The Other Metal Superstars

By Aaron Levitt | December 07, 2010 AAA

Nothing has captured investors' fascination in 2010 more than gold, and rightfully so. With meager economic growth and mushrooming national debts plaguing much of the developed world, investors have flocked to metal's safe haven. Gold prices have surged nearly 30% year to date and the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE:GLD) has amassed nearly $60 billion in assets. New funds like the Global X Gold Explorers ETF (NASDAQ:GLDX) have launched, allowing investors to tap into gold miners. And while gold should belong in every portfolio as a safety net, other metals deserve attention.
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Industrial and Precious Gains
Over $100 billion in new money went into commodity investment vehicles in 2009 and 2010 is shaping up to shatter that amount. Even though gold has been the default investment, other metals have had impressive runs. Silver prices have rallied more than 70% this year. Platinum and palladium prices have tacked on 17% and 87%, respectively. As emerging markets continue to expand at a rapid pace, many materials are benefiting from both their safe-haven status and their industrial nature. Exploding populations and increasingly complex and modern standards of living require more of these resources. Metals are needed to create infrastructure and new consumer products. Growing demand will push prices up over the long term and many analysts believe that the time of historically low prices of the world's resources is over.

The recent monetary policies from numerous central banks have helped fuel the commodities boom. If the world's developed nations become organized, the metals complex outside of gold will boom. However, much of this potential growth is a long term play.

Adding Exposure
As investor demand rises, Wall Street provides. Over the last two years, an growing number of exchange traded funds (ETFs) dealing with various segments of the commodities sectors have launched. These include plenty of funds that track the various metals markets. Funds such as the iPath DJ-UBS Industrial Metals ETN (NYSE:JJM) lets investors play whole swaths of the market at once. However, there are plenty of choices for portfolios for specific bets outside of gold.

As the growth of catalytic converters for cars in China, India and other emerging markets surges, palladium is seeing huge boosts in demand. The need palladium in auto catalysts is expected to rise by 27% through 2010. The metal also remains well below its all-time-high price of $1,110.50. As well, platinum is seeing its price rise as this metal is a major component in high-voltage wires, fiber optics and hard drives. Both the ETFS Physical Palladium Shares (NASDAQ:PALL) and the ETFS Physical Platinum Shares (ARCA:PPLT) offer a way to play the increasing prices for the metals. Another option is the First Trust ISE Global Platinum Index (NASDAQ:PLTM), which tracks 25 miners within the platinum metals group, such as North American Palladium (NYSE:PAL).

With concerns over potential supply cuts from China growing, interest in rare earth metals have also grown. Investors may never have heard of tantalum, neodymium or samarium, but they play an important role in the world's economy. The Market Vectors Rare Earth/Strategic Metals ETF (NASDAQ:REMX) follows a basket of 25 companies engaged in the mining for strategic metals, including titanium, molybdenum and the rare earths. Expenses run 0.57% for the fund.

Finally, as copper has surged over the past year on increasing global economic activity, opportunities may exist in "less popular" base metals. Global demand for tin has outpaced supply and lead has fallen from its peaks. Both the iPath DJ-UBS Tin ETN (NYSE:JJT) and iPath DJ-UBS Lead ETN (NYSE:LD) offer access to these commodities.

Bottom Line
Gold has captured the spotlight within the commodities world as numerous factors have supported its price. However, investors shouldn't just focus on the yellow stuff. There are plenty of other opportunities for investors across the metals spectrum. Funds such as the newly launched ETFS White Metals Basket Trust (NASDAQ:WITE) allow investors to tap into these other metal superstars. (Of the hundreds of exchange traded funds on the market, some are bound to fail. Learn how to pick the best of the bunch. See 5 Ways To Find A Winning ETF.)

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