Investors Buy Gold ETFs at Record Pace
February had $7.9B in Gold ETF inflows – and the miners aren’t doing too bad either.
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
What were the three most popular investments over the last month?
If we’re judging by ETF inflows, the three areas that investors piled into were precious metals, government bonds, and low-volatility equities.
Notably, it was gold ETFs that set a new record with their highest monthly inflows in eight years, as investors bought $7.9 billion of securities in February. This is according to the latest from market data company Markit, that also noted that inflows relative to assets under management (AUM) were equally as impressive.
More specifically, last month’s buying represented an increase of 14.6% in terms of AUM. This is a level only surpassed once before during the heat of the Financial Crisis, when inflows relative to AUM hit 17.7% in February 2009.
Miners Get Some Love
Gold mining companies have also received some appreciation so far in 2016, with the Gold Miners (GDX) and Junior Gold Miners (GDXJ) benchmarks up 40.7% and 38.2% respectively YTD.
Despite outperforming gold so far on the year, the GDX hasn’t seen the same kind of inflows as the physical commodity. In fact, February saw $25 million of net outflows to the gold mining ETF.
This phenomenon isn’t uncommon in the gold sector, as the performance of the metal and the return on miners isn’t always congruent.
Here’s the latest GDX/Gold ratio, which essentially tracks the price of the major gold miners relative to the metal itself:
If the gold rally continues, there will be no shortage of opportunity for mining stock speculators. That’s why we gave you three reasons to consider gold in 2016 last month.
200 Years of Global Gold Production, by Country
Global gold production has grown exponentially since the 1800s, with 86% of all above-ground gold mined in the last 200 years.
Visualizing Global Gold Production Over 200 Years
Although the practice of gold mining has been around for thousands of years, it’s estimated that roughly 86% of all above-ground gold was extracted in the last 200 years.
With modern mining techniques making large-scale production possible, global gold production has grown exponentially since the 1800s.
The above infographic uses data from Our World in Data to visualize global gold production by country from 1820 to 2022, showing how gold mining has evolved to become increasingly global over time.
A Brief History of Gold Mining
The best-known gold rush in modern history occurred in California in 1848, when James Marshall discovered gold in the Sacramento Valley. As word spread, thousands of migrants flocked to California in search of gold, and by 1855, miners had extracted around $2 billion worth of gold.
The United States, Australia, and Russia were (interchangeably) the three largest gold producers until the 1890s. Then, South Africa took the helm thanks to the massive discovery in the Witwatersrand Basin, now regarded today as one of the world’s greatest ever goldfields.
South Africa’s annual gold production peaked in 1970 at 1,002 tonnes—by far the largest amount of gold produced by any country in a year.
With the price of gold rising since the 1980s, global gold production has become increasingly widespread. By 2007, China was the world’s largest gold-producing nation, and today a significant quantity of gold is being mined in over 40 countries.
The Top Gold-Producing Countries in 2022
Around 31% of the world’s gold production in 2022 came from three countries—China, Russia, and Australia, with each producing over 300 tonnes of the precious metal.
|Rank||Country||2022E Gold Production, tonnes||% of Total|
|#5||🇺🇸 United States||170||5%|
|#8||🇿🇦 South Africa||110||4%|
|-||🌍 Rest of the World||1,030||33%|
North American countries Canada, the U.S., and Mexico round out the top six gold producers, collectively making up 16% of the global total. The state of Nevada alone accounted for 72% of U.S. production, hosting the world’s largest gold mining complex (including six mines) owned by Nevada Gold Mines.
Meanwhile, South Africa produced 110 tonnes of gold in 2022, down by 74% relative to its output of 430 tonnes in 2000. This long-term decline is the result of mine closures, maturing assets, and industrial conflict, according to the World Gold Council.
Interestingly, two smaller gold producers on the list, Uzbekistan and Indonesia, host the second and third-largest gold mining operations in the world, respectively.
The Outlook for Global Gold Production
Gold prices have been hovering around the $1,900-$2,000 per ounce near all-time highs. For mining companies, higher gold prices can mean more profits per ounce if costs remain unaffected.
According to the World Gold Council, mined gold production is expected to increase in 2023 and could surpass the record set in 2018 (3,300 tonnes), led by the expansion of existing projects in North America. The chances of record mine output could be higher if gold prices continue to increase.
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