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Gold ETF outflows for first time in 1 year

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Global Mining Review,

According to new World Gold Council data, in November, gold-backed ETFs and similar products (gold ETFs) recorded their first net outflows in 12 months and second largest monthly outflows ever. Gold ETF holdings decreased by 107 t during the month – US$6.8 billion or 2.9% of assets under management (AUM) – as the gold price had its worst monthly move (-6.3%, US$1763/oz) since November 2016, when it dipped 7.4%.

Despite lacklustre performance in November, net inflows of 916 t (US$50.3 billion) in 2020 remain well above the highest yearly amount on record, although below the record set last month (+1022 t). Total global holdings are now at 3793 t or US$215 billion.

Monthly regional overview

Positive equity-market sentiment and a risk-on environment drove gold ETF outflows across all regions during November. Both North American and European funds each lost nearly 3% of assets (North America: -62 t US$3.7 billion; Europe: -43 t, US$2.9 billion). Asian funds had outflows of 0.4 t (US$35 million, 0.5%), while funds listed in other regions had another month of outflows, relative to their size, of 2 t (US$126 million, 3.3%).

Higher trading volumes and increased bearish positioning in the options space

In November, daily gold volumes increased, returning to just above the y-t-d averages, trading US$190 billion/d. Despite gold’s weak performance, net long positioning – via the recent Commitment of Traders (COT) report for gold COMEX futures – showed minimal reductions at 746 t (US$42 billion), slightly below the 766 t level in October. Net longs are well below the 2020 average but still above the long-term average.

Notably, implied volatility, or the expected future price movement of gold, did not increase meaningfully, despite gold’s sell-off. However, put/call skew increased to 1-year highs and call skew decreased to 1-year lows. This suggests that while investors may not anticipate large absolute moves in the gold price, they are positioning much more for downside exposure than for upside exposure.

Global uncertainties remain as gold demand trends continue

Two major market risks – the US election and the pandemic - appear to have subsided given a relatively smooth and bi-partisan outcome of the US election and the announcement of successful COVID vaccines. This drove risky assets like stocks to all-time highs in some countries, and the MSCI World Stock index had its best monthly performance ever, highlighting the global impact of both developments. As these two risks subsided, investors reduced hedges, and this was reflected in the gold ETF outflows, higher bond yields, and stock market put/call ratios at extremely bullish levels.

While one of the drivers of gold demand is diversification in times of market stress, in such circumstances other drivers may come into play and influence pricing. Although the World Gold Council’s 3Q20 ‘Gold Demand Trends’ highlighted a common 2020 theme – that a weaker global economy negatively impacted consumer demand for jewellery and technology – its recent data suggests that the improving Chinese economy and the festival season in India may have spurred consumer demand.

Central banks resumed net gold buying in October having been quarterly net sellers in 3Q20 for the first time in 10 years. Finally, the low-rate environment that improves gold’s opportunity cost is likely to remain, especially as many countries start to inject additional stimuli into their economies.

Regional flows

  • North American funds had outflows of 62.3 t (US$3.7 billion, 2.9% AUM).
  • Holdings in European funds decreased by 42.4 t (US$2.9 billion, 2.9%).
  • Funds listed in Asia saw holdings fall by 0.4 t (US$35 million, 0.5%).
  • Other regions had outflows of 2 t (US$126 million, 3.3%).

Individual flows

  • SPDR® Gold Shares led global outflows losing US$3.7 billion or nearly 5% of its assets.
  • In North America, iShares Gold Trust added 0.8 t (US$57 million, 0.2%), while SPDR Gold Shares lost 62.9 t (US$3.7 billion, 4.9%), followed by Graniteshares Gold Trust, which lost 2.2 t (US$132 million, 10.4%).
  • In Europe, a few currency-hedged funds had meaningful inflows as WisdomTree Physical Gold GBP Hedged and WisdomTree Physical Swiss Gold added 5% and 4% to their holdings, respectively. However, two other UK-based funds led European outflows: WisdomTree Physical Gold lost 13.8 t (US$828 million, 10.0%), while iShares Physical Gold lost 13.4 t (US$801 million, 5.3%).

Long-term trends

  • Gold ETFs have added nearly 50% more assets in 2020 (916 t) than the 2009 record of 646 t.
  • Despite record-setting inflows in 2020, inflows slowed in recent months and turned negative for the first time in a year.
  • Investment demand for gold via ETFs remains strong.
  • North American funds represent nearly two-thirds of global net inflows on the year.

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Gold mining news World Gold Council news