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How to prepare investment portfolios for possible inflation – Finextra

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After a long period of very low inflation in Western Europe and the States, a combination of factors has led to a rather sudden change. Eurozone inflation hit an estimated 3% in August, with one recent study estimating that Britain could see inflation at
3.9% by next year. Much ink has been spilled over the past quarter about whether this represents pandemic recovery or something that represents a longer term turn in the market.

Catherine Mann, a recently appointed policy advisor to the Bank of England, cautioned about suggesting
that the last few months represented a return to the stagflation of the 1970s. “We should always pay attention to historical data. But I think we ought to pay attention to some historical institutional differences as well,” she told an audience during a
speech to an Australian University. Meanwhile an article from the Financial Times suggested the market was acting too sanguine about the possibility of serious and long-term inflation in the United States.

Opinions aren’t necessarily worth much – they are easy to give and there are so many in the market. What’s more impactful is what individual investors decide to do in light of these confusing and sometimes conflicting thoughts around inflation. What does
it mean to inflation-proof a portfolio – and what does that mean in practice? This at one point was considered basic financial hygiene, but there are now multiple generations of investors who have never had to seriously consider the consequences of when cash
is worth less and less each year.

Diversification is the key to preparing for different market conditions. It’s more simple than ever to use a single platform to access a number of investments, each designed for different market conditions. One traditional inflation hedge is gold – although
its price has not always been invertedly correlated to the value of cash – which is now simple to access through different exchange traded funds. Other funds from asset managers are specifically designed for inflationary periods or long-tail events with the
ability to increase allocations if concerns about inflation grow.

Other types of investments might become less attractive if inflation persists, at least with their current rates of return. Sovereign bonds are a particularly problematic investing for those believing inflation will last for a period time, as interest rates
across the development world are near all-time lows. With the interest rates close to or negative for certain sovereign bonds, they represent a particularly unattractive investment if you believe the baseline inflation will be far above this line.

Further afield are newer types of investments, such as cryptocurrencies, that some believe may offer inflation protection. These are still generally not available through direct investing platforms, although funds featuring digital assets may soon become
available in the United Kingdom, pending regulatory approval. Property and certain types of real estate trusts are also used by some to protect against inflation, although these can be complex with several layers of fees.

The great news is that a modern combined investing, banking and saving platform such as the one from Fineco has many tools that allow investors to both keep track of changing economic data and also then quickly make portfolio adjustments to react to how
they believe the market will change. This also can mean shifting from one jurisdiction where inflation remains stubbornly high to another where prices are more stable. You don’t have to have all of the answers, but it’s now easy to adjust strategy as the market
shifts – whether than means more or less inflation in our future. 

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Bukele steps up El Salvador’s bet on sliding bitcoin; buys another 150 coins

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El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said the Central American country had acquired an additional 150 bitcoins after the digital currency’s value slumped again, enlarging his bet on the cryptocurrency despite criticism.

Bitcoin, the world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency, is down about 30% from the year’s high of $69,000 on Nov. 10. Bukele said last week that El Salvador had acquired 100 additional coins to take advantage of the currency weakening.

Late on Friday, Bukele announced the government had stepped into the market again.

“El Salvador just bought the dip! 150 coins at an average USD price of ~$48,670,” Bukele wrote on Twitter.

Until Nov. 26, El Salvador had 1,220 bitcoins.

In September El Salvador became the world’s first nation to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, a move that generated global media attention but also attracted criticism from the opposition and foreign financial institutions.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Monday that El Salvador should not use bitcoin as legal tender, considering risks related to the cryptocurrency.

 

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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Trump's Media Company to Get $1 Billion in Investment From SPAC – Bloomberg

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Former President Donald Trump’s media company said Digital World Acquisition Corp. has agreed to a $1 billion investment following the combination of both companies. 

Trump first announced the plan to merge with the so-called blank-check firm in October that would help enable him to regain a social media presence after he was kicked off Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. platforms. The new enterprise will be in operation by the first quarter of 2022 and plans to start a social media company called Truth Social. 

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Gold Is a Green Investment. Owning it Can Be Tricky. – Barron's

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Gold bullion bars


David Gray/AFP via Getty Images

Most investors don’t think of gold as a sustainable investment. Historically, it has required large amounts of water, energy and toxic chemicals to mine and refine. Mining companies have been accused of exploiting developing countries and their workers.

Yet gold bullion—as opposed to miners—is surprisingly green. Once fashioned into bars, it just sits in vaults, having virtually no carbon footprint. According to the World Gold Council, there are 201,296 metric tons of previously mined gold in storage. https://www.gold.org/goldhub/data/above-ground-stocks Gold miners increase that stock by just 1.5% a year—3,000 tons.

Two money managers,




Franklin Templeton

and Sprott Asset Management, recently filed with regulators to launch the Franklin Responsibly Sourced Gold https://www.nyse.com/publicdocs/nyse/markets/nyse-arca/rule-filings/filings/2021/SR-NYSEArca-2021-73%20Pdf.pdf and the Sprott ESG Gold https://www.sec.gov/rules/sro/nysearca/2021/34-92506.pdf exchange-traded funds. 

