Gold prices are in focus in 2011. Many investors will continue to buy gold as a hedge against inflation as commodity prices soar and the prospect of higher interest rates and a weak dollar loom large. As such, physical gold ETFs such as the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (NYSE: GLD) and the iShares Gold Trust ETF (NYSE: IAU) remain popular – as do mining stocks like Goldcorp (NYSE: GG) or the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSE: GDX).
But among gold investments, the GLD gold ETF is king – with a whopping $56.3 billion in assets as of this writing, second in the ETF fund universe only to the ubiquitous SPDR S&P 500 Fund (NYSE: SPY). It is 10 times bigger than the IAU gold ETF fund.
Just how big is the SPDR Gold Shares ETF and its $56.3 billion in assets? Let’s take a look:
GLD Assets vs. ETFs
#2 ETF by Assets: As said, GLD is the second largest ETF on Wall Street.
GLD = #8 + #9 + #10: It is as large the eighth-, ninth- and tenth-largest ETF funds combined – that would be the iShares Barclays TIPS Bond Fund (NYSE: TIPS) at $19.3 billion, the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSE: VTI) at $19.2 billion and the iShares Russell 2000 Index Fund (NYSE: IWM) at $16.4 billion.
5% of Total ETF Investment: At the end of 2010, ETF assets topped $1 Trillion. That means 5 cents of every dollar in ETFs can be found in the SPDR Gold Shares fund.
GLD Assets vs. Blue Chip Stocks
As Big As: If GLD was a publicly traded company, its $56.3 billion “market cap” would rank it as the 99th largest corporation on Wall Street as of this writing. That’s bigger than big-time blue chips Kraft (NYSE: KFT), Visa (NYSE: V), Boeing (NYSE: BA) and Ford (NYSE: F).
2x as Big: By this same measure, GLD would be twice as big as aerospace and defense powerhouse Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), Dow component Travellers (NYSE: TRV) and coffee king Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX).
3x as Big: The SPDR Gold Shares fund assets are three times as large as big as Flash and Photoshop maker Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE), telecom giant Comcast (NYSE: CMCSA) and aluminum icon Alcoa (NYSE: AA).
GLD vs. The World
Richer Than Half the Nations: GLD’s assets rank greater than the gross domestic product of all but 67 countries in the world. Southwest Asia’s Oman just misses out at a GDP of $53.7 billion. But at $59.6 billion, Syria could be eclipsed very soon.
What a Zoo: Gold GLD has the equivalent of 39 million ounces of gold in assets. That’s over 1,200 tons, or the weight of nearly 150 elephants. Or for the idolaters out there about 32,400 calves.
Gold Grills for Every Hoosier: $56.3 billion would be more than 7 million gold teeth — enough for one in the mouth of every Indiana resident. With a few hundred thousand left over.
4 trillion Movie Outings: At $8 a ticket and then $3 for a drink and $3 a popcorn, GLD assets could pay for over 4 trillion tickets to the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie in all its treasure-hunting glory. That would be a seat and snacks for over half the world. Unfortunately, since Johnny Depp is universally popular, that still won’t be enough. Arrr…
Jeff Reeves is editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.