Buying shares of gold ETFs is a great way to take advantage of the volatility of the precious metals market without getting involved in commodities trading directly. These are the 5 largest gold ETFs by average volume. Note that we’re comparing the trading volume of the ETFs themselves, rather than the volume of the assets under management. All figures are current as of February 15, 2017.
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
- Issuer: State Street Global Advisors
- Average Volume: 9,800,000 shares
- 2016 YTD Performance: 8.81%
- Expense Ratio: 0.40%
Formerly the top-trading ETF in the world by volume, SPDR Gold Shares has fallen out of the top 10 in recent years. But it’s still a high-volume fund with excellent performance and a low expense ratio as compared to other precious metals ETFs. This exchange-traded fund, managed by State Street Global Advisors, has the highest average volume of any gold ETF currently traded.
Like IAU and OUNZ below, SPDR Gold Shares holds in bullion directly. Each share is meant to track the price of one-tenth of an ounce of gold. If the share prices spike and outperform gold, the manager of this fund exchanges baskets of 100,000 shares for bullion, in order to keep a rough equivalence.
As of the beginning of the year, this fund owned over 21 million ounces of gold bullion and had in excess of $23 billion under management.
iShares Gold Trust (IAU)
- Issuer: iShares
- Average Volume: 8,900,000 shares
- 2016 YTD Performance: 9.09%
- Expense Ratio: 0.25%
iShares formed the Gold Trust ETF as a direct competitor to State Street’s Gold Shares ETF, and it has outperformed the other fund because of its lower expense ratio. The Gold Trust is second in average volume, but it leads the rest of the pack by millions of shares.
The Gold Trust ETF, which is managed by iShares, has an extremely low expense ratio and a proven track record of exceptional performance. Like State Street’s Gold Shares fund, iShares Gold Trust is unique in that it holds physical gold rather than stock in companies that mine and refine raw gold.
This fund has $7.4 billion worth of assets under management, which equates to 6.47 million ounces of bullion in its vaults at the time of this writing.
Triple Long Gold (UGLD)
- Issuer: Credit Suisse
- Average Volume: 464,200 shares
- 2016 YTD Performance: 16.69%
- Expense Ratio: 1.35%
The Triple Long Gold fund, managed by Credit Suisse, takes an optimistic position on the price of gold. Since the price of gold has risen this year, and since this is a triple long fund designed to amplify the gains in the gold market as a whole, it’s the best-yielding fund in this list by far.
Credit Suisse’s Triple Long Gold ETF is an excellent fund for anyone who is bullish on the rising cost of gold. Although it’s a moderate-volume fund, the Triple Long Gold fund has had an excellent year. It’s not as large or heavily traded as some in this list, but it has outperformed all of them this year. (See also: What Drives the Price of Gold?)
DB Gold Double Short (DZZ)
- Issuer: PowerShares
- Average Volume: 129,200 shares
- 2016 YTD Performance: -23.90%
- Expense Ratio: 0.75%
PowerShares DB Gold Double Short fund takes the opposite approach of the previous Triple Long Gold ETF. This fund takes an aggressively short position in the price of gold, and as such it has had a difficult time turning a profit in a market that has mostly seen a slow rise without too many sudden falls – which short funds rely on to make money.
The PowerShares DB Gold Double Short is a moderate-volume fund that’s designed to deliver good returns as the price of gold falls. If you’re an investor who’s counting on the cost of a Troy ounce plunging, this fund is a good choice.
Merk Gold Trust (OUNZ)
- Issuer: Merk Investments
- Average Volume: 98,500 shares
- 2016 YTD Performance: 8.94%
- Expense Ratio: 0.40%
The Gold Trust by Merk is a traditional, if small, gold ETF. The fund has enjoyed good performance over the course of the year, and although it doesn’t have the amount of assets under management that larger funds do, it has been able to turn a profit with smart investing.
Another moderate-volume fund, the Merk Gold Trust, is still the fifth-largest gold ETF on the street. At just over $152 million in the fund, it has got a fair amount of assets under management. It’s set up in a way that’s comparable to the iShares Gold Trust and SPDR Gold Shares funds, but allows investors to exchange their holdings for coins, tax free, for a small fee. (See also: What is the Relationship Between Gold and ETFs?)
This article has been updated to correct factual errors.