Global Gold-Backed ETF Holdings Grew Incrementally in March


Holdings in global gold-backed ETFs and similar products rose slightly in March by 3 tonnes(t) to 2,483t, equivalent to US$183mn in inflows. Global assets under management (AUM) fell by 1.6% in US dollars to US$103bn over the month, driven by the 2% decline in the price of gold during the same period. Global gold-backed ETF flows remain positive on the year (US$1.9bn, 1.9% AUM) on the back of strong January inflows.

Regional fund flows
  • North American funds had inflows of 2.5t (US$104mn, 0.2% AUM)
  • Holdings in European funds rose fractionally by 0.3t (US$53mn, 0.1%)
  • Funds listed in Asia also increased slightly by 0.3t (US$17mn, 0.5%)**
  • Other regions were virtually flat, rising by 0.2t (US$9mn, 0.7%)
Data as of 31 March, 2019
Sources: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, World Gold Council

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Individual fund flows

  • In North America, iShares Gold Trust added 2t (US$87mn, 0.7%) followed by SPDR® Gold MiniShares which added 0.5t (US$19mn, 3%)
  • European inflows were led by Xtrackers Physical GBP Hedged which added 1.5t (US$64mn, 89%) and Xetra which added 1.5t (US$37mn, 0.45%); ETFS Physical had outflows of 4.6t (US$190mn, 2.7%) and UBS CHF Hedged had outflows of 1.2t (US$49mn, 5.6%)
  • In China, Huaan Yifu had outflows of 1.1t (US$45mn, 4.4%)

Long term trends

  • March’s marginal inflows appear to resume an upward trend in holdings. February’s outflows may have been no more than a temporary setback for what has been a 6-month plus of steady inflows; to date, 2019 has collective inflows of 42t (US$1.9bn, 1.9%), driven by strong inflows in January
  • Total holdings in tonnes (2,483), remain near levels last seen in early 2013, when the price of gold was 25% higher
  • Holdings in UK-based gold-backed ETFs remain near all-time highs, likely driven by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit
  • Low-cost ETFs added 22t (~US$878mn) in the past nine months, representing growth of 67%*** These low-cost flows represent all of the net inflows in North America over the same time period
Data as of 31 March, 2019
Sources: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, Shanghai Gold Exchange, World Gold Council

**Note: We calculate gold-backed ETF flows both in ounces/tonnes of gold and in US dollars because these two metrics are relevant in understanding funds’ performance. The change in tonnes gives a direct measure of how holdings evolve, while the dollar value of flows is a finance industry standard that gives a perspective of how much investment reaches the funds. This month, the reported flows measured in tonnes of gold and their dollar value equivalent seem inconsistent across regions. Both figures are correct. The disparity is due to the interaction between the performance of the gold price intra-month, the direction of the dollar and the timing of the flows.

***Low-cost US-based gold backed ETFs are defined as gold-backed ETFs that trade on US markets with annual management fees of 20bps or less



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