Gold ETFs post longest run in a decade as investors take cover

Worldwide holdings in bullion-backed exchange-traded funds have expanded for 17 days in a row, the longest run of inflows since 2009.

As global tensions escalate and signs of a slowdown mount, more investors are turning to gold. Worldwide holdings in bullion-backed exchange-traded funds have expanded for 17 days in a row, the longest run of inflows since 2009.

The total stash now stands less than 35 tons away from a record set in 2012, according to the latest tally by Bloomberg. The consistent influx has come even as prices struggled to extend gains above $1,500 an ounce in recent weeks.

Bullion has climbed 18% in 2019 as the U.S.-China trade war hurts global growth and central banks loosen policy. The rise in ETF holdings comes as investors fret that high-level talks between Washington and Beijing set for later this week are unlikely to yield a breakthrough. In addition, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hinted on Tuesday at the possibility of another interest-rate cut.

“Gold inflows are likely to persist,” Citigroup Inc. said in a note, sticking with its forecast for a rally to $1,700 an ounce over six to 12 months. “Markedly weak manufacturing and services ISM data show that the slowdown in global trade is starting to bite the U.S. economy.”

Gold futures, a traditional haven and beneficiary when investors shun risk, advanced on Wednesday ahead of the trade talks and as markets awaited minutes from the Fed’s September meeting. Prices pared gains before bouncing off the day’s lows as investors weighed whether news that China is said to be open to agreeing to a partial trade deal would be enough to damp the precious metal’s haven appeal.

“Over the last few days, it’s been fairly noisy as far as trade headlines,” Ryan McKay, a strategist at TD Securities in Toronto, said by phone. “I don’t think the gold market’s ready to jump on one headline more than another, so at this point it’s fairly choppy on either side of $1,500 here until we get something more concrete from the meeting here at the end of this week.”

The series of warnings this week about risks encompasses the trade standoff and other long-running frictions. Societe Generale SA Chairman Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said a hard Brexit could plunge the world into recession and would be a disaster for the financial system. Kristalina Georgieva — in her first major address as head of the International Monetary Fund — warned the global economy is now looking at a “synchronized slowdown.”

“Gold obviously stands to benefit” if China and the U.S. can’t reach a mini deal this week, Adarsh Sinha, co-head of Asia FX and rates strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Bloomberg TV Wednesday.

Gold futures for December delivery rose 0.6% to settle at $1,512.80 an ounce at 1:30 p.m. on the Comex in New York. Silver also gained, while on the New York Mercantile Exchange, platinum and palladium advanced. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed.

(By Ranjeetha Pakiam, with assistance from Elena Mazneva and Justina Vasquez)

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