Friday 19 July 2019

Noonan sells his own Euro shares to invest in gold

Bearish minister hedges against euro deflation

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan

Nick Webb, Business editor

Michael Noonan is investing in gold on his own behalf.

The Minister for Finance bought the traditional hedge against tough times by buying into the SPDR Gold shares exchange fund over the last year, according to Noonan's latest declaration to the Oireachtas, which detail his private financial interests.

The grim outlook for Europe's economy last year seems to have inspired the minister's decision to sell out of a fund that tracked top European shares.

Noonan's personal investments give an insight into his thinking and his views on the risk and opportunities facing the global and European economies and markets. He has a track record stretching back decades of canny private investments.

Oireachtas members must declare any shares or financial interests they hold with a value of over €13,000 each year.

The Minister's decision to divert some of his personal wealth into gold may hint at uncertain times ahead. However some analysts believe that the prospect of deflation in moribund eurozone economies could lift gold prices this year, boosting Noonan's wealth.

Gold is an asset that has outperformed in times of both inflation and deflation. The SPDR Gold Shares exchange traded fund (ETF) has fallen by close to 20pc in the last 12 months and was trading at close to a five-year low last week.

The economic uncertainty shrouding Europe probably inspired Noonan's decision to sell off a fund that tracked Europe's top companies, when he dumped his stake in the Lyxor EuroStoxx 50 ETF over the last year.

However the Finance Minister has also bought Portuguese sovereign debt in the last year, purchasing a Portugal 4.35pc October 2017 government bond.

This is a major vote of confidence in the prospects of Portugal recovering from its economic crisis and an investment that is generating a solid return.

Portuguese bond yields fell to record lows last week. Yields on 10-year bonds fell below 1.7pc this week from record highs of nearly 18pc in early 2012 - at the height of Portugal's debt crisis.

Previously Noonan bought 10-year German bonds at the height of the economic crisis in Ireland. He invested in German 1.75pc 15/04/2020 bonds, with filings noting that they were "sold on 11th April 2011."

The Limerick TD has also ploughed some of his wealth into US treasuries as the US dollar strengthens and the Fed prepares to end its economic supports.

He invested in the SPDR Barclays Capital TIPs exchange traded fund in 2014. The Barclays fund is trading towards the bottom of its range and is slightly down over the last year.

He has also invested in agricultural commodities buying a "Market Vectors Agribusiness ETF" in the last year. The Minister had already bought a stake in the ETFS Agricultural commodities ETF two years ago, according to earlier filings. The Market Vectors Fund is up over 7pc since last October.

Noonan has also made huge profits from a well timed punt on the US banking system. He holds a stake in the SPDR KBW US Banks exchange traded fund, which owns shares in a range of US banks.

He has held these shares since his appointment as Finance Minister in March 2011.

This fund is up over 20pc in the last three years. Noonan has also put his own money into backing the UK stockmarket. He has held a stake in the iShares FTSE100 exchange traded fund, which is up 17.4pc since he became Finance minister four years ago.

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