After a strong start to the year, precious metals have delivered disappointing results. Can they climb out of their rut?

The SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), the largest gold-focused ETF with $31.1 billion in assets, has slid more than 7 percent in value since the start of the year. Similarly, the $5 billion iShares Silver Trust (SLV) has fallen 9.8 percent.

During the first quarter, gold demand of 973.5 tons was the lowest first-quarter total since 2008. The main factor was decelerating investment demand for gold bars and gold-backed ETFs, according to the World Gold Council.

Despite lackluster results on the investment side, there are two positive trends in the gold market: high demand by central banks and the needs of the technology sector. 

Central banks added 116.5 tons to global official reserves during the first quarter. That impressive showing was the highest first-quarter total in four years and in line with long-term average quarterly purchases of 114.9 tons since first quarter 2010.

In the technology sector, year-over-year growth in the first quarter grew by 4 percent. Gold demand remained strong due to smartphones, gaming devices and security systems.

The ETFS Physical Precious Metals Basket Shares (GLTR), a broader measure of the precious metals group, is down 9.1 percent year-to-date. Aside from gold and silver exposure, GLTR also contains platinum and palladium.

Nonetheless, the choppy performance in precious metals hasn't stopped ETF issuers from launching new products.

On June 26, State Street debuted the SPDR Gold MiniShares Trust (GLDM). GLDM’s per-share trading price is set at 1/100th of an ounce of gold, as represented by the LBMA Gold Price (priced in U.S. dollars). This new fund also has the lowest total expense ratio among all gold exchange-traded products, with a net and gross expense ratio of 0.18 percent. As with the other two gold-linked SPDR ETFs, GLDM is backed by physical gold. 

On the equity side, gold miners are lagging performers relative to broader equity benchmarks. While the Schwab U.S. Broad Market ETF (SCHB) has gained 7 percent this year, the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) has dropped nearly 10 percent.

Within the S&P 500, exposure to miners is held inside the materials sector and the Materials Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLB). The result has been underperformance for XLB relative to other S&P 500 industry groups. XLB is down 2.2 percent this year.

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