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State Street’s gold fund is ETF land’s biggest cash machine

This year’s frenzied rush for gold is turning out to be quite a boon for State Street Corp.

The Boston-based firm’s $78 billion SPDR Gold Shares exchange-traded fund, ticker GLD, is making more money than any other product in the $4.6 trillion US ETF market.

Annual revenues for the fund have jumped to about $312 million as of July 30, meaning it is out-earning the world’s largest ETF. That’s another State Street vehicle, the $288 billion SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), which generates about $270 million.

A combination of GLD’s higher fees — an expense ratio of 0.4 percent versus 0.095 percent for SPY — and an almost relentless demand for gold have catapulted it from fourth on the revenue leader board in 2017, according to Bloomberg Intelligence data. Coronavirus-fueled market turmoil and the plunge in global bond yields have fueled 19 consecutive weeks of inflows to gold ETFs, with bullion prices soaring to an all-time high this week.

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“It’s a perfect combination of record gold ETF demand and GLD being priced at more than double the industry weighted average expense ratio,” said Nate Geraci, president of investment-advisory firm the ETF Store. “If gold ETF demand continues, GLD can absolutely hold on to the top spot. But competition will ultimately chip away.”

The triumph of GLD highlights an aspect of competition in the market which is often over-looked: Investors tend to like funds with history. State Street launched a less-expensive gold ETF in 2018, the SPDR Gold MiniShares ETF (GLDM), with an expense ratio of 0.18 percent. At $3.2 billion the fund is still dwarfed by GLD, which began trading in 2004.

BLOOMBERG