31 January, 2024

ETF outflows, together with a modest decline in bar and coin demand, saw total annual gold investment sink to a 10-year low of 945t.

  • Global gold ETFs registered a third consecutive year of net negative tonnage demand; global holdings dropped by 244t (-US$15bn)
  • Annual bar and coin investment totalled 1,190t, down by a modest 3% y/y, in part reflecting base effects of a very strong H2’22
  • A steep drop in European gold investment in 2023 was, to a large degree, countered by strength in China.
Tonnes 2022 2023   Y/y % change
Investment 1,113.0 945.1 -15
Bar & coin 1,222.6 1,189.5 -3
  India 173.6 185.2 7
  China, P.R.:Mainland 218.2 279.5 28
Gold-backed ETFs -109.5 -244.4 -

Source: Bloomberg, Company filings, Metals Focus, World Gold Council

Full-year global investment demand (the sum of bars, coins and ETFs) was the lowest since 2014. Gold ETFs contributed to much of the decline, as global outflows continued. It should be noted however – thanks to a positive gold price performance – that global assets under management (AUM) in these products grew by 6% in US dollar terms. Bar and coin investment moderated as a sharp decline in Europe (largely due to rising interest rates and the cost of living crisis) outweighed strong growth in China and Turkey.

But the investment picture is incomplete without the ‘OTC investment and Other’ category, which was a significant component of gold demand in 2023: it added 450t to demand. The opacity of this element of the market presents challenges in estimating and attributing, but we can say with certainty that much of this annual total came through in Q2, when sizable stock build was seen in several markets – most notably Turkey; this stock build continued in the third and fourth quarters.

Changes in inventories at commodity exchanges mirrored the positive Q4 OTC number, as did the rebound in net managed money positions, which ended 2023 near the year’s highs. In addition, the fact that gold prices reached record levels in Q4, at a time of continued outflows from global ETFs, lends further support to the view that investment demand not captured elsewhere was a major contributor to the positive OTC number.


Chart 5: Holdings of gold ETFs down 244t, led by Europe*

Holdings of gold ETFs down 244t, led by Europe*

Annual change in gold-backed ETFs by region, tonnes

Holdings of gold ETFs down 244t, led by Europe*
Annual change in gold-backed ETFs by region, tonnes
*Data as of 31 December 2023 Source: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, World Gold Council

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

* Data as of 31 December 2023


Holdings of global gold ETFs fell by 244t in 2023 (-7%) with outflows of US$15bn. When allowing for the 15% price gain over the year, total assets under management (AUM) in these products rose 6% to US$214.4bn. From a regional perspective, losses were most marked in Europe, where holdings fell by 180t – the worst annual performance since 2013. Aside from a brief interlude in March, when the US mini-banking crisis sparked a surge of safe-haven demand, the region saw persistent monthly losses throughout the year. Rocketing interest rates, the hawkish stance of local central banks, strong currencies and surging living costs were among the likely factors driving profit-taking. 

North American funds declined by 82t in 2023. Outflows were mainly associated with the surging opportunity cost of holding gold – in the form of higher Treasury yields and a stronger dollar. Outflows were concentrated between June and October, reflecting the sideways/lower gold price trend at that time. They were partially offset by inflows during much of H1 – supported by banking sector turmoil and strong gold price rises – and towards the end of the year when geopolitical concerns heightened and both yields and the dollar fell on intensifying rate cut expectations.

Asia was the only region to see growth in holdings of gold-backed ETFs during 2023: holdings grew by 19t. China was the strongest performer: an increase of 10t exceeded the combined growth of Japan (5t) and India (4t). Global geopolitical tensions, local economic uncertainties, as well as the eye-catching performance of gold in different currencies fueled positive gold ETF demand in these markets. “Other regions” saw a marginal decline in holdings of just 1t. In Turkey, rampant inflationary pressures and a weaker local currency drove strong interest (+3t), but these gains were wiped out by declines in Australia and South Africa, each of which lost 2t.

Outflows from European funds have continued in the opening weeks of 2024 and North American-listed funds have resumed their decline after a two-month respite in November and December. Strong equity performance and continually shifting expectations surrounding the likely path and timing of rate cuts are the likely drivers. Asian funds, meanwhile, have seen a return to modest inflows. 

For a more detailed review of regional activity in global gold-backed ETFs in December and 2023 as a whole, see our latest monthly Gold ETF commentary.


