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Visualizing Gold Investment Compared to Global Assets

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gold investment vs other assets

How Gold Compares to Global Assets

Gold has been a vital asset for investors and speculators to hedge against uncertainty and currency devaluation, but today it is just a small part of the investment landscape.

While gold investment holdings stand at $1.1T, this figure is dwarfed by various other global assets and funds.

This graphic compares the size of gold investment holdings to global assets, highlighting the difference in dollars invested, and where modern day investors have (or haven’t) been allocating their money.

Gold vs. Global Assets

Despite amounting to over $1 trillion dollars, gold investment holdings are a small fish in the large pond of major global assets.

Largely outsized by private equity funds, hedge funds, and more, gold has taken a backseat for today’s investors when it comes to where they allocate their capital.

AssetValue
2020 Gold Investment $90.0B
Total Gold Investment Holdings$1.1T
Top 10 Global Private Equity Funds$1.9T
U.S. Hedge Funds$3.1T
Sovereign Wealth Funds$7.9T
10 Largest Investment Banks$32.3T
Global Pension Funds$49.3T
30 Largest U.S. Mutual Funds$59.0T

Sources: Mutualfunddirectory.org, Willis Towers, relbanks.com, swfininstitute.org, barclayhedge.com, investopedia.com, CPM, Incrementum AG

Even with 2020’s large inflow of gold investment worth $90 billion, gold investment remains small on the scale of the world’s financial assets.

With its fairly small market, around 90% of gold’s global trading volume flows through three major exchanges, with the remaining volume coming from smaller OTC and secondary markets.

The Major Gold Exchanges Today

Although gold investment has been overtaken by other global assets, it still remains an important investment asset and has one of the most active markets in the world. Gold markets are split among three primary trading hubs which transact millions of dollars in volume every day.

  • London Metal Exchange (LME): Established in 1877, the LME offers futures contracts for metals including gold.
  • COMEX: A division of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) COMEX offers physically settled gold futures and options contracts.
  • Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) and Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE): While relatively young, these two exchanges have captured a large amount of gold trading volume, with the SGE being the largest purely physical gold spot exchange in the world.

Gold Exchange Trading Volumes

Gold ExchangeFY 2020 Trading Volume
London Metal Exchange (LME)$160M
COMEX$54.4B
Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE)$6.19B
Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE)$6.22B

Source: World Gold Council

These three hubs and four exchanges host the majority of the world’s gold trading, and saw ~$67B worth of gold trading volume in the fiscal year of 2020.

ETFs are Making Gold Investment Accessible

While the exchanges mentioned above transact millions of dollars worth of gold a day, gold-backed ETFs have made gold more accessible to the everyday investor. The top 3 U.S.-traded gold ETFs have more than $94B in assets under management between each other.

These ETFs offer investors one of the easiest ways to get gold exposure in their investment accounts, and see billions in flows every year.

Quarterly Gold ETF Flows

RegionQ1 2020Q2 2020Q3 2020Q4 2020Q1 2021Q2 2021
North America$6.8B$18.2B$11.8B-$5B-$8.1B$1.1B
Europe$8.1B$4.4B$3.4B-$2.1B-$2.4B$1.6B
Asia$0.7B$0.5B$1.2B-$0.3B$1B-$0.1B
Other$0.3B$0.5B$0.4B-$0.3B$0.1B-$0.1B
Total$15.9B$23.6B$16.8B-$7.7B-$9.4B$2.5B

Source: World Gold Council

Last year saw record inflows into gold ETFs, as investors sought a safe haven for their capital during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, gold ETFs have seen an overall outflow of $6.1B in 2021 so far, with North American gold ETFs seeing $402M in outflows just this July.

At the same time, European gold ETFs have seen a recent rise in inflows, highlighting a divergence in sentiment between the two regions. In the month of July, European gold ETFs saw $999M worth of inflows, with Asian gold ETFs also registering positive inflows of $54M.

Central Banks Still Believe in Gold’s Future

While gold is not attracting immediate investment flow into ETFs, the world’s central banks still maintain large amounts of their reserve assets in gold. While they primarily hold gold to hedge against currency depreciation and to diversify their reserves, gold has proved an incredibly valuable investment for central banks over the decades.

Some central banks like the U.S., Germany, and Italy, have more than 50% of their reserves’ dollar value in gold, showing truly how much they value the precious metal.

With the world’s central banks holding around $1.69T worth of gold in their reserves currently, gold remains an essential investment for both big and small players alike.

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Real Assets

Charting the Gold-to-Silver Ratio Over 200 Years

The gold-to-silver ratio used to define the value of currencies and still remains an important metric for metals investors today.

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historical gold to silver ratio chart

Charting 200 Years of the Gold-to-Silver Ratio

Gold and silver have been precious and monetary metals for millennia, with the gold-to-silver ratio having been measured since the days of Ancient Rome.

Historically, the ratio between gold and silver played an important role in ensuring coins had their appropriate value, and it remains an important technical metric for metals investors today.

This graphic charts 200 years of the gold-to-silver ratio, plotting the pivotal historical events that have shaped its peaks and valleys.

What is the Gold-to-Silver Ratio?

The gold-to-silver ratio represents the amount of silver ounces equivalent to a single ounce of gold, enabling us to see if one of the two precious metals is particularly under or overvalued.

Currently, the ratio sits at about 80 ounces of silver equivalent to one ounce of gold. This is after the ratio spiked to new highs of 123.3 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While gold is primarily viewed as an inflation and recession hedge, silver is also an industrial metal and asset. The ratio between the two can reveal whether industrial metals demand is on the rise or if an economic slowdown or recession may be looming.

