Emirates NBD's gold investments taps diversity in demand

Exchange-traded funds investing in precious metals through derivatives have proved a smash hit.

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Emirates NBD's investments in physically stored gold follow the recent trend among worldwide investors to diversify away from stocks and bonds.

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) investing in precious metals through derivatives have proved a smash hit, but versions that maintain the link to gold stored in vaults have been more controversial.

Gold funds have gone from scratch to holding more than 2,000 tonnes in the past three years, according to data from Credit Agricole CIB.

In total, physically-backed ETFs are now the sixth-largest holder of gold in the world, after the US, Germany, France, Italy and the IMF. Robert Broadwell, a vice president at iShares, the world's largest ETF provider, said many investors preferred the peace of mind of knowing that "there's literally bullion in the vault", rather than holding claims to a price tracked by derivatives.

He said a physically-backed ETF also tracked the spot price of gold closer than one using derivatives.

A number of banks are attempting to launch "physically-backed" exchange-traded funds in base metals, such as aluminium, copper, zinc, nickel and tin. ETF Securities, JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and Blackrock are all planning to launch such products.

Robin Bhar, a metals analyst at Credit Agricole CIB, said the success of precious metal funds had left them wanting to "tap investor interest in base metals".

He said there was "latent interest on the part of the investor" because a bet on commodities reflected the strength of the global economy, particularly manufacturing demand from China.

Today, ETF Securities becomes the first to launch such a fund, trading in copper, nickel and tin on the London Stock Exchange.

However, some commodity analysts saythe funds could push up the prices of basic commodities used in electronics, manufacturing and construction.