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GLD Slips To No. 4 On List Of ETF Giants

Olly Ludwig

The SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), the world’s biggest gold ETF, slipped to the No. 4 spot among the world’s biggest exchange-traded funds, the result of a sharp sell-off of gold and redemptions from GLD that began in the spring around the time of the Cyprus banking crisis.

GLD, which has suffered outflows of more than $15 billion so far this year and fallen by about 20 percent in price, now has $44.91 billion, or 38 percent below the $72.24 billion at the end of 2012, according to data compiled by IndexUniverse.

GLD's outflows and price drop are the consequence of growing views that even as the Federal Reserve's five-year post-crash project to keep borrowing rates low and to weaken the dollar continues, the world's biggest economy is slowly climbing out of the doldrums, quelling anxiety that has fueled gold's rally.

As that anxiety peaked in the summer of 2011 just after Standard ' Poor’s downgraded U.S. sovereign debt, GLD briefly became the biggest ETF in the world , toppling the SPDR S'P 500 ETF (SPY) for a few days. SPY has remained the largest ETF ever since then, and now has assets of $143 billion.

Climbing to the No. 3 spot among the world’s biggest ETFs was the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM). It ended Monday’s session with $45.42 billion in assets. EEM has benefited from the rise in markets this year, which has offset $2.41 billion in outflows from the fund.

EEM is just behind the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO), which has $58.55 billion in assets. VWO became the world’s second-biggest ETF last month, displacing GLD, which had held that spot for many years since its splashy launch in November 2004.

GLD's rollout remains the most successful in the ETF industry’s 20-year history. It gathered its first $1 billion in assets in just three days.

It’s of course impossible to predict what might happen to the global economy, and by extension, the 12-year rally in gold that has benefited GLD greatly.

But if the huge gold ETF continues to bleed assets, State Street Global Advisors just might be vulnerable to losing its spot as the second-biggest ETF sponsor after BlackRock’s iShares.

iShares has about $626 billion in assets; State Street has $351 billion and the No. 3 provider, Vanguard, has just over $297 billion, according to IndexUniverse’s latest daily ETF League Table . Together the top three ETF sponsors command more than 80 percent of the $1.538 trillion now invested in U.S.-listed ETFs.


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