First U.S. Gold-Backed ETF 'GLD' Celebrates 15 Years | ETF Trends

The biggest gold-backed exchange traded fund, SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD), is celebrating its 15th anniversary.

On November 18, 2004, GLD hit the scene, providing investors with a easy-to-use and relatively more liquid means to access physical gold price movements. The gold ETF was quick to attract investors, accumulating over $1 billion in assets within its first three trading days. Fast forward to today, the SPDR Gold Shares is now the world’s largest gold-backed ETF with over $40 billion in assets under management and $1.7 billion in daily trading volume.

“GLD’s launch democratized gold investing by revolutionizing how investors could access gold, bringing greater transparency and liquidity to implementing a gold allocation within portfolios,” Matthew Bartolini, head of SPDR Americas Research at State Street Global Advisors, said in a note. “Since launching, investors have relied on GLD to seek to benefit from gold’s historical ability to diversify portfolios2 and deliver positive returns in periods of US equity market downturns.”

“We are proud to have set the ‘gold-standard’ with GLD,” Joe Cavatoni, Managing Director USA, World Gold Council, said. “We look forward to continuing to deliver operational excellence for our gold-backed funds while identifying opportunities to drive continued innovation in the gold market to meet evolving investor needs.”

Unlike most other ETFs, precious metals ETFs like GLD are physically backed by the underlying commodity. In this case, each share of GLD is backed by physical gold bullion stored within HSBC’s London vaults. The trust currently tracks 896.8 metric tons of gold.

The gold ETF has resonated with investors and continues to do so as the fund has experienced consistently strong inflows in its 15 years.

“We’re up $5.5 billion this year alone. I think that that’s a fantastic performance, and I’m expecting further growth,” George Milling-Stanley, head of gold strategy at State Street Global Advisors, told CNBC. “We’ve had turbulent financial markets and gold always does well.”

Milling-Stanley argued that emerging market growth will continue to support gold demand, notably jewelry purchases along with increasing investment demand to hedge against further risks.

“I think the heat is really in the emerging markets right now,” Milling-Stanley said. “Emerging market central banks have been significant buyers of gold, selling U.S. Treasurys, where they are massively overweight, and buying gold, where they are massively underweight, for more than a decade. That’s continuing.”

At the same time, “jewelry purchases in the emerging markets have held up very, very well even though economic activity’s not as good as it was at the beginning of the century, and we’re seeing increasing amounts of genuine investment demand in the emerging markets as well because they all have lousy currencies,” he added.

For more gold investing news and strategy, visit our Gold category.