Gundlach Sounds Alarm on 'Paper Gold' ETFs Raking in Billions
Comment of the Day

April 02 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gundlach Sounds Alarm on 'Paper Gold' ETFs Raking in Billions

This article by Katherine Greifeld and John Gittelsohn for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The process of swapping GLD shares for physical gold sits “outside of normal dealings,” according to State Street Global Advisors head of ETF research Matthew Bartolini. Bank of New York Mellon, the fund’s trustee, doesn’t interact with the public but only with middlemen known as authorized participants -- traders who channel assets in and out of the fund. An investor would have to work with one of GLD’s APs to acquire gold, he said.

“An individual investor wishing to exchange the Trust’s shares for physical gold would have to come to the appropriate arrangements with his or her broker and an authorized participant to receive the gold bars,” Bartolini wrote in an email.

Gundlach said earlier in March that while he was neutral on gold mining companies, the metal would ultimately go higher. The $51 billion DoubleLine Total Return Bond Fund, Gundlach’s mortgage-focused flagship fund, lost 1.3% this year through Monday and returned an annual average 2.6% over five years.

For Bloomberg Intelligence’s Eric Balchunas, that process isn’t necessarily a problem. Most investors buying gold ETFs are doing so to get exposure to bullion’s price movement, rather than to acquire physical gold, he said.

“The problem with getting physical gold is you’ve got to insure it or keep it in a safe spot,” Balchunas said. “Generally speaking, most people don’t want gold. They want the return stream that gold gives.”

Eoin Treacy's view

There is no way to hold physical gold in a fund without incurring some form of risk. However, there is also no way of holding physical gold personally without also incurring some form of risk. Most people are satisfied to receive the diversification and potential for appreciation gold represents. However, it is inaccurate to describe gold as offering a return stream. It does not pay dividends. For that you need gold miners.

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