Although inflows into gold exchange traded funds (ETFs) were down last year, they weren’t that low. After all, 2010 turned out to be one of the most prosperous years on record for the metal.

According to the World Gold Council’s most recent report, inflows into gold ETFs last year slowed 41% from 2009’s levels. Despite that, however, it was still the second-best year on record for such instruments. [Metals ETFs: Down But Not Out.]

Claudia Assis for The Wall Street Journal reports that total holdings across all gold ETFs reached 2,167 metric tons, worth about $98 billion. That’s a brand-new high.

Gold enjoyed a major run before pulling back in the latter months of the year, touching on record highs and luring in scores of investors.

According to the World Gold Council’s Gold Investment Digest:

  • Gold benefited from the European debt crisis as investors hedged their currency risk.
  • Gold jewelry demand was up 18% from the same period in 2009.
  • Gold prices rose 29% in 2010; the S&P 500 gained just 13% and the MSCI World ex-US Index gained 6%.
  • Central banks became slight net buyers of gold for the full year; this is a shift from when they were a source of market supply.

Like gold prices, ETFs such as SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD), ETFS Physical Swiss Gold (NYSEArca: SGOL) and iShares COMEX Gold (NYSEArca: IAU) also gained 29% for the year. This year so far hasn’t been as pretty: they’re down 5.5%. [Gold ETFs Sliding: Now What?]

If you still own gold, what should you do? Read on!

Tisha Guerrero contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.