GNR: Natural Resources ETF, Strong Inflation Hedge, 4.5% Yield

Summary

  • Inflation remains elevated.
  • GNR outperforms during periods of high prices and rising inflation.
  • An overview of the fund follows.
  • This idea was discussed in more depth with members of my private investing community, CEF/ETF Income Laboratory. Learn More »

U.S. On Verge Of Record Corn Crop Despite Drought In Several Farm States

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Inflation has been an issue across the globe for months, and sees no signs of abating. Inflation reached 8.3% this past August, significantly higher than average, and higher than the Federal Reserve's long-term 2.0% target. Increased inflation has led to rising cost of living and expenses for most investors, and declining prices for most asset classes, a dreadful combination. Investors are pivoting towards inflation-protected investments, hedges, and funds, to protect their portfolios and retirements in these tough times.

The SPDR S&P Global Natural Resources ETF (NYSEARCA:GNR), an equity index ETF investing in global energy, agriculture, and metals and mining companies, is one such fund. GNR's underlying holdings have above-average exposure to inflation, and so see strong growth and market-beating performance when inflation is high, as it currently is. GNR is a moderately effective inflation hedge, yields 4.5%, and is a buy.

GNR - Basics

  • Investment Manager: BlackRock
  • Dividend Yield: 4.5%
  • Expense Ratio: 0.15%
  • Total Returns CAGR 10Y: 4.1%

GNR - Overview and Holdings Analysis

GNR is an equity index ETF, investing in global energy, agriculture, and metals and mining companies. It tracks the S&P Global Natural Resources Index, an index of these same securities. It is an incredibly simple index, investing in the 90 largest companies in the aforementioned industries, subject to a basic set of inclusion criteria. It is a market-cap weighted index.

Currently, the fund focuses on metals and mining companies, with significant energy investments, and smaller agricultural investments. These asset allocations simply reflect current market conditions, including industry / company market-caps. Industry exposures are as follows.

GNR Sector Allocations

GNR

GNR is a global equity fund, with investments in dozens of countries, and most relevant regions. The fund currently focuses on the Anglosphere, with significant investments in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. These countries have significant energy, agricultural, and mineral resources, and very developed equity markets, so it is only natural for the fund to focus on them. Country exposures are as follows.

GNR Country Allocation

GNR

Finally, the fund currently invests in 102 securities, above its 90 holdings target. The difference is due to nominal investments in around a dozen securities, most of which are inconsequential to the fund or its investors. GNR's largest holdings are as follows.

GNR Largest Holdings

GNR

GNR - Inflation Exposure

GNR focuses on industries whose revenues and earnings are strongly dependent on the prices of basic materials and inputs. Energy companies, for instance, are strongly dependent on energy prices for their revenues, earnings, and overall shareholder returns. Companies like Exxon (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) perform well when oil prices are high, less well when oil prices are low. The same is true for agricultural companies and agricultural prices, and for mining companies and mineral prices.

These three industries and prices tend to be key drivers of inflation. Energy, basic materials, and metals, are input goods for most consumer and industrial goods, so when their prices increase, the price of basically everything increases too. Agricultural products and prices are important for all consumers, we all have to eat, so rising prices in this sector tend to be acutely felt by everyone. As such, energy, agriculture, metals and mining, companies all tend to outperform when inflation is high, as has been the case YTD, especially for energy companies.

XLE, XME, FTAG, SPY Total Return Price % Change
Data by YCharts

GNR focuses on industries and companies which outperform when inflation is high, so the fund, naturally, outperforms under said conditions as well.

GNR, SPY Total Return Price % Change
Data by YCharts
GNR outperforms when inflation is high, a significant benefit for the fund and its shareholders, and one which could easily lead to significant returns in the coming months. Inflation remains sky-high, having recently reached 8.3%, significantly above-average. On the other hand, the Fed is hiking rates aggressively, which should result in decreased inflation, sooner or later. In my opinion, inflation will remain elevated for a few more months before normalizing later in the year, but I've thought this for quite a while, and inflation has proven more persistent than I expected.

GNR's underlying holdings are dependent on prices for their revenues and earnings, so these should remain strong even if inflation normalizes somewhat. Shareholder returns would follow. As an example, GNR's underlying holdings currently sport an earnings yield of 16.0%. Assuming no further price increases, equivalent to saying inflation plummets to zero, long-term shareholder returns should roughly equal 16.0%, a bit higher once you account for organic growth. Point being, GNR's underlying holdings are incredibly profitable right now, with current prices. Further price hikes / inflation would almost certainly benefit the fund, but conditions are quite strong right now regardless.

On a more negative note, GNR's strong inflation exposure cuts both ways: the fund outperforms when prices are high and rising, underperforms when prices are low and decreasing. Expect significant losses and underperformance during commodity price crunches, as was the case during the early 2010s. GNR was down by more than 27% from inception to early 2016, while the S&P 500 was up by more than 100% for the same. These were disastrous results for the fund, and would almost certainly happen during any future commodity price crunch as well.

GNR, SPY Total Return Price % Change
Data by YCharts

GNR - Dividend Analysis

GNR currently sports an above-average 4.5% dividend yield, as rising commodity prices boost the revenues, earnings, and obviously dividends, of its underlying holdings. The fund's yield is good, if not fantastic, on an absolute basis, and quite a bit higher than the equity market average.

GNR, SPY, VT, VTI, QQQ Dividend Yield
Data by YCharts
GNR's dividends have also seen strong growth since inception, with dividend growth averaging more than 20% per year during the past five years. Growth has accelerated, reaching +60% these past twelve months. Although recent growth figures are unlikely to persist, the fund's long-term dividend growth track-record is fantastic, and commodity prices remain elevated, so further growth seems likely.

GNR - Performance Analysis

GNR's performance is strongly dependent on commodity prices, and its performance track-record reflects that. The fund tends to outperform when commodity prices are high, as has been the case these past twelve months. The fund tends to underperform when commodity prices are low, as was the case in the first half of the 2010s. As commodity prices have mostly declined / been low during the past decade, the fund has underperformed since the same.

GNR's long-term underperformance is a negative for the fund and its shareholders, but I do believe that future performance will be materially stronger. Economic conditions and industry valuations are very different today than in the past, so performance should be very different as well.

GNR Performance

ETF.com - Chart by Author

Conclusion - Buy

GNR's underlying holdings have above-average exposure to inflation, and so see strong growth and market-beating performance when inflation is high. GNR is an effective inflation hedge, yields 4.5%, and is a buy.

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This article was written by

Juan de la Hoz profile picture
7.38K Followers
CEF/ETF income and arbitrage strategies, 8%+ portfolio yields

Juan has previously worked as a fixed income trader, financial analyst, operations analyst, and economics professor in Canada and Colombia. He has hands-on experience analyzing, trading, and negotiating fixed-income securities, including bonds, money markets, and interbank trade financing, across markets and currencies. He focuses on dividend, bond, and income funds, with a strong focus on ETFs, and enjoys researching strategies for income investors to increase their returns while lowering risk.

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I provide my work regularly to CEF/ETF Income Laboratory with articles that have an exclusivity period, this is noted in such articles. CEF/ETF Income Laboratory is a Marketplace Service provided by Stanford Chemist, right here on Seeking Alpha.

Disclosure: I/we have no stock, option or similar derivative position in any of the companies mentioned, and no plans to initiate any such positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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