Chart 6: Opposing West v East shifts in bar and coin investment*

Opposing West v East shifts in bar and coin investment*

Annual gold bar and coin demand by region, tonnes

Opposing West v East shifts in bar and coin investment*
Annual gold bar and coin demand by region, tonnes
*Data as of 31 December 2023 Source: Metals Focus, Refinitiv GFMS, World Gold Council

Sources: Metals Focus, Refinitiv GFMS, World Gold Council; Disclaimer

*Data as of 31 December 2023

Bar and coin

Bar and coin demand softened by 3% in 2023, to 1,190t. Growth in the first half was erased by a y/y decline in H2, largely due to base effects: H2’22 was the strongest second half for a decade. This sector of demand has been remarkably steady over that time, explained in part by offsetting Eastern and Western investment motives/trends. And 2023 was no exception: European investment demand fell sharply while key markets in Asia saw growth.


Annual gold bar/coin investment in China reached 280t, a strong 28% recovery from COVID-hit 2022. Full-year demand was boosted by a 35% jump in Q4 to 83t; in fact, H2 demand of 164t was a record for a second half-year in China.

Investment demand was elevated throughout the year and gold remained in the limelight during the fourth quarter. The strong performance of the local gold price attracted investors throughout 2023 – particularly as the local price outperformed relative to the international gold price, thanks to a depreciating yuan. This gold price strength was especially appealing given the disappointing performance of other domestic investments, notably property and equities: local stock markets generated negative annual returns, with the Shanghai Composite index dipping to a one-year low in October.

Meanwhile, the PBoC’s continued run of 14 consecutive monthly additions cemented public opinion around the value of gold as an investment asset.

Extensive coverage by local media, sparked by the above factors, also contributed to the rising popularity of gold bars and coins during the year, while year-end gifting demand likely provided an additional boost in Q4.

Looking ahead, individual gold investment should remain robust this year, but may not repeat 2023’s strength. Central banks globally are likely to further add to their gold reserves, which will continue to draw the attention of gold bar and coin investors. And the environment of elevated geopolitical tension, together with a fragile domestic economic scenario, should further lift safe-haven demand.

But any slowdown in China’s economic growth may limit households’ budgets for gold, particularly if accompanied by continued strength in the local gold price, which is a potential scenario in our Annual outlook. In such an eventuality, investors may choose to wait on the sidelines for a better entry opportunity.


Indian bar and coin investment grew 7% y/y, reversing the prior year’s losses and reaching 185t. Fourth quarter demand of 67t was 64% above the five-year quarterly average.

The downward correction in the gold price elicited a strong investment response in the third and fourth quarters, particularly as the October dip was followed by a sharp rebound that re-affirmed expectations of a positive investment performance. This was matched by interest among physically-backed gold ETF investors, who lifted total holdings in Indian-listed products to a record of 42t by year-end. Similarly, sovereign gold bonds saw increased investment, with the December tranche attracting record high subscriptions.

India’s domestic economy continues to perform well and higher growth forecasts bode well for household spending. Gold bar and coin demand should benefit, particularly as investor sentiment remains positive. That said, any further sharp rises in the gold price could present a short-term headwind, by sparking profit-taking and/or encouraging investors to sit on the sidelines and wait for an opportunity to invest at lower – or at least more stable – levels.

Middle East and Turkey

A strong fourth quarter set the seal on a record year for Turkish gold bar and coin investment. Full-year demand surged to 160t, almost double the total from 2022 – which was itself a very strong year.

The drivers of this rampant gold demand were consistent throughout the year: unrelenting consumer inflation (with unofficial estimates of over 100%), together with the corollary of deeply negative real interest rates, as well as the very limited range of available alternative investment options. Geopolitical tensions, already heightened, played a bigger role in the fourth quarter with the eruption of hostilities much closer to home.

The trend for HNW interest in gold, which was anecdotally reported throughout Q2 and Q3, continued into the fourth quarter, driven by very similar factors. This element of demand falls within the OTC and Other category, but is worth noting as a feature of Turkey’s gold investment landscape in 2023.

The domestic price premium on gold, already persistently high for much of the year, rocketed in Q4 as new regulations were introduced designed to limit the continued inward flood of imported bullion.1 

Continued strength is expected in Turkish investment demand – notwithstanding the persistently eyewatering local gold price levels – as the country faces municipal elections at the end of March, adding to the atmosphere of risk and uncertainty. Similarly, premiums are expected to remain elevated at least until the end of Q1, by which time elections will have concluded.

Investment demand for the Middle Eastern region jumped to a record yearly total of 114t in 2023. Demand was 23% up on an already strong 2022 total. Egypt generated the lion’s share of that growth, with bar and coin demand surging to 30t and obliterating 2022’s previous 19t record. Surging investment demand was primarily a response to parlous domestic economic conditions, notably the sharp depreciation in the domestic pound, which hit consumers hard. The fourth quarter brought added impetus from domestic Presidential elections and the outbreak of war in the region, although H2 demand was fractionally lower y/y, slightly curtailed by the introduction of a sales tax on small gold bars at the end of Q2.

