Combine that with the $1.7 billion that's gone into the iShares Gold Trust (IAU | B-100), and we're talking about a whopping $9.4 billion worth of inflows into these two ETFs in just a little over five months (for comparison purposes, the two funds had combined outflows of $2.4 billion in 2015 and outflows of $3.5 billion in 2014).
In fact, the buying in gold ETFs this year has been so large that the World Gold Council reported yesterday that global gold demand grew at its fastest pace ever in the first quarter―21% year-over-year. The buying in these funds was so big that it offset significant declines in demand from the two largest gold-consuming markets: China and India.
According to the WGC, consumer demand in India dropped 39% year-over-year in the first quarter, while demand in China dropped 12%.
Q1 Gold Demand
Source: World Gold Council
In other words, the buying of gold ETFs was single-handedly responsible for this year's gold rally.
Just who is buying, and what in the world is going on to cause so many investors to rush into gold all of a sudden?
Broad Investor Base
The World Gold Council, sponsor of the largest gold ETF, GLD, believes there are many types of investors buying gold ETFs this year. Inflows into these funds have come "from a broad investor base, from institutional to private," according to the council's Demand Trends report.
Institutions have been the "driving force," but retail investors are also a "considerable contributor" to the buying. The WGC added that most of the investment demand is coming from Western investors, though the nascent Chinese gold ETF market saw a doubling in its assets as well.