The latest figures from the World Gold Council and other agencies show that gold-backed ETFs grew by 3% in 2018, with an additional 69 tonnes purchased last year – a value equivalent of $3.4 billion US Dollars.
December was a strong month for gold and gold ETFs, but Europe was the driving force behind most of the global ETF gains in 2018, with Brexit concerns and the Eurozone economic slowdown combining to act as a strong motivator for investors to move away from stocks and into alternative opportunities. European-based funds grew by 10% last year – a gain of approximately $4.5 billion – and it was Germany ($2.6 billion) and the UK ($1.7 billion) with the top levels of ETF investment.
Table showing 2018's regional flows for gold-based ETFs. Table courtesy of the World Gold Council.
The figures mean that it’s the first time in six years that total gold-backed ETFs have ended the year above the $100 billion US Dollar threshold, though with the economic outlook a lot less optimistic for 2019 it could be the same story in January 2020.
What are ETFs?
ETF stands for Exchange Traded Fund. This isn’t physical ownership but rather trading similar to that of stocks and shares. ETFs are usually traded on stock exchanges and offer investors an asset or commodity – in this case cold – as well as the flexibility of a stock style trading scheme, complete with the low cost of non-physical ownership.
Late November last year, the LBMA (London Bullion Market Association) began to publish weekly average trading volume data. This is done through a new tool – LBMA-i – and boasts greater transparency of the gold industry.
The LBMA-i figures are based on the London and Zurich markets, and based on the current six or seven weeks of data, the average volume of daily gold trading in the world is around 29 million ounces – the equivalent of $35.8 billion.
Graph showing the average trading levels for gold per day. Chart courtesy of the World Gold Council.
This LBMA platform needs time to generate further data, but by the end of 2019 it could be very interesting to see how the LBMA’s tracking of the global gold market matches up against the World Gold Council’s overview of the global gold-based ETF market, to provide the full picture of gold interest and gold trading around the world.