The Glitter of Precious-Metals ETFs

These five exchange-traded funds give investors a stake in gold, silver, platinum and palladium.

For decades, gold bugs have argued the bullish case for their favorite metal. In recent years, they’ve actually been right. The price of gold has climbed steadily for the past nine years, from $277 an ounce in 2001 to a record high (not adjusted for inflation) of $1,213 in December 2009 as investors piled into the yellow metal because of its reputation as a safe haven and as a hedge against a falling dollar. Gold closed at $1,115 on February 2.

The rising price and the rise of exchange-traded funds have attracted investors in droves. Thanks to ETFs, investors can buy gold without having to open their own Fort Knox. Last year, investors around the world bought 51.2 million ounces of gold, and 35% of that amount came through ETFs. In the case of silver, the figure is even more astounding. Investors snatched up 172 million ounces of silver last year, and 87% of it was via ETFs. Silver closed February 2 at $17 an ounce, well below the record of $50, set in 1980, but far above the $5 level of recent years.

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Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance