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How big is the global gold market?

Topics [ GoldPass ]

According to the World Gold Council, the best estimates suggest that by the end of 2019 more than 197,000 tonnes of gold had been mined across the course of human history. 

Despite the fact that gold has been valued and sought after by humans for millennia, the majority of this gold – roughly two thirds – has been mined in the past 70 years.

This gold is owned in a variety of forms which can be grouped into several major categories of gold demand. These include:

Physical bars and coins
Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) holdings 
Official holdings (central bank reserves) 
Fabrication (industrial demand)

These are highlighted in the chart below which indicates the percentage of total gold holdings held in each:

Source: World Gold Council, based on end 2019 data

The table below shows total global gold holdings held in the above categories by percentage, actual tonnes held and market value based on the 31 December 2019 LBMA AM gold price of USD 1,523.00 per ounce. 

Source: World Gold Council, Kitco, The Perth Mint

As demonstrated by the above data, the size of the gold market at the end of last year, based on the amount that has been mined and its end-December 2019 price, was more than USD 9.6 trillion. 

Whilst not all these holdings can be considered ‘near market’ gold (particularly gold that has been used in fabrication), even the gold held for private investment and as central bank reserves has a market value in excess of USD 3.7 trillion. 

Note that the above table does not include exposure through derivatives (either exchange traded or over the counter), with the World Gold Council estimating that by the end of 2018 some USD 400 billion in exposure was held through these investments. 

At over USD 9.5 trillion, the gold market is valued at more than five times the size of the entire Australian superannuation market as at the end of 2019. 

To put the size of the global gold market in further perspective, in the chart below we compare it to some of the largest sovereign bond markets in the world as measured by the Bank for International Settlement (BIS) general government debt securities outstanding.
We highlight the gold market in two ways. The column titled ‘GOLD’ shows the size of the entire gold market, including jewellery and gold that has been used for industrial purposes. 

We also focus on what we term monetary and investment gold, which is the metal held by private investors in bar, coin and ETF form, as well as official reserve holdings by central banks. This is noted as ‘INVESTMENT GOLD’ in the chart. 

Source: World Gold Council; BIS total credit statistics, end Q2 2019, The Perth Mint

As you can see, if gold were a sovereign bond market, it would either be the second or third largest on earth, depending on which way you chose to measure it. 

It is of course also worth noting that unlike the size of the government debt markets highlighted in the chart above, gold has no credit risk or long-term inflation risk. 

The issues surrounding risk in sovereign debt markets is something that the World Gold Council has also commented on. In a report titled Liquidity in the global gold market, it noted that “ever increasing debt markets driven by consistent fiscal deficits may benefit market participants from the perspective of market size; however, ultimately this also increases credit risk of the underlying bonds.”

The huge size of the gold market, the stability of the total gold supply and its total absence of credit or long-term inflation risk only add to the asset’s attractiveness as an investment. 

Past performance does not guarantee future results.
The information in this article and the links provided are for general information only and should not be taken as constituting professional advice from The Perth Mint. The Perth Mint is not a financial adviser. You should consider seeking independent financial advice to check how the information in this article relates to your unique circumstances. All data, including prices, quotes, valuations and statistics included have been obtained from sources The Perth Mint deems to be reliable, but we do not guarantee their accuracy or completeness. The Perth Mint is not liable for any loss caused, whether due to negligence or otherwise, arising from the use of, or reliance on, the information provided directly or indirectly, by use of this article.

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