ETF investors pile in as gold price falls

On Monday gold staged a bit of a comeback with December futures trading on the Comex market in New York exchanging hands at $1,265.20 an ounce in European trade, up more than $13 from Friday's close.

Gold has been on the defensive since last Tuesday when heavy selling saw it crash through $1,300 an ounce to a level last seen before the Brexit vote gave it a new leg up. For the week gold lost more than 5% with Friday US jobs numbers pushing the metal below $1,250 for the first time since the beginning of June.

Gold's weakness gave investors in top physical gold-backed exchange traded fund – SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEARCA: GLD) – an excuse to top up on their holdings. On Friday, investors bought 11.3 tonnes of gold swelling GLD vaults to 958.9 tonnes or 30.8 million ounces.

GLD's holdings hit a 2016 high early July, but some 23.8 tonnes have been pulled out from the fund's vaults since then, reducing the value of holdings by $3.86 billion as the gold price retreats. Year to date, holdings are up 316 tonnes.

GLD dwarfs other physically-backed gold ETFs holding more than 45% of the global total and after a few dismal years, GLD rise in assets under management in 2016 surpassed the banner years of 2009 and 2010 when investors caught in the global financial crisis and spooked by quantitative easing piled into GLD.

On August 22, 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 at a net asset value of $77.5 billion.

Gold holdings in the trust would peak more than a year later in December 2012 at 1,353 tonnes or 43.5 million ounces. Global ETFs hit a record 2,632 tonnes or 93 million ounces of gold at the time.