Much continues to be made about the historic "inventory" drawdowns of the GLD. It gets even more interesting when you compare the losses of the GLD to the "inventory" reductions of its two, biggest rivals.
As simple Google search of "largest gold ETFs" returns the following:
|Symbol||Name||Price||Change||Assets * ▼||Avg Vol||YTD|
|GLD||SPDR Gold Trust||$126.07||-0.58%||$36,763,555||9,170,822||-22.13%|
|IAU||iShares Gold Trust||$12.68||-0.55%||$7,205,410||4,276,858||-22.11%|
|SGOL||ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares||$128.64||-0.49%||$1,214,987||44,729||-22.14%|
With this as a starting point, let's dig a little deeper.
As you can see, all three mirror the value and return of physical gold and all three are down a comparable percentage, year-to-date.
Much has been made here and in other places of the massive
draining pillaging plundering withdrawals seen so far in 2013 from the GLD so let's start there.
The GLD has a list of Authorised Partcipants:
"As of the date of this prospectus (4/16/12), Barclays Capital Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., Goldman, Sachs & Co., Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing, L.P., HSBC Securities (USA) Inc., J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corp., Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated, Newedge USA LLC, RBC Capital Markets Corporation, Scotia Capital (USA) Inc., UBS Securities LLC Virtu Financial Capital Markets, LLC (f/k/a EWT, LLC) and Virtu Financial BD LLC are the only Authorized Participants."
The APs are eligible to create and redeem shares through the sponsor (World Gold Trust Services) or the trustee (BNY Mellon). The metal is stored with the custodian which, in this case, is HSBC.
The GLD allegedly began the year with 1,349.92 metric tonnes of gold in "inventory". As of last night, it holds just 866.32 metric tonnes of gold in "inventory". This drop of 483.60 metric tonnes YTD is 35.82% of the 1/1/13 total. That's a lot.
As you can see above, the IAU is about 1/5 the size of the GLD. Regardless, it's still a pretty big fund. Though it's down nearly an identical percentage YTD in terms of return, the "inventory" plundering numbers are what got my attention.
First of all, some background on the IAU. Here are it's Authorised Participants:
"As of the date of this prospectus (3/14/13), ABN AMRO Clearing Chicago LLC, Barclays Capital Inc., Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., Credit Suisse Securities (USA), LLC, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., Goldman Sachs & Co., Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing L.P., J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, Knight Clearing Services LLC, Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corp., Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, Newedge Group USA, Scotia Capital (USA) Inc., UBS Securities LLC, Virtu Financial BD LLC and Virtu Financial Capital Markets LLC are the only Authorized Participants."
Hmmm. Many of those look familiar, don't they? The sponsor of this ETF is a subsidiary of Blackrock and, once again, the trustee is BNY Mellon. For this gem, the custodian is the other principal member of The Evil Empire (https://www.tfmetalsreport.com/glossary), none other than JPMorgan.
Now to the inventory numbers. We're repeatedly told that the GLD "inventory" is down nearly 36% YTD on "investor liquidations and reallocations". OK. But IF that's the case, wouldn't you expect the IAU to be down 36% in "inventory", too? I couldn't blame you if you did but you would be wrong.
The IAU began 2013 with 217.71 metric tonnes of gold in "inventory". As of last evening, it shows 171.54 metric tonnes. If we do the math, that comes out to a drop of just 21.22%. Well, isn't that interesting. However, by itself, that doesn't tell a full story. Let's now take a look at the next largest gold ETF, the SGOL.
You may not be familiar with SGOL (https://www.etfsecurities.com/institutional/us/en-us/products/product/etfs-physical-swiss-gold-shares-sgol-arca). It, too, is an ETF which holds physical gold and, by prospectus, it's not allowed to lease it or loan it out. Even though it comes in at just 1/5 the size of the IAU and 1/25 the size of the GLD, it's still the 3rd-largest gold ETF on the planet. The fund has many of the same Authorised Participants as the GLD and the IAU and they're listed below:
"As of the date of this prospectus(4/13/11), Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., EWT, LLC, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing, L.P., HSBC Securities (USA) Inc., J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corp., Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated, Newedge USA, LLC, Prudential Bache Securities, LLC, Scotia Capital (USA) Inc., UBS Securities LLC and Virtu Financial BD, LLC have each signed an Authorized Participant Agreement with the Trust and, upon the effectiveness of such agreement, may create and redeem Baskets as described above."
ETF Securities USA is the sponsor and, once again, the trustee is BNY Mellon. Additionally, our old friend JPMorgan is the custodian of this ETF, too.
As of 1/1/13, the SGOL held 36.455 metric tonnes of gold in "inventory". As of last evening, that number had fallen to 28.919 metric tonnes. This drop of 7.536 metric tonnes puts the YTD "inventory" numbers down 20.67%.
So, let me see if I've got this straight...
Two of the three largest gold ETFs show "inventory" drops YTD that are nearly identical. Prices are down about 22% and "gold in trust" is down about 21%. OK, sounds reasonable. But how do you explain this? The GLD, while also showing a -22% return for 2013, shows an "inventory" drop of almost twice as much, nearly 36%!
Looked at another way, if the GLD "inventory" was only down 21% YTD, it would still have about 1066 metric tonnes in trust. Instead, it has 866 metric tonnes. Where in the heck did the other 200 metric tonnes go??? I'd say that's a pretty good question and I look forward to reading your potential explanations in the comments of this thread.
p.s. Not listed with the funds above is the Sprott Physical Gold Trust (PHYS). This is because, technically, it's not an ETF. However, it does have a sponsor/manager (Sprott Asset Management), a trustee (RBC Dexia Investor Services Trust) and a custodian (The Royal Canadian Mint). The PHYS does not have any Authorised Participants.
On 1/1/13, the PHYS showed 50.289 metric tonnes of gold in inventory. As of last evening, that level had fallen to 49.944 metric tonnes for a drop of 0.68%.