Elsewhere across the region, Iran and the UAE further contributed to the increase in annual investment demand. The UAE saw consistent y/y growth throughout the year, taking annual demand to a 10-year high of 11t (+34% y/y). Safe-haven motives kept demand elevated in Q4, although the price rise tempered this somewhat as some investors held off, waiting for a correction.

Iran saw more muted growth: bar and coin demand in 2023 grew 6% to 44t. Nevertheless, this was a healthy annual total and firmly above the annual averages of the last five and ten years. The main driver of demand in 2023 was continued inflationary pressure, with safe-haven demand also emerging as a factor in the fourth quarter. The surging price reined in demand towards year-end, and this was reflected in lower local price premiums. But demand is likely to remain elevated thanks to the persistent backdrop of high inflation and heightened geopolitical risk.

The West

2023 was the third highest year of gold bar and coin investment in the US: demand gained 5% to 113t. Q4 saw a return to y/y growth, with much of the quarter’s buying interest concentrated in October and November on surging geopolitical tensions and shifting rate cut expectations before a marked rise in profit-taking kicked in during December’s price rally. This was reflected in a fairly sudden drop in premiums towards year-end.

Demand remains healthy on a longer-term basis, with individual investors showing continued buying interest, particularly as they become more accustomed to prices at recent higher levels. But the year also saw a notable pick-up in selling activity, marking a return to more ‘normal’ levels of two-way activity after two or three years of more dedicated buying.

January figures released by the US Mint show that sales of gold Eagles have had a relatively healthy start to the year, with sales of 182,000 in the first four weeks compared with full-month sales of 163,500 ounces in January 2023.2 

Bar and coin investment in Europe seemingly fell off a cliff in 2023: demand fell 59% to 127t – a 16-year low. The reasons for the decline were consistent throughout the year: higher interest rates, making savings a more competitive option and mortgage payments more burdensome; the cost of living crisis squeezing funds available for investment; and high/record gold prices encouraging selling back.

Germany, as always, dominated the regional picture. Demand slumped to 47t as sentiment tumbled in response to the domestic economic downturn and persistent pressure on household finances, including energy costs. A short-lived increase in concerns over geopolitical tensions/risk events during Q4 had no meaningful impact on demand.


Chart 7: Germany dominated Europe's steep decline*

Germany dominated Europe’s steep decline*

Top and bottom five y/y changes in bar and coin demand, tonnes 

Germany dominated Europe’s steep decline*
Top and bottom five y/y changes in bar and coin demand, tonnes
*Data as of 31 December 2023 Source: Metals Focus, World Gold Council

Sources: Metals Focus, World Gold Council; Disclaimer

*Data as of 31 December 2023

ASEAN markets

Among the ASEAN markets covered in this report, Thailand had the strongest 2023 growth performance, albeit with demand remaining historically relatively subdued. Bar and coin investment in Thailand was up 13% in 2023, at 33t. Compared with average pre-COVID demand, however, this is fairly weak: annual investment for 2015-2019 averaged 63t.

The steady decline in the value of the local currency for much of 2023 supported demand, particularly against a fragile economic backdrop. But part of the explanation for lower levels of demand in recent years may lie in the increased popularity of online investment platforms, which allow for greater short-term gold trading activity, at the expense of a ‘buy and hold’ approach.

Demand in both Indonesia and Vietnam saw modest y/y declines in 2023, down to 20t (-5%) and 40t (-2%) respectively. Investment in Vietnam picked up in Q4, as investors responded to the price correction. However, the rise in demand – combined with limited availability of gold investment products – reportedly pushed premiums on official SJC tael bars even higher, to around US$600-700/oz.

Rest of Asia

Bar and coin demand in Japan was modestly negative in 2023 at -2t. Continued profit-taking met with healthy buying interest. The fact that net selling was so trivial at a time when the local gold price reached a new record high is a positive development. Buying interest was stimulated by inflation and the rising local gold price, with demand emerging among a younger cohort of investors.

Demand in South Korea saw a 10% decline in 2023 to 15t. However, Q4 saw a strong upsurge, with investors buying into the sharp correction in the gold price at the start of the quarter.


Gold investment demand in Australia dropped by almost half, reaching just 14t in 2023. An environment in which rising interest rates and high inflation created cost of living pressures was the likely main drivers of this decline. 


  1. Turkey announced various regulatory developments in December designed to prevent companies from circumventing the 12t bullion import quota: KMTSUYGULAMASINAILISKINUSULESASLAR.pdf (; Dahilde İşleme İzni Kapsamında Kıymetli Maden İthali Hakkında.pdf (; 

  2. As of 26 January 2024

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