The History of the Gold-to-Silver Ratio

Long before the gold-to-silver ratio was allowed to float freely, the ratio between these two metals was fixed by empires and governments to control the value of their currency and coinage.

The earliest recorded instance of the gold-to-silver ratio dates back to 3200 BCE, when Menes, the first king of Ancient Egypt set a ratio of 2.5:1. Since then, the ratio has only seen gold’s value rise as empires and governments became more familiar with the scarcity and difficulty of production for the two metals.

Gold and Silver’s Ancient Beginnings

Ancient Rome was one of the earliest ancient civilizations to set a gold-to-silver ratio, starting as low as 8:1 in 210 BCE. Over the decades, varying gold and silver inflows from Rome’s conquests caused the ratio to fluctuate between 8-12 ounces of silver for every ounce of gold.

By 46 BCE, Julius Caesar had established a standard gold-to-silver ratio of 11.5:1, shortly before it was bumped to 11.75:1 under emperor Augustus.

As centuries progressed, ratios around the world fluctuated between 6-12 ounces of silver for every ounce of gold, with many Middle Eastern and Asian empires and nations often valuing silver more highly than Western counterparts, thus having a lower ratio.

The Rise of the Fixed Ratio

By the 18th century, the gold-to-silver ratio was being redefined by the U.S. government’s Coinage Act of 1792 which set the ratio at 15:1. This act was the basis for U.S. coinage, defining coins’ values by their metallic compositions and weights.

Around the same time period, France had enacted a ratio of 15.5:1, however, neither of these fixed ratios lasted long. The growth of the industrial revolution and the volatility of two world wars resulted in massive fluctuations in currencies, gold, and silver. By the 20th century, the ratio had already reached highs of around 40:1, with the start of World War II further pushing the ratio to a high of nearly 100:1.

Recently in 2020, the ratio set new highs of more than 123:1, as pandemic fears saw investors pile into gold as a safe-haven asset. While the gold-to-silver ratio has since fallen to roughly 80:1, runaway inflation and a potential recession has put gold in the spotlight again, likely bringing further volatility to this historic ratio.

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2022’s Stores of Value: Gold, Oil and Grains

The start of 2022 has seen commodities surge with crude oil, gold, and grains acting as the new stores of value.

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Chart of 2022 price performance of gold, crude oil, grains, the S&P500, and bitcoin

Gold, Oil and Grains Emerge as 2022’s Stores of Value

2022 started off with a slump for equity and cryptocurrency prices, but real assets like gold, crude oil, and agricultural commodities have more than held their dollar value.

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in extreme uncertainty over energy and raw material exports from both nations, commodities had already started to outperform other assets.

This graphic looks at how five key assets have performed in 2022 thus far, comparing the prices of WTI crude oil, the Invesco DB Agriculture Fund, gold, the S&P 500, and bitcoin.

Commodities Surge to Start off 2022

Just a few months into 2022 and commodities have already surged by double digits while nearly every other asset class has struggled to hold its value. Equity indices have continued to slide downwards from their all-time highs set in January of this year, with the S&P 500 down 13.4% from its all-time high.

Although the Energy sector of the S&P 500 is up 33.4% and the Information Technology sector is down 18.9% YTD, tech makes up more than a quarter of the index at 28.1% while Energy only makes up 3.7%. Other speculative tech assets like bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have also significantly drawn down in 2022, with bitcoin down 16.3% and the total crypto sector’s market cap down by 22.4%.

Asset2021 Performance2022 Performance YTD
WTI Crude Oil+56.4%+34.4%
Invesco DB Agriculture Fund+22.4%+10.4%
Gold-3.6%+6.7%
S&P 500+26.9%-12.4%
Bitcoin+59.4%-16.3%

Source: TradingView
Prices as of March 14, 2022

In the meantime, commodity investors have seen record-breaking rallies and volatility, especially in the energy and agricultural sectors. Crude oil is already up 34.4% in 2022 after WTI Crude reached highs of $129 a barrel, and the Invesco DB Agriculture fund which tracks wheat, corn, soybeans, and other agricultural commodities is up 10.4% YTD.

Gold Recovers 2021’s Losses as Rate Hike Looms

While 2021 saw metals and energy prices surge, precious metals like gold and silver lagged behind the pack with negative returns. However, the Fed’s suggestion of raising interest rates has seen investors move out of speculative growth assets and into gold which has historically outperformed other assets in tightening cycles.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also spurred investors towards gold in a flight to safety, with the yellow metal’s price rallying by more than six percent in February, the month of the invasion.

As Russia is cut off and cuts itself off from trade with the U.S. and other Western countries, a new trade system with China that primarily uses gold-backed settlement akin to the petroyuan could push gold prices even higher.

Sanctions and Supply Shocks Fuel Crude Oil and Wheat Rallies

Not long after the U.S. announced sanctions against Russia alongside the European Union and G7 nations, Russia immediately responded with comprehensive export bans against 48 different countries including the U.S. and the EU.

Currently, Russia is one of the biggest crude oil exporters in the world and exported around 4.7 million barrels of crude oil a day for a total export value of $110 billion in 2021.

Agriculture and specifically wheat prices have also surged as the invasion began, as both Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s biggest wheat exporters. As a result of the uncertainty around these vital agricultural exports, wheat prices have skyrocketed nearly 40% over the past two months, and Russia has added fuel to the fire with a temporary grain export ban against ex-Soviet nations.

While the start of 2022 has seen a sizable shift in value towards commodities, we’ll see if these prices stabilize while stocks and crypto recover, or if this year is the beginning of a new commodity supercycle.

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