Gold ETF Flows: July 2019

Gold-backed ETFs added 52t or 2% of AUM in July building on a strong June


July highlights

Global gold-backed ETFs and similar products had US$2.6bn of net inflows across all regions in July, increasing their collective gold holdings by 52t to 2,600t – a level not seen since March 2013. Last month’s flows continued the positive trend that had started in mid-May as uncertainty rose – whether from economic concerns, trade tensions or geopolitical risks – and global monetary policy started to shift to a more accommodative stance (see Mid-year gold outlook 2019). As the gold price in US dollars increased by an additional 1.3% in July, global assets under management (AUM) rose 3.4% to US$119bn.

North America dominated July’s flows, adding 43t (US$2.0bn, 3.4% of AUM) to the region’s collective holdings, led by SPDR® Gold Shares and iShares Gold Trust, which together accounted for 75% of net global inflows. Additionally, low-cost gold-backed ETFs2 continued to grow, accumulating 2.4t during the month and bringing their joint holdings to an all-time high of 56t, worth US$2.6bn.

European-listed funds brought in 7.5t (US$483mn, 0.9%), with net inflows spread across countries in the region. And while the flows seen in July were just a fraction of those in June, funds in Europe have seen net positive flows in every month this year, apart from April. Looming concerns over Brexit, generally weaker currencies, negative interest rates, as well as other idiosyncratic risks, have supported gold investment demand.

Funds in Asia and other regions also had positive flows of approximately 1t each. Chinese funds saw a net increase in holdings as investors reacted to a significant gold price increase in local currency.

Despite a stronger US dollar in July, the gold price continued its ascent, most notably reaching all-time highs in many currencies, including the Indian rupee, Australian and Canadian dollar, British pound and Japanese yen. At the same time, positioning through futures net longs3 in COMEX remained above 850t throughout the month, while global gold trade volumes averaged $166bn a day – almost 50% above their 2018 levels – through over-the-counter products, futures contracts and ETFs (see our trading volumes data section). As the price trended higher and volumes increased, realised 30-day volatility reached a three-year high. Notably, the shape of the put/call skew curve suggests that investors were willing to pay more for the option to buy gold in the future than to sell – highlighting a bullish sentiment. 

Regional flows 1

North American-listed funds drove most of the global inflows in July

  • North American funds had inflows of 43t (US$2.0bn, 3.4% AUM)
  • Holdings in European funds rose by 7.5t (US$483mn, 0.9%)
  • Funds listed in Asia increased by 0.8t (US$37mn, 1.1%)
  • Other regions had inflows of 0.9t (US$41mn, 2.8%).

Individual flows

SPDR® Gold Shares and iShares Gold Trust had combined inflows of US$2bn

  • In North America, SPDR® Gold Shares added 29t (US$1.4bn, 3.8%), while iShares Gold Trust added 13t (US$605mn, 4.5%) and low-cost gold-backed ETFs2 added US$112mn or 5% of assets
  • Flows were mixed in Europe: three of the top 10 global funds were from the UK – including iShares Physical Gold, which added 5t (US$233mn, 4.2%) during the month – but two of the bottom 10 were also from the UK, including Invesco Physical Gold, which lost 4.3t (US$193mn, 3%); funds listed in Germany mostly saw small but positive inflows
  • Flows in China were led by Huaan Yifu, which grew by 1t (US$46mn, 6%), while Guotai saw fractional outflows
  • In other regions, ETFS Physical Gold in Australia added nearly 1t or 7% to its AUM as record gold prices in Australian dollars, combined with the broader macro environment, pushed gold-backed ETF demand higher.

Long term trends

Global gold-backed ETFs have increased by 6.4% so far in 2019

  • Global gold-backed ETFs added 159t (US$7.6bn, 6.4%) y-t-d, mostly driven by strong inflows in January, June and July
  • European funds have grown consistently this year, seeing positive flows in all months except April and UK-based fund holdings are at all-time highs, reaching 556t or 21% of global gold-backed ETF assets in July
  • Strong inflows in North American-listed funds over the past two months have increased the regions’ contribution to 2019 growth – as of end July, North America added 73.5 tonnes compared to 94.6t in Europe
  • Low-cost gold-backed ETFs in the US have seen positive flows for 13 of the past 14 months, and have increased their collective AUM by 54% so far this year as both gold holdings and the gold price have risen
  • Asian-listed funds have seen net outflows equivalent to more than 10% of AUM on the back of an appetite for stocks and profit taking in gold earlier in the year – but this trend has shifted in the past two months.


  1. 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. There are some months where 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 and movement of the US dollar and the timing of the flows. For example, hypothetically, if European funds were to experience outflows early in the month when the price of gold was low but gained assets later in the month when the price of gold increased, and/or if the euro/dollar currency rate moved meaningfully when there were flows, there might be a discrepancy between tonnage change and flows.

  2. Low-cost US-based gold backed ETFs are defined as exchange traded open-ended funds listed in the US, backed by physical gold, with annual management fees of 20bps or less. At present, these include Aberdeen Physical Swiss Gold Shares, SPDR® Gold MiniShares, Graniteshares Gold Trust, and Perth Mint Physical Gold ETF.

  3. Net longs represent Money Manager and Other Net long positioning in the COMEX futures market.

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