If you got caught up in the tech or housing frenzy, you know the perils of lingering too long. These three commodities aren't in dangerous territory, but the run-ups may be over.
Price: $948 an ounce
Buyable as: streetTracks Gold Trust ETF (symbol GLD)
Gold, which sold for $300 an ounce in 2002, was recently hovering near $1,000. Gold is seen as a hedge against inflation and political turmoil, but it has little use beyond jewelry. Supply and demand are remarkably steady, so sentiment is the prime mover of price. Experts link the surge in gold to the weak dollar, fear of rising inflation and the collapse of real estate. Many investors and speculators apparently agree, as volume in gold surrogates mining stocks, gold funds and derivatives linked to gold continues to rise. Gold won't blow up soon it'll just correct as the dollar rallies mildly. The yellow metal should trade between $850 and $1,000.
Price: $18 an ounce
Buyable as: iShares Silver Trust ETF (SLV)
Silver's value has climbed faster than gold's, up nearly fourfold since 2004. But the two metals don't always move in lock step. Silver has more industrial uses, even with film photography slowly going the way of the horse and buggy. As a result, silver correlates more closely than gold with the overall health of the economy. Silver also tracks stocks more closely. In a global bout of stagflation, gold will get the panic buyers and silver will be an also-ran. Silver isn't in bubble-land; it's just not a great buy.
Price: $880 to $935 a ton
Buyable as: ArcelorMittal (MT), Nucor (NUE), Steel Dynamics (STLD)Steel prices are up 50 percent since 2005, and news of another hike seems to come every week. There's no large backlog of inventory to stem the increases, which are the result of rising costs for coal and scrap metal, plus surging orders for construction. Even a deep U.S. recession wouldn't get in the way because so much steel is shipped to Asia, the Persian Gulf and Eastern Europe. A basket of steel stocks is the way to invest. Even after stupendous share-price increases since 2003, the likes of Nucor and Steel Dynamics still sport price-earnings ratios in the teens. Global giant ArcelorMittal, based in Luxembourg, is up 2500 percent in five years but still trades at just 11 times earnings.
Jeffrey R. Kosnett is a senior editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to [email protected]