by Nick Barisheff
Gold-backed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and similar products account for a significant part of the gold market, with institutional and individual investors using them to implement many of their investment strategies without considering the true risk associated with many aspects of holding non-tangible assets. Gold ETFs are units representing physical gold in paper or dematerialized form, which is very different from owning physical gold. According to the World Gold Council, global gold-backed ETFs added 298 tonnes, or US$23 billion, across all regions in the first quarter of 2020. Total ETF holdings amounted to 3,296 tonnes, representing US$179 billion. The largest ETF is SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) with 1,048 tonnes.