As the demand for gold investments is propelled to new heights, exchange traded funds that hold bullion are rivaling global central banks in their accumulated gold stores.

Physically-backed gold ETFs as a group are now the fourth-largest holder of gold, with 2,469 metric tons of bullion stowed away in vaults, falling just behind the U.S., Germany and the International Monetary Fund and ahead of Italy and France, report Matt Day and Tatyana Shumsky for the MarketBeat blog. [ETFs and the Gold/Silver Ratio]

Some gold ETFs are backed by bullion, while others track gold futures contracts.

SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD) is the largest gold-related ETF and second largest U.S-listed ETF, with $71.3 billion in assets under management. Last year, during the gold frenzy that drove prices up to historical highs, GLD was the largest ETF for a brief period.

Gold ETFs ended the week with losses although the precious metal managed to hold the line at $1,700 an ounce. [Gold, Silver ETFs Tumble on Bernanke]