Big box retailer Costco is known for cheap prices but also sells things you might or might not buy on impulse, such as a kilo of caviar, a Victorian glass greenhouse or a $6,000 doomsday prepper food kit.
The company is selling two gold options online priced at less than $2,000: a one-ounce gold bar from Rand Refinery and one-ounce bars from PAMP Suisse. Only Costco members can buy the non-refundable assets and are limited to two per single membership.
“I’ve gotten a couple of calls that people have seen online that we’ve been selling 1-ounce gold bars,” Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said on Costco’s quarterly earnings call Tuesday. “Yes, but when we load them on the site, they’re typically gone within a few hours.”
Spot gold, favored by investors as a hedge against inflation and political and economic turbulence, was trading at around $1,911.81 an ounce on Friday morning. The precious metal has experienced price volatility so far in 2023. It started the year at $1,830.10 and is forecasted to end 2023 at $2,126 — a year-to-year change of +16 percent, according to Coin Price Forecast.
Purchases by central banks, worries about a deceleration in the U.S. economy and jewelry purchases have helped prop up gold prices, according to data tracker Goldhub. But higher interest rates are weighing against that, and some analysts wonder if there’s more volatility ahead.
The Costco gold rush is a gauge of “the average American citizen’s trust in our fiscal and monetary policy,” Irons wrote. “These aren’t shoppers heading over to Kitco — these are people casually picking up some gold when they buy dog food and toilet paper.”
Irons blames public skepticism on a “$7 trillion liquidity bomb pumped into the system as a result of covid and its related stimulus. Then, we have the fastest acceleration of interest rates to the highest federal funds rate we have seen in decades,” he added. “Rates across the board, including mortgage rates, have hit multi-decade highs in record time. In addition, we have a stock market that appears to me to be insanely overvalued and priced purely for speculation…”
It’s possible that Costco’s gold bars have been so popular because gold prices are down, wrote David Moadel, chief analyst and market researcher for Portfolio Wealth Global, for Investor Place.
“However, this phenomenon also speaks volumes about investors’ fear of a stock market downturn,” he continued. “Earlier this month, it looked like the per-ounce gold price might finally surpass $2,000 and stay there. Yet, gold recently dropped below $1,900.”
Another popular item available online is Costco’s Readywise 150 Serving Emergency Food Bucket, Moadel noted. “Is the survivalist/’prepper’ crowd gearing up for something to happen in the U.S. economy and markets? That’s one angle, but we can also view this phenomenon as a surge in gold’s popularity as a perceived safe-haven asset,” he wrote. “For folks who don’t trust the traditional portfolio mix of 60% stocks and 40% bonds (a combo that performed poorly in 2022), gold is an old standby that’s trading at a discount in 2023.”
You don’t have to wait in a virtual line and buy Costco gold, Moadel pointed out. “There are other places, online and in real life that sell gold in various forms.”