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The surge in the price of lithium, the key battery material used to power electric vehicles, is seemingly unstoppable. Lithium carbonate hit a fresh record of 500,500 yuan ($71,315) a ton in China over recent days, with prices more than tripling over the past year. This has had a knock-on effect in terms of inflating the cost of batteries used in electric vehicles, with recent gains driven by strong demand and disruptions at a domestic producing hub.
The China Passenger Car Association has raised its forecast for sales of EVs to a record 6 million this year, double the total in 2021, while battery usage in the nation is also expected to almost double.
Furthermore, Pilbara Minerals (ASX: PLS) announced this week a record spodumene concentrate sale of $7700/tonne.
Both physical uranium and uranium miners are well positioned to benefit as energy security and decarbonization increase in importance. Uranium has been the quiet achiever in the energy space, overshadowed by coal, gas, and oil. Nevertheless, uranium spot prices have increased by 116% since the beginning of 2020 – beating other major asset classes such as the S&P 500, bonds and the US dollar.
With the number of nuclear reactors planned to increase by 35%, governments are signalling the need to embrace nuclear to meet ambitious decarbonization goals. At the same time, a uranium supply deficit remains entrenched and uranium miners may be the recipients of increased investment, which may in turn bring the market back into balance.
Much is being made of gold’s recent price performance, with many questioning whether it can still fulfill its traditional role as a safe-haven asset in turbulent times, as well as a hedge against skyrocketing inflation.
Gold’s relevance is typically measured and interpreted on the basis of its US dollar price performance – but this should not be viewed in perfect isolation – as gold’s performance must also be viewed in the context of how it has performed in terms of other currencies, and also against other asset classes.
The latest report by the World Gold Council (WGC) also makes the case that gold could be a powerful investment in the face of a potential economic recession. The London-based group compared the performance of a number of asset classes during the past seven U.S. recessions going back to 1971, and it found that gold performed the best on average aside from government and corporate bonds.
It’s also important to look more closely at the performance of gold versus the US dollar over different timeframes. Over the past 12 months gold has been outperformed by the US dollar, however over the last five, ten and 20-year periods, gold has significantly outperformed the US dollar.
And if we look at gold’s performance not just within the context of the US dollar price alone, but priced in other major currencies, we see that gold in these currencies has significantly outperformed US dollar gold over the past 10-year period. This is especially true of the Australian dollar, the Japanese yen, Brazilian real and the Euro.
So, the bottom-line is that to formulate a view on gold’s underlying performance and relevance, we need to view it over meaningful timeframes, and also against other asset classes and currencies. On this basis, gold is performing strongly indeed.