Running Out of Room to Store Gold Supplies (BCS, DB, JPM, BCO, GLD, IAU, HBC)

Demand for gold as a safe haven has driven demand for more places to store that gold. And it’s getting harder more difficult to find that storage, resulting in a boom of sorts in the vault business. Small investors pay up to 1% of the value of their holdings for the opportunity to store gold, while hedge funds and ETFs may pay about 0.4%, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Mega-banks, too, are building more storage space for gold. Barclays Capital, a subsidiary of Barclays PLC (NYSE: BCS), Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE: DB), J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), and Brinks Co. (NYSE: BCO) are all building new or expanded secure storage to hold all that yellow metal.

Adding to the demand for gold, of course, are the ETFs that purchase bullion: the SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE: GLD) and the iShares Gold Trust (NYSE: IAU). A single gold bar weighs 27.5 pounds and is 7 inches long by 3.675 inches wide by 1.75 inches high. The SPDR Gold Trust holds more than 1,250 metric tons of gold bullion in a vault owned by HSBC Holdings plc (NYSE: HBC), or about 2.75 million pounds. That’s 100,000 gold bars with a total dollar value of about $72 billion.

The world’s central banks hold more than 30,000 metric tons of gold, and the world’s gold miners added more than 400 tons to the globe’s supply of gold in the second quarter of this year. The newly-mined gold totaled the equivalent of 32,000 gold bars. Nearly 40% of that is converted into about 12,800 gold bars.

There are plenty of analysts who don’t believe the gold rally can continue. George Soros, for example, sold all his interests in both SPDR and iShares gold trusts. Warren Buffett thinks investing in gold is, at best, peculiar.

For now, though JP Morgan, HSBC, and Brinks, the three largest vault-providers in the UK are sitting pretty. Small gold investors, though, may be facing higher storage prices as insurance costs are rising. The vault owners, as you might expect, have no comment.

The obvious question, of course, is what happens to all these new vaults when investors unload their hoards of gold?

Paul Ausick