Gold ETF Flows: May, 2022

May outflows from gold ETFs partially reverse recent gains

Published:

May highlights

Global gold ETFs ended their four-month run of positive inflows in May, with outflows of 53t (US$3.1bn). While this was the largest monthly outflow since March 2021, total holdings remain 8% higher year-to-date at 3,823t (US$226bn).

The rising US dollar and higher interest rates weighed on gold in early May. Momentum from ETF outflows also fuelled the move down to US$1,800/oz mid-month. Gold swiftly recovered from that level – with a dollar pullback and lower US 10-year real yield lending support – but the rebound ran out of steam and gold closed the month hovering US$1,850/oz. For more details on the drivers of the gold price during May please see our Gold Market Commentary.

 

ETF flows chart

Data as of

Sources: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, World Gold Council; Disclaimer

ETF flows closely echoed the movement in the gold price; outflows accelerated through the first half of May, followed by a flurry of inflows, which petered out at the end of the month. All regions saw net outflows, but North American-listed funds accounted for almost two thirds of the total with outflows of 34t (US$2bn), concentrated early in the month. The Fed delivered on its expected half-point rate hike, which likely contributed to the outflows. But Chair Powell signalled that future rises would not exceed 50bps and has repeatedly warned that bringing problematic inflation back towards the 2% target will involve ‘pain’. The prospect of potential recession and a respite in dollar strength may have encouraged the flurry of inflows late in the month, despite the strong rally in equities markets.?

Holdings of European-listed funds fell by 17t (US$1bn). The UK led the decline with outflows of 14t (US$856mn) as a fourth consecutive Bank of England rate hike, to a 13-year high of 1%, put the dampener on gold investment. Outflows elsewhere in the region were trivial as interest rates remained firmly negative, and geopolitical uncertainty remained heightened due to the prolonged war in Ukraine. The ECB is seen hiking at its July meeting, which may cast a cloud over ETF investment in the region in the meantime.?

Minor outflows in Asia were again largely reflective of China, which lost 2t (US$116mn). The modest recovery in the CSI300 stock index in May – halting the almost consistent year-to-date slide – may have contributed to outflows from ETFs by whetting investors’ risk appetite. Indian gold ETFs witnessed small net inflows (0.4t) in May, primarily due to the macro backdrop of higher inflation and a depreciating Rupee. Outflows from ETFs listed in ’Other’ regions were barely changed, as marginal inflows into Australian-listed funds partly offset fractional outflows in South Africa.?

Gold trading volumes and futures demand fall

Average gold daily trading volumes recovered in May, back up to US$137bn, a slight increase on last year’s daily average of US$130bn. The largest increases came from futures trading on COMEX and the LBMA trade data component of OTC activity. According to the latest Commitment of Traders (COT) report for Comex, net long positioning fell again during the month, down to 609.4t as of 23rd May, the lowest in a year1. This supports the results of our Gold Return Attribution Model (GRAM), which indicates that ‘momentum’ was a key contributor to negative gold returns in May.

Regional flows2

All regions saw outflows in May, with North America seeing the largest drop in holdings.?

  • North American funds had outflows of 34t (US$2bn, -1.7%)
  • European funds dropped 17t (US$1bn, -1%)
  • Funds listed in Asia had outflows of 1.3t (US$77mn, -1%)
  • Funds in other regions lost 0.4t (US$21mn, -0.6%).

Individual flows

In Europe, the funds with the largest outflows were iShares Physical Gold and Invesco Physical Gold (UK), while SPDR? Gold Shares, iShares Gold Trust Micro and and Goldman Sachs Physical Gold ETF led US outflows flows

  • In North America, SPDR? Gold Shares had outflows of 26t (-US$1.5bn, -2.3%), while iShares Gold Trust lost 1.2t (-US$70mn, -0.2%). In the low-cost space, SPDR? Gold MiniShares Trust and Aberdeen Gold Trust each saw minor losses, of 0.6t (-US$33mn, -0.6%) and 0.9t (-US$53mn, -1.9%) respectively
  • In Europe, iShares Physical Gold shed 9.5t (-US$564mn, -3.2%), Invesco Physical Gold saw outflows of 6.3t (-US$373mn, -2.2%) and Amundi Physical Gold lost 2.0 (-US$118mn, -2.3%)
  • In Asia, Chinese ETF Huaan Yifu Gold lost 1.5t (-US$93mn, -5.5%), with minimal flows in other funds across the region.

Long-term trends

Gold ETF partially reverse recent gains with outflows in May

  • Despite the biggest monthly outflows in over a year, global holdings of gold ETFs are up 8% year-to-date and around 3% (99t) below the November 2020 peak at 3,922t
  • Year-to-date, North American- and European-listed funds have absorbed a combined 278t of inflows and AUM in both regions is around 9% higher. In contrast, holdings of Asian-listed funds are 17t lower y-t-d, due to fairly sizable outflows in China.?

Footnotes

  1. Average weekly basis over the month

  2. 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 on how much investment reaches the funds. We have made a few adjustments and improvements to our calculation methodology as of 1 July 2021 that will impact historical and future data. Specifically, we revised the methodology used to estimate changes in gold holdings as described below:

    • Previously, changes in tonnes were calculated by converting a fund’s AUM (in USD) into gold holdings (in tonnes) and computing the difference over periods. However, currency movements and large daily and weekly gold price movements could distort the difference between tonnage change and US-dollar fund flows during short time horizons. We therefore adjusted?tonnage change as a function of fund flows versus AUM and replaced the tonnage change field with fund flows (tonnes).
    • Now, for most funds, we estimate US-dollar fund flows, as described in section 2.3.2 below, and then convert those flows to fund flows (tonnes).
    • Fund flows (tonnes) and US-dollar fund flows will now represent a more aligned explanation of investment demand for gold ETFs, while the true holdings of a fund, in US dollars and tonnage, will remain a close estimate, impacted by the currency and price volatility described above.
    • Based on our initial analysis, the changes are not likely to have a material long-term effect on historical information, particularly on a global or regional aggregate basis, but will adjust short-term fluctuations that can sometimes occur due to input data and timing variations.