While the coronavirus pandemic upended markets and fueled volatility investors turned to gold bullion and gold-backed exchange traded funds to weather the storm.

The SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD) increased 11.1% year-to-date while Comex gold futures were hovering around $1,705 per ounce.

According to the World Gold Council, total gold demand surged to 1,083.8 tons between January and March, or up 1% compared to gold demand over the first quarter of 2019, Kitco reports.

The WGC also highlighted gold-backed ETFs that attracted inflows of over 298 tons of the precious metal in the first three months of the year, which sent global holdings in these physically-backed products to a record high of 3,185 tons. The WGC also added that ETF inflows for the first quarter surged more than 300% year-over-year.

“The coronavirus outbreak, which swept the globe during the first quarter, was the single biggest factor influencing gold demand. As the scale of the pandemic – and its potential economic impact – started to emerge, investors sought safe-haven assets,” WGC analysts said in a report.

The WGC argued that ETF demand, which touched its highest level in four years, also supported price gains to a near 8-year high.

“Consequently, global gold demand in value terms reached US$55bn – the highest since Q2 2013,” the analysts added.

On the other hand, demand for coins, bars, and jewelry dipped. Bullion investment in coins and bars over the first quarter was down to 241.6 tons, or 6% lower year-over-year. However, Western demand for bullion coins touched a three-year high of 76.9 tons, an increase of 36% from last year. Meanwhile, global jewelry demand fell to 325.8 tons, or down 39% year-over-year, and was at its lowest level on record.

“Almost without exception, jewelry markets across the globe recorded y-o-y losses as the impact of the coronavirus compounded the effect of high, and steeply rising, gold prices,” the analysts said. “Jewelry consumption plunged in Q1 as local gold prices in various countries rocketed and markets were shuttered in efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.”

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