Global gold-backed ETF holdings and flows

Regional and fund-specific analysis of gold holdings and flows in USD.

Gold-backed ETFs and similar products account for a significant part of the gold market, with institutional and individual investors using them to implement many of their investment strategies. Flows in ETFs often highlight short-term and long-term opinions and desires to holding gold. The data on this page tracks gold held in physical form by open-ended ETFs and other products such as close-end funds, and mutual funds. Most funds included in this list are fully backed by physical gold.

Outlook 2019: Economic trends and their impact on gold

Monthly flows

ETF monthly flows

Data as of

Sources: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, Shanghai Gold Exchange, World Gold Council; Disclaimer

Global gold-backed ETF holdings grew incrementally in March

Holdings in global gold-backed ETFs and similar products rose slightly in March by 3 tonnes(t) to 2,483t, equivalent to US$183mn in inflows. Global assets under management (AUM) fell by 1.6% in US dollars to US$103bn over the month, driven by the 2% decline in the price of gold during the same period. Global gold-backed ETF flows remain positive on the year (US$1.9bn, 1.9% AUM) on the back of strong January inflows.

All regions saw marginal increases in holdings. Interestingly, by month-end, North American funds had fully reversed the US$2bn in outflows seen earlier in the month. The reversal coincided with a rally in gold, in US dollar terms, which was linked to the Fed’s adoption of a more neutral monetary policy stance. Our recent report The impact of monetary policy on gold finds that, historically, a change in the Fed’s policy from tightening to neutral results in gold increasing meaningfully over the subsequent 12 months.

In March, gold trading volumes increased 15% above the 2018 averages to US$125bn per day. Sentiment and positioning in COMEX futures continued to increase from their lows, as the price of gold moved higher during the second half of the month. However, these levels still remain below historical averages.

US stocks had their strongest quarterly performance in 10 years in Q1, supported in part by a decline in bond yields. However, the extent of the divergence in expectations about the strength of the economy between stock and bond investors is noteworthy. The rebound in stocks have again pushed valuations to historically high levels, signaling confidence by investors. Bond holders appear to have a more pessimistic view of the global economy and warnings signs have emerged in global fixed income markets. For example, German 10-year bund yields turned negative for the first time since 2016, while the US 3-month / 10-yr curve inverted: a phenomenon that almost always precedes a recession in the US.

This decoupling between stock and fixed income markets, combined with US/China trade relations and Brexit uncertainty are some examples of dynamics that continue to worry investors.

Looking forward, we believe that financial market uncertainty, as well as the shift in monetary policy and possibly a range-bound US dollar will support investments in gold (see our 2019 Outlook).

Regional flows

North American funds reversed early month outflows to finish the month with incremental inflows

  • North American funds had inflows of 2.5t (US$104mn, 0.2% AUM)
  • Holdings in European funds rose fractionally by 0.3t (US$53mn, 0.1%)
  • Funds listed in Asia also increased slightly by 0.3t (US$17mn, 0.5%)**
  • Other regions were virtually flat, rising by 0.2t (US$9mn, 0.7%)

Individual flows

iShares Gold Trust led global inflows following mid-month strength in gold prices

  • In North America, iShares Gold Trust added 2t (US$87mn, 0.7%) followed by SPDR® Gold MiniShares which added 0.5t (US$19mn, 3%)
  • European inflows were led by Xtrackers Physical GBP Hedged which added 1.5t (US$64mn, 89%) and Xetra which added 1.5t (US$37mn, 0.45%); ETFS Physical had outflows of 4.6t (US$190mn, 2.7%) and UBS CHF Hedged had outflows of 1.2t (US$49mn, 5.6%)
  • In China, Huaan Yifu had outflows of 1.1t (US$45mn, 4.4%)

Long-term trends

ETF holdings have grown 2% in 2019

  • Late March inflows appear to resume an upward trend in holdings after a possibly temporary reversal in February; to date, 2019 has collective inflows of 42t (US$1.9bn, 1.9%), driven by strong inflows in January
  • Total holdings in tonnes (2,483), remain near levels last seen in early 2013, when the price of gold was 25% higher
  • Holdings in UK-based gold-backed ETFs remain near all-time highs, likely driven by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit
  • Low-cost ETFs added 22t (~US$878mn) in the past nine months, representing growth of 67%*** These low-cost flows represent all of the net inflows in North America over the same time period

**Note: We calculate gold-backed ETF flows both in ounces/tonnes of gold and in US dollars because these two metrics are relevant in understanding funds’ performance. The change in tonnes gives a direct measure of how holdings evolve, while the dollar value of flows is a finance industry standard that gives a perspective of how much investment reaches the funds. This month, the reported flows measured in tonnes of gold and their dollar value equivalent seem inconsistent across regions. Both figures are correct. The disparity is due to the interaction between the performance of the gold price intra-month, the direction of the dollar and the timing of the flows.

***Low-cost US-based gold backed ETFs are defined as gold-backed ETFs that trade on US markets with annual management fees of 20bps or less.

 

ETF regional tables

Data as of

Sources: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, World Gold Council; Disclaimer

‘Global Inflows’ refers to the sum of changes of all funds that saw a net increase in ounces held over a given period (eg, month, quarter, etc.). Conversely, ‘global outflows’ aggregates changes from funds that saw ounces decline over the same period. See further notes and definitions at the bottom of this page.

ETF top inflows

Data as of

Sources: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, World Gold Council; Disclaimer

Changes in tonnes for some of the funds are not directly measured but estimated. This may result in a change in the direction between tonnes and flows when these are small due to variations in FX between the timing of the fund's NAV and gold price benchmark

ETF top outflows

Data as of

Sources: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, World Gold Council; Disclaimer

Changes in tonnes for some of the funds are not directly measured but estimated. This may result in a change in the direction between tonnes and flows when these are small due to variations in FX between the timing of the fund's NAV and gold price benchmark.

Assets under management

ETF assets under management

Data as of

Sources: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, World Gold Council; Disclaimer

Annual fund flows

ETF annual fund flows

Data as of

Sources: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, World Gold Council; Disclaimer

Length and frequency

Flows and holdings are updated monthly. Data is available on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis, presented in tables and charts.

Update Schedule

Data is updated monthly within one week of the previous month-end.

Units

Units are based on tonnage and USD flows.

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