You can barely turn the TV on for five minutes without encountering an infomercial praising its value. There are even stores popping up all over the country that specialize in buying and selling gold.
The precious metals darling of Wall Street is sending investors into frenzy. Gold has been on an amazing 10-year rally that has lifted an ounce of gold 580% since 2002 to a recent high of more than $1,700. After the big market rally in July and August, gold is on pace for its 11th consecutive annual gain.
Looking forward, this bullish trend is showing little sign of slowing. The central banks of the world remain committed to flooding the global economy with a wave of liquidity to combat deflation. This dynamic has been on display for the past two months, driving gold back within striking distance of its 52-week high as the market anticipates more action from the Federal Reserve.
But even though gold steals all the headlines, there is a far better way to play the bullish trend in precious metals. In fact, the metal I am talking about is up 68% in the past two years, easily outperforming gold's 38% gain in the same period. And in 2012 alone, this precious metal is up 20% against gold's 10%. Take a look at the outsized gains below.
Just like gold, silver is viewed as an excellent hedge against inflation and currency devaluation. But unlike gold, silver has a wide spread industrial use. That's because silver is one of the best electricity conductors known to man, used in a wide range of applications from batteries to solar power to water-purification systems. These features provide silver with another layer of demand that goes far beyond its use as a hedge against inflation.
But buying and storing precious metals in their physical form can be expensive and risky. After all, no one wants to build a safe in their basement to protect their precious metals. That's why my favorite way to invest in silver is with ProShares Ultra Silver (NYSE: AGQ), an exchange-traded-fund (ETF) that provides twice the daily performance of silver bullion as measured in U.S. dollars for delivery in London.
Providing twice the daily exposure of movement in silver bullion introduces leverage into the investment. This in turn increases volatility, since it will double any gain -- but also loss -- of the metal. Using 200% leverage is a good strategy to free up capital and pursuit additional investment ideas. But it should only be used by investors who understand and are willing to tolerate the risks involved.
ProShares Ultra Silver exploded higher in early 2011, more than tripling in price as silver surged toward $50 an ounce. Take a look at the huge gain below compared to SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE: GLD) and iShares Silver Trust (NYSE: SLV).
Because of ProShares Ultra Silver's use of leverage, this ETF has been gaining in popularity, with assets under management just a pinch under $1 billion. This has also helped fuel liquidity, with average daily volume of 1.9 million shares capable of soaking up big orders. The tight bid-ask spread could also help ensure effective execution and minimize price slippage.
In terms of expenses, ProShares Ultra Silver isn't exactly cheap, with an expense ratio of 2.6% well above its category average of 1%. But it is one of the few leveraged silver ETFs available, so investment options are fairly limited in the space.
Risks to Consider: Using leverage magnifies the intensity of gains and losses, so every investor should be aware of higher risk with these investments. The precious metals trade has also been known for volatility, with multiple sharp pullbacks in the past two years. Although the trend is looking strong right now, lower expectations for central bank activity would weigh on the group.
Action to Take --> The bullish trend is back in play in precious metals, and ProShares Ultra Silver is an aggressive way to play it. When silver spiked above $49 in April 2011, ProShares Ultra Silver surged above $180, an amazing 320% higher from the current price of $56.