Gold benefits from diverse sources of demand: as an investment, a reserve asset, jewellery, and a technology component. It is highly liquid, no one’s liability, carries no credit risk, and is scarce, historically preserving its value over time.
Gold may face similar dynamics in 2022 than those from last year as competing forces support and curtail its performance.
Physically backed gold ETFs saw global outflows of 173 tonnes (t) (-US$9.1bn, -4.0% AUM) in 2021. Collective gold holdings were down 5% to 3,570t for the year, while assets under management (AUM) in value terms dropped 9% to US$209bn as net outflows were compounded by a 4% contraction in the gold price. Despite considerable outflows for the year, gold ETF holdings remain significantly above pre-pandemic levels, as they posted record inflows of approximately 875t (US$48bn) during 2020.
The shift to risker and less liquid assets strengthens the case for an allocation to gold, given its unique combination as a highly liquid, low-volatility asset.
With very little mining and modest levels of recycling, India is heavily reliant on bullion imports to meet its domestic demand. Indian official imports have continued to grow despite high import duty with official imports averaging 760t over the last decade.
Gold-backed ETFs (gold ETFs) experienced net inflows of 13.6 tonnes (t) (US$838mn, 0.4% AUM) in November, the first month of positive flows since July. Inflows into North America and Europe well exceeded outflows from Asia, which saw negative flows for the first time since May. Global gold ETF holdings rebounded from year-to-date lows, increasing to 3,578t (US$208bn) as investment demand for larger gold ETFs returned amid decades-high inflation and heightened market volatility.
Gold rose 2% in November based on the LBMA reference price, rallying early in the month before giving up most of those gains in the following weeks.
Gold has long been valued for its distinctive investment benefits. Although gold is no longer the basis of the international monetary system, its status as a bastion of stability has endured, a role which has become ever more important in today’s uncertain environment.
Together with our partners at OMFIF, we have written a report on the development of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and the implications for the gold market. CBDCs can potentially enable a wide range of new features. Money can become programmable, allowing policymakers to incentivise certain spending behaviours that can optimise economic impact or address social concerns. The trackable nature of CBDCs can also help to deter financial crimes. The ability to easily deploy “helicopter money” may also spark concerns about inflation.