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WGC Gold ETF Commentary: Europe drove outflows in April



April  2024 in review


Physically backed gold ETFs 1 saw outflows of US$2bn in April, further extending aggregate monthly losses (Table 1, p2).2 Continued gold price strength, especially during the first half of April, spurred fresh buying although failed to counter wider selling. Collective holdings fell by 33t, ending the month at 3,079t, 6% below the previous 12-month average. Meanwhile, gold’s positive price trend pushed total assets under management (AUM) up by 3% m/m to US$229bn, the highest since April 2022.


Asia and North America captured inflows while Europe continued to register outflows. Asia led global inflows and North American funds witnessed positive ETF demand two months in a row. But similar to March, European outflows offset inflows elsewhere.

 

Highlights

 

Global gold ETFs saw a continuation of monthly outflows, despite early-April inflows spurred by the gold price strength.

 

Asia led global inflows and North American funds registered positive demand; but these were dwarfed by European outflows.

End April saw global gold ETF holdings fall to 3,079t, the lowest since February 2020. But the higher gold price in the month extended total AUM by 3% to US$229bn.

Gold ETF trading volumes increased across all regions, with a surge in North America, indicating continued investor interest despite outflows.

 

April  2024 regional overview


North American funds saw their second consecutive monthly inflow, albeit small, attracting US$124mn in April. As in March, the strong gold price performance triggered in-the- money (ITM) call options of major gold ETFs, creating sizable inflows. But activities in the options market were not the only driver of demand. Spikes in geopolitical risks and financial market volatilities also sparked inflows into various North American gold ETFs.3


Even after accounting for these inflows, North America heads the regional outflows, losing US$4bn y-t-d, mainly due to notable outflows during January and February. But while the region’s collective holdings fell further, their AUM rose to US$117bn – the highest since April 2022, 10% below the month-end peak of US$129bn recorded in August 2020.


Europe once again led global outflows, losing US$4bn in April and representing the eleventh consecutive month of losses. Funds listed in the UK, France and Germany led outflows. Despite cooling inflation readings in the region, investors pared their expectations of early rate cuts from the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.4 Improved economic prospects and geopolitical uncertainties – which threaten to push up the oil price – as well as recent comments from the US Fed indicating delayed rate cuts, may have been key contributors. As a result, yields of German Bunds and UK Gilts both saw notable increases in April, further dimming investor interest in gold ETFs. It is also possible that some investors chose to take profit on their holdings during the month.

 

April compounded Europe’s y-t-d losses to nearly US$7bn, with the UK, Switzerland and Germany accounting for most of the region’s outflows (Table 2, p3). But accounting for higher prices, AUM in European funds have increased by 3% since the beginning of 2024.


April (+US$1bn) extended Asian funds’ inflow streak to 14 months. China was the main engine in the month, where gold ETFs witnessed not only record monthly inflows (+US$1bn) but also reached their highest AUM ever. And the growth in assets amounts to a stunning 36% so far in 2024. In general, a sluggish equity market, expectations of a weaker local currency, increasing promotional efforts from ETF providers’ and strong price performance were the main drivers. Pushed by China’s sizable inflows, Asian funds have, collectively, added US$2bn during the first four months of 2024; their total AUM has jumped 35% y-t-d, rising to the highest on record.


Funds in the other region saw mild outflows during the month, losing US$65mn, driven mainly by Australia and South Africa. At the end of April, the region’s y-t-d outflows amount to US$58mn, with Australia accounting for the bulk.

 

Gold trading activities continued to rise


The average daily trading volume across global gold markets rose by 12% m/m, ending April at US$247bn. Trading volumes at the over-the-counter (OTC) market averaged US$126bn per day, 6% higher than March. And while traders at the COMEX cooled slightly (-8% m/m), average trading volumes at the Shanghai Futures Exchange (+92% m/m) and the Shanghai Gold Exchange (+34%) both jumped. But it is worth noting that volumes in Shanghai remain comparatively smaller than the COMEX despite recent surges.

 

Gold ETF trading volumes also rocketed (+70% m/m), with activities rising across all regions, indicating that investor interest in gold ETFs remains intact, in spite of continued outflows. North American gold ETFs were heavily traded, registering a 66% m/m surge.

Total net longs at COMEX rose to 717t by the end of April, a 6% m/m rise. Money manager net longs reached a 45- month-end peak, arriving at 520t. This is 29t higher than March and 66% above the 2023 average (312t), mainly supported by a 4% gold price rise in the month.




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