Global gold ETFs drew net inflows of 35.3t (US$2.1bn, 1.0% of AUM) in February. Positive flows were almost evenly split between North American and European funds, continuing the year-to-date growth in Western markets and considerably outweighing outflows from Asia. Global net inflows were driven by stubbornly high inflation and a surge in geopolitical risk on the back of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which pushed the gold price to an intra-month high of US$1,936/oz.
In 2021, the 56% y-o-y rise in China’s gold consumption marked a strong comeback from 2020.
The LBMA Gold Price PM (US$) was marginally down in January, dipping less than 1% to US$1,795/oz. But this provides an incomplete picture of the interesting dynamics seen throughout the month.
Strong Q4 lifts full year demand 10%
Annual demand recovered across virtually all sectors – the notable exception being ETFs, which saw net annual outflows
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.