Did IAU Just Steal $59 Million From GLD?

July 12, 2010

Last Friday, $59 million flowed into IAU, while the same amount was pulled out of GLD. Coincidence? We think not.

It’s too early to call it a trend, but it’s tempting to see one after ETF-share creations last Friday on iShares’ Comex Gold Trust (NYSEArca: IAU) fund were virtually identical to redemptions on State Streets’ SPDR Gold Shares ETF (NYSEArca: GLD).

Net flows into the iShares ETF on July 9 were $59.2 million, a 2 percent increase, which raised total assets after market movement to $3.47 billion, according to data compiled by IndexUniverse.com. Outflows from GLD were $59.1 million, a tiny setback for the second-biggest U.S. ETF, which has more than $51 billion in assets.

The movements came about a week after iShares slashed the price of its gold fund, moving the annual expense ratio from 0.40 percent to 0.25 percent on July 1. The firm said it wanted to make the ETF more accessible at a time the metal is extremely popular among investors. Up until the price cut, both IAU and GLD both cost investors 0.40 percent a year. In his blog last week, Matt Hougan predicted a cheaper IAU might well steal market share from GLD.

Gold has been a hot safe-haven investment this year since fiscal problems in Europe began to create renewed uneasiness about the fragile state of the global economy. IAU rose more than 13 percent in the first half, and has more than tripled since it was rolled out in January 2005, riding a bullish commodity wave that's been building for the past 10 years.

IAU settled on Friday at $11.84, a price that reflects a 1-for-10 share split on the ETF that New York-based BlackRock has said was part of its plan to make the ETF more attractive to potential investors. The split was effective June 24.

“Clearly, the share split and the lowering of the expense ratios has appealed to investors at this juncture,” Paul Weisbruch, an ETF trader with King of Prussia, Pa.-based Street One Financial, said in an e-mail interview. “But it would be shortsighted to believe that State Street could not respond quickly with two similar moves on their own in order to protect their market share.”

Another competitor in the world of U.S. gold ETFs, ETF Securities’ Physical Swiss Gold Shares (NYSEArca: SGOL), charges an annual management fee of 0.39 percent. Weisbruch added that it’s entirely possible that ETFS will join the fray and cut costs on SGOL, especially considering the success it’s had so far in gathering assets since it launched the gold ETF last year.


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