Due to the scaremongering of some bloggers, newsletter writers and other promoters of gold manipulation theories, there is still a popular belief within the so-called “gold community” that the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), the world’s largest gold ETF and for a while in 2011 the world’s largest ETF of any type, doesn’t have all the gold it is supposed to have. There is supposed to be slightly less than one ounce* of allocated gold in the vaults of GLD’s custodian or sub-custodians for every 10 GLD shares, but rumour has it that GLD has put some or all of its gold bullion at risk via gold leasing or other secretive dealings.
The operative word in the above sentence is “rumour”, because there isn’t a shred of evidence that GLD has leased any of its gold or put its gold at risk in some other ‘unacceptable’ way. There is, however, definitive evidence that GLD does have the correct amount of gold. First, GLD maintains a list of every gold bar it owns. The Bar List is located HERE, is updated daily, and contains the serial number, weight and assayed purity of each bar (61,488 of them as at 13th October 2014). Second, the Bar List is audited by Inspectorate International. Specifically, Inspectorate conducts two audits every year of the gold bullion held on behalf of GLD at the vaults of GLD’s custodian. One of these audits involves a complete bar count, meaning that every single bar is inspected and checked against the Bar List. The second audit is a random sample count.
Interestingly, James Turk’s Goldmoney.com also uses Inspectorate to audit the gold in its custodian’s vaults. The latest full audit report of GLD’s gold inventory can be viewed HERE and the latest audit report of Goldmoney’s inventory can be viewed HERE.
Owning GLD is not the same as having physical gold in your possession or having ownership of allocated gold in a vault that you can take delivery of (GLD shares can only be exchanged for gold bullion in 100,000-share lots by Authorised Participants). It is simply a convenient way to trade something that is fully backed by physical gold via the stock market at very low commissions and buy-sell spreads.
If you own GLD shares and plan to maintain your position for 1-2 years or longer then you should give some thought to switching from GLD to GTU (Central Gold Trust), because GTU is currently trading at a discount of almost 8% to net asset value. At current prices, by selling GLD and buying the same dollar amount of GTU you end up with exposure to almost 8% more gold.
*There was originally one ounce of gold for every 10 GLD shares, but the amount of physical gold per GLD share falls by a tiny amount each year due to storage and insurance costs.