According to its filing, the Franklin ETF will seek “to predominantly hold responsibly sourced gold bullion, defined as London Good Delivery gold bullion bars produced after January 2012 in accordance with London Bullion Market Association’s Responsible Gold Guidance.” https://www.lbma.org.uk/responsible-sourcing/guidance-documents The Sprott one seeks to buy gold from miners that meet its proprietary environmental, social and governance criteria in addition to market association approval. 

Neither Sprott nor Franklin Templeton were available to speak while seeking regulatory approval. 

The London bullion association’s 2012 Responsible Gold Guidance required gold to be sourced from refiners not linked to human rights abuses or armed groups, i.e., “conflict gold.” The association’s standards have evolved since then to include environmental criteria. Still, gold sourced after 2012 before those criteria were added could come from dirtier sources.

A 2021 open-letter https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/open-letter-lbma-concerns-responsible-sourcing-programme-fails-curtail-human-rights-abuse-and-illicit-gold-supply-chain/signed by five human rights groups said “downstream customers cannot have confidence that the LBMA’s Good Delivery gold is free of human rights abuses and not linked to conflict.”

The association responded to these accusations with its own open letter,  https://www.lbma.org.uk/articles/lbma-responds-to-ngo-open-letter-on-responsible-sourcing stating that it “recognizes the challenges that all audit programs face, and whilst no program is perfect, we remain committed to continuous improvements, and ongoing engagement with stakeholders in addressing the supply-chain risks.”

The new Sprott ETF should have a higher standard for sourcing gold because of its unique ESG criteria.  But its regulatory filing acknowledges that it may not be able to find enough ESG-approved gold, so that the trust expects to hold some amount of unallocated [i.e., non-ESG approved] gold at any given point in time.”   

All of which is to say these new ETFs may not be much greener than traditional bullion ones. 

Yet gold’s carbon advantages are real. According to one study https://www.gold.org/goldhub/research/gold-and-climate-change-decarbonising-investment-portfolios by climate-risk analysis firm Urgentem, for a portfolio of 70% equities and 30% bonds, introducing a 10% allocation to gold (and reducing the other asset holdings by equal amounts) reduced portfolio carbon emissions intensity by 7%, while a 20% gold allocation lowered it by 17%.

“The emissions associated with holding gold are frankly a lot less than holding equities,” says Terry Heymann, CFO of gold trade-group World Gold Council.

While bullion as a low-carbon investment makes sense, Heymann posits that the mining industry is also becoming ESG-friendly, pointing to the World Gold Council’s 2019 publishing of its Responsible Gold Mining Principles https://www.gold.org/about-gold/gold-supply/responsible-gold/responsible-gold-mining-principles, which the Council’s 33 member companies—including the world’s largest miners—have all committed to following. The principles support the Paris Climate Accord’s goal of producing zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

“You’re going to see a lot more use of renewables [at mines]— solar, hydro, or wind,” Heymann says. “Secondly, you’re going to see a move towards electric vehicles.” He points to miner Newmont’s (NEM) “all-electric mine” in Northern Ontario, https://mining.ca/mining-stories/goldcorp-electric/ which has a fleet of battery-powered trucks as an example of the industry’s future.

Yet miners have a long way to go to convince ESG experts. The differences between bullion and mining stocks are “night and day,” says Adam Strauss, co-manager of Appleseed (APPLX), an ESG-focused fund which has 7% of its portfolio in the




Sprott Physical Gold Trust

(PHYS).  “Gold mining is a very dirty business.”

A 2020 report by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Development and the Responsible Mining Foundation called the mining industry’s efforts to achieve its sustainable development goals so far “cosmetic.”  https://www.responsibleminingfoundation.org/app/uploads/RMF_CCSI_Mining_and_SDGs_EN_Sept2020.pdf Although she acknowledges individual miners differ, Perrine Toledano, the CCSI’s mining analyst, says that some miners “just cherry-pick the [sustainable goal] they want and then communicate on its positive impact.”

Could an ESG ETF tracking just the 33 World Gold Council member companies that have agreed to its principles be sustainable? Sustainalytics, one of the largest ESG ratings services, gives mixed grades to different members, calling the ESG-risk of Chinese miner Zijin Mining Group “Severe,” and rating it one of the worst companies in its entire coverage universe.

That said, those ratings could improve in time. “Every single one of our members is committed to implement the responsible gold mining principles, and I know that work is under way,” says Heymann. “We’ve got four members in China, and they’re all committed to doing this.” This March, Zijin issued a release regarding its “ESG Report to emphasize Sustainable Development,”stating  it continues “to improve our ESG performance in environmental and ecological protection, human rights protection, anticorruption, responsible supply chain and community engagement.” and that it invested 1.92 billion renminbi in 2020, a 51% increase over 2019, on environmental protection.

“Having some sort of [ESG] guidance is very positive,” Sustaianlytics mining analyst Dana Sasarean says about the Council’s principles. “If the world requires gold, I think it’s important to make sure that this gold is produced in the most responsible way. But there are challenges.”

Write to editors@barrons.com

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