Global investors are favoring gold bars and coins over gold-backed Exchange Traded Funds, according to the World Gold Council. In a report on third quarter investment activity, the Council reports bar and coin demand worldwide increased by 17 percent to 222 metric tons, while demand for ETFs investing in gold plummeted 87 percent. The year-over-year comparison for bars and coins was relatively easy as 2016’s third quarter saw soft demand.
China led the rebound, where demand for gold bars and coins increased 57 percent. Fears of a potential depreciation of the yuan motivated buying, as well as concern over rising inflation. China also imposed restrictions on the real estate market earlier in 2017, which is building interest in gold as an alternative investment. Chinese bar and coin demand year-to-date, is running at its second highest level in history.
Of note, South Korean bar and coin demand jumped 42 percent as tensions rose between North Korea and the United States. Sales of gold bars small enough to carry—100 gram and 10 gram – were strong in South Korea.
European demand climbed as well, but the market in the United States shrank compared to a strong third quarter in 2016. The Gold Council attributed the drop to investor attention on the rising U.S. stock market. India, the world’s second largest bar and coin market, was also weak, in part due to new regulatory and tax changes impacting gold purchases.
The drop off in gold ETF investments is substantial this year, running at just one-quarter of inflows during the first nine months of 2016.