It is no secret that investors were looking for some sort of safety in March. After all, there were growing fears of a trade war, ongoing issues in Korea, increased equity volatility and a decline in cryptocurrencies. Even interest rate pressures were there before the flight to quality. All this adds up to quite a story for gold investors.
Gold is often considered the ultimate safe haven during times of uncertainty. It remains debatable whether that should still be the case, but for a couple thousand years or more of history gold has defined wealth and been a store of value.
24/7 Wall St. just saw how the equity outflows were quite high in the second half of March, and it looks like gold-backed exchange traded funds (ETFs) and similar instruments were the beneficiaries. RBC Capital Markets recently took a positive stance on gold during uncertain times in the form of its top gold-mining stock picks.
The World Gold Council has released its March inflows and outflows data on gold-backed funds, as well as the year-to-date figures. In prior reports, the council expressed its reasons why cryptocurrencies are not a real substitution for gold.
It turns out that global gold-backed ETFs added a total of 22.5 tonnes of gold during March. This was an increase to 2,415 tonnes, worth some $102.8 billion. The council’s preliminary statement said:
Inflows in the US and China reflect broader market uncertainty related in part to geopolitical risks such as global trade tensions in March – more broadly, North American-listed funds have accounted for 85% of total net inflows so far this year… A weaker US dollar and stock market performance also drove US investors to gold, which has been one of the year’s best performing assets, having rallied 2.5% through Q1.
More specifically, North American funds accounted for 85% of total net inflows this year, at about 27.9 tonnes worth $1.2 billion. The SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE: GLD) and the iShares Gold Trust (NYSE: IAU) were the primary drivers of North American and global inflows. In March alone, these accumulated 15.1 tonnes ($642 million, 1.8% of assets) and 5.4 tonnes ($230 million, or 2% of assets), respectively.
There was a bit of a different move in Europe, with outflows of 1.2 tonnes. The council’s March notes showed that European outflows were mostly led by U.K.-listed gold-back funds and that those outflows were driven by a stronger pound sterling and higher certainty that an agreement with Europe on Brexit will be met.
A recovery in the stock market from Wednesday’s lows has taken some of the strength out of gold. On Thursday morning, gold was last seen down almost 0.4% at $1,325 per ounce. That price looked as though it was ready to hit $1,350 per ounce in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.