The gist on gold: ETF plays in the digital age

Viewing cryptocurrency as “digital gold” may be a mistake.

State Street Global Advisors’ George Milling-Stanley, whose firm runs the world’s largest gold exchange-traded fund, believes cryptocurrency is no substitute for the real thing due its vulnerability to big losses.

“Volatility does not back up any claims for crypto to be a long-term strategic asset as a competitor to gold,” the firm’s chief gold strategist told CNBC’s “ETF Edge” earlier this week.

Milling-Stanley’s firm is behind SPDR Gold Shares, the world’s largest physically backed gold ETF. It has a total asset value of more than $57 billion as of last week, according to the company’s website. The ETF is up 7% year to date as of Friday’s market close.

Milling-Stanley believes gold’s 6,000-year history as a monetary asset serves as a significant sample basis to understand the benefits of investing in gold.

“Gold is a hedge against inflation. Gold’s a hedge against potential weakness in the equity market. Gold’s a hedge against potential weakness in the dollar,” he noted. “To me, historically, the promise of gold for investors has … overtime [helped] to enhance the returns of a properly balanced portfolio.”

The precious metal is having trouble this year staying above the $2,000 an ounce mark. But Milling-Stanley believes the economic backdrop bodes well for gold — recession or not.

“It’s pretty clear that we’re liable to be in a period of slow growth. … Historically, gold has always done well during periods of slower growth,” Milling-Stanley said.

Milling-Stanley also believes the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions in China should spark more demand for gold. It’s known as the world’s largest consumer of gold jewelry behind India, according to the World Gold Council.

“It’s not just China and India. It’s Vietnam, it’s Indonesia, it’s Thailand and Korea. It’s a whole raft of Asian countries that are really the main drivers of gold jewelry demand,” Milling-Stanley said.

Gold settled at $1,960.47 an ounce Friday. The commodity is up more than 7% so far this year.



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