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Commodity ETFs in Focus as Fed Unleashes QE3

Eric Dutram

Although stock markets are approaching highs yet again, the job market remains uncomfortably weak for many. Unemployment rates are still stuck above 8%, while the latest report saw roughly four times as many people leave the workforce as those that found a job.

With this backdrop, many investors were looking to the Fed to spur more economic growth via another round of quantitative easing, or QE. While it certainly wasn’t a sure thing, Bernanke and company delivered in a near unanimous decision—an 11 to 1 vote—a third round of QE on the American economy (see Long Term Treasury ETFs: Ultimate QE3 Play?).

This latest round of easing will largely take the form of mortgage-backed security purchases at a pace of roughly $40 billion a month. The FOMC will also continue, through the end of the year, its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings, while it will also rollover agency debt and agency MBS into more MBS as the old ones come due.

The committee also pledged to keep rates at their extremely low levels until at least through mid-2015, suggesting that rock bottom rates could be in the marketplace for quite some time to come. In fact, rates have been stuck at their current level of between 0% and 0.25% since the end of 2008, meaning that nearly a decade could pass before investors see the Fed Funds rate rise above the 1% mark (read Escape Low Yields with These Three Bond ETFs).

Stock investors largely cheered this release, as the Dow, Nasdaq, and the S&P 500 all finished the day up more than 1.3%. Meanwhile, commodities also rose broadly on the day while investors saw a modest decline in the value of the U.S. dollar as well as the 10 Year note’s yield, although both finished just marginally lower on the session.

In the ETF world, investors saw robust trading levels in a number of securities as the bull rush was on for risky assets once again. In particular, investors saw a few big winners on the day and we have highlighted a couple of the biggest gainers that rose to the occasion after the Fed-induced stimulus hit the markets:

  • SPDR Gold Trust (GLD)/iShares COMEX Gold Trust (IAU) - The gold market was a big winner today as volume was far above normal thanks to the Fed’s announcement. The additionally monetary stimulus was definitely viewed as inflationary by some, as the gold ETF market saw gains of roughly 2% on the day (watch Precious Metal ETFs 101).
  • iShares Silver Trust (SLV)/ ETF Securities Silver Trust (SIVR) - Silver is also seen as a way to protect against inflationary shocks, however, it is usually more volatile than its gold counterpart. This worked in the white metal’s advantage today as most silver ETFs added roughly 4.4% on the day on volume that was far higher than what investors usually see in the silver market.
  • Silver and Gold mining ETFs - Often times mining ETFs act as a leveraged play on the underlying metal, making them excellent picks in bull market environments. This turned out to be the case during Thursday trading as the Global X Silver Miners ETF (SIL) added about 7.5% while the most popular gold mining ETF, GDX, gained just over 5% on the day (see Are Silver ETFs Back on Track?).
  • Risky, commodity driven emerging markets - With the risk-on trade back in the market, investors flowed towards shaky developing nations that have a strong history of commodity production. This was the case for the Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX) as it added roughly 3.9% on 2x the normal volume, and one of the world’s top silver producers, Peru, and its ETF, EPU, as this fund gained more than 3.3% on solid volume during today’s session.

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Disclosure: Long IAU, gold and silver bullion.

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