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Gold ETF winners and losers since 2003

Wed July 31 2019


Physical gold-backed exchange traded products, commonly referred to as ETFs, or exchange traded funds, have transformed the gold market over the last 16 years.


The burgeoning industry that kicked off in 2003 deserves some credit for the metal’s subsequent bull run simply because ETFs make it so easy to invest in the metal.  


Since its inception 16 years ago the industry has grown to 110 physically-backed ETFs holding gold worth $115 billion


Gold bullion holdings hit a record 2,840 tonnes or 91.3 million troy ounces in November 2012. The value of vaulted gold peaked a month earlier at just over $157 billion, but 2013 was the industry’s annus horribilis when investors pulled out more than 900 tonnes.


With the gold price close to six-year highs, holdings are expanding again with 127 tonnes of net inflows worth $5.5 billion in June, lifting the total to 2,548 tonnes worth $115.4 billion at ruling prices.


Around half of ETF gold is held by individuals (although it’s hard to track) and some like to call gold ETFs “the people’s central bank”: combined investor holdings are only  behind the official gold reserves of the US and Germany (not counting the IMF’s gold) and on par with France and Italy’s hoard.


Roughly $2 billion worth of ETFs are traded each day and there are 110 gold-backed funds listed around the world.  The industry’s 800-pound gorilla is SPDR Gold Shares (GLD). In 2011 when gold was hitting record highs above $1,900 an ounce, GLD became the largest ETF in the world — briefly surpassing the venerable SPDR S&P 500 trust.


The industry is dominated by funds in New York and London, but 16 countries now offer gold ETFs (select countries by clicking on the legend).