and then get them audited by CPAs right in the heart of their busy season. The additional delay in releasing Q4 results is certainly frustrating, as that data is getting stale approaching the end of Q1. Compounding the irritation, some gold miners don’t actually break out Q4 separately. Instead they only report full-year results, lumping in and obscuring Q4.
I always wonder what gold miners that don’t report full Q4 results are trying to hide. Some Q4 numbers can be inferred by comparing full-year results to the prior three quarterlies, but others aren’t knowable if not specifically disclosed. While most gold miners report their Q4 and/or full-year results by 7 to 9 weeks after year-ends, some drag their feet and push that 13-week limit. That’s very disrespectful to investors.
All this unfortunately makes Q4 results the hardest to analyze out of all quarterlies. But delving into them is still well worth the challenge. There’s no better fundamental data available to gold-stock investors and speculators than quarterly results, so they can’t be ignored. They offer a very valuable true snapshot of what’s really going on, shattering all the misconceptions bred by the ever-shifting winds of sentiment.
The definitive list of major gold-mining stocks to analyze comes from the world’s most-popular gold-stock investment vehicle, the GDX VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF. Its composition and performance are similar to the benchmark HUI gold-stock index. GDX utterly dominates this sector, with no meaningful competition. This week GDX’s net assets are 24.4x larger than the next-biggest 1x-long major-gold-miners ETF!
Being included in GDX is the gold standard for gold miners, requiring deep analysis and vetting by elite analysts. And due to ETF investing eclipsing individual-stock investing, major-ETF inclusion is one of the most-important considerations for picking great gold stocks. As the vast pools of fund capital flow into leading ETFs, these ETFs in turn buy shares in their underlying companies bidding their stock prices higher.
This week GDX included a whopping 51 component “Gold Miners”. That term is used somewhat loosely, as this ETF also contains major silver miners, a silver streamer, and gold royalty companies. Still, all the world’s major gold miners are GDX components. Due to time constraints I limited my deep individual-company research to this ETF’s top 34 stocks, an arbitrary number that fits neatly into the tables below.
Collectively GDX’s 34 largest components now account for 90.5% of its total weighting, a commanding sample. GDX’s stocks include major foreign gold miners trading in Australia, Canada, and the UK. Some countries’ regulations require financial reporting in half-year increments instead of quarterly, which limits local gold miners’ Q4 data. But some foreign companies still choose to publish limited quarterly results.
The importance of these top-GDX-component gold miners can’t be overstated. In Q4’17 they collectively produced over 10.3m ounces of gold, or 321.5 metric tons. The World Gold Council’s recently-released Q4 Gold Demand Trends report, the definitive source on worldwide supply-and-demand fundamentals, pegged total global mine production at 833.1t in Q4. GDX’s top 34 miners alone accounted for nearly 4/10ths!
Every quarter I wade through a ton of data from these elite gold miners’ 10-Qs or 10-Ks, and dump it into a big spreadsheet for analysis. The highlights made it into these tables. Blank fields mean a company did not report that data for Q4’17 as of this Wednesday. Naturally companies always try to present their quarterly results in the best-possible light, which leads to wide variations in reporting styles and data offered.
In these tables the first couple columns show each GDX component’s symbol and weighting within this ETF as of this week. While most of these gold stocks trade in the States, not all of them do. So if you can’t find one of these symbols, it’s a listing from a company’s primary foreign stock exchange. That’s followed by each company’s Q4’17 gold production in ounces, which is mostly reported in pure-gold terms.
Many gold miners also produce byproduct metals like silver and copper. These are valuable, as they are sold to offset some of the considerable costs of gold mining. Some companies report their quarterly gold production including silver, a construct called gold-equivalent ounces. I only included GEOs if no pure-gold numbers were reported. That’s followed by production’s absolute year-over-year change from Q4’16.
Next comes the most-important fundamental data for gold miners, cash costs and all-in sustaining costs per ounce mined. The latter determines their profitability and hence ultimately stock prices. Those are also followed by YoY changes. Finally the YoY changes in cash flows generated from operations, GAAP profits, revenues, and cash on balance sheets are listed. There are a couple exceptions to these YoY changes.
Percentage changes aren’t relevant or meaningful if data shifted from positive to negative or vice versa, or if derived from two negative numbers. So in those cases I included raw underlying numbers instead of weird or misleading percentage changes. This whole dataset offers a fantastic high-level read on how the major gold miners are faring today as an industry. And contrary to their low stock prices, they are thriving!