ANIMATION: Gold ETF winners and losers since 2003
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.
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).
All data supplied by World Gold Council
Gold-backed ETFs and similar products account for a significant part of the gold market, with institutional and individual investors using them to implement many of their investment strategies. The data on this page tracks gold held in physical form by open-ended ETFs and other products such as close-end funds, and mutual funds. Most funds included in this list are fully backed by physical gold. While a few funds allow other holdings such as cash or derivatives, we only monitor those investing at least 90% through physical gold and appropriately adjust their reported assets to estimate physical holdings only. Similarly, the data only estimates the corresponding gold holdings of ETFs that include other precious metals. For funds that include physical holdings of multiple precious metals, the data estimates only the corresponding gold holdings contained within them. A complete list of the gold-backed ETFs and similar products we track is included in the Data XLSX download.
Flows represent net creations or redemptions of shares of open-ended ETFs, or changes to the physical gold holdings that back shares of closed-end funds or similar products over a given period. ETF flows in tonnes measure demand for gold during a given period and generate the quarterly demand estimates reported in Gold Demand Trends. ETF flows in US dollars estimate the monetary value of gold demand for a given period, taking into account daily fluctuations in the price of gold.
Holdings correspond to the total assets under management (AUM) of gold-backed ETFs and similar products, measured in either tonnes or US dollars. Where tonnage holdings are not directly reported, we calculate these by dividing the US dollar value of AUM by the LBMA Gold Price per tonne – where one tonne is equivalent to 32,150.7466 Troy ounces