Gold investors ‘give up hope’ as biggest short in history builds

Gold is hitting new milestones of misery.

Exchange-traded funds tracking the metal have bled assets for 13 consecutive weeks, the longest run in five years, investors have placed the biggest gold short on record, and bullion’s chief foe — a strong dollar — is extending its market grip.

Gold’s 9 percent tumble this year belies the turmoil in emerging markets and jitters over technology companies, the anchor of the U.S. equity bull market.

“The long suffering holders of ETFs have finally given up hope of the yellow metal returning to its former glories and have decided there is better protection in the dollar, the stock market and pretty much anything other than gold,” David Govett, head of precious metals at Marex Spectron, said by email. “I can only say that gold, as a safe haven, has been a massive disappointment this year.”

Hedge funds and other large speculators increased net-short bets on the precious metal in the week ending Aug. 14 to the most on record, according to data published Friday going back to 2006.

Exchange-traded funds tracking the metal have bled assets for 13 consecutive weeks, the longest run in five years.

While investors in the world’s largest ETF market have pulled $1.4 billion from gold-backed funds this year, it’s a different story for non-dollar-based buyers in the rest of the world.

In Europe, gold ETFs have added $1.3 billion since January, led by the X-Trackers Physical Gold product, which has more than tripled in size. Money managers across Asia have been almost as keen, adding $1.1 billion to the products this year.

“We’ve seen strong inflows over the last two weeks,” Nitesh Shah, a London-based commodity strategist at WisdomTree, which runs a Europe-listed ETF, said on Friday. “A lot of investors are seeing a bargain-hunting opportunity.”

Pain in the gold market could intensify. When prices last plumbed current lows, ETF vaults contained about 61 million ounces of bullion. Now, there’s about $8.6 billion of loss-making metal weighing down portfolios in funds tracked by Bloomberg.

“That’s one of the main concerns for gold price action in the near term,” said Suki Cooper, a precious metals analyst at Standard Chartered, on Bloomberg TV on Friday. “Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the key driver for gold changing from tracking real yields most closely to the start of this year being the dollar.”