Volatile gold demand tarnishes U.S. commodity fund sales

September 7, 2016 4:35 PM EDT

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By Trevor Hunnicutt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Turning fortunes for gold pushed withdrawals from U.S.-based commodity funds to their highest levels since April, Investment Company Institute data for the latest week showed on Wednesday.

Investors pulled $601 million from those mutual funds and exchange-traded funds during the week through Aug. 31, the trade group said, though many gold funds have seen a rebound in recent days.

The fickle buying and selling of funds, such as SPDR Gold Shares, comes after some U.S. monetary policymakers suggested they favored raising interest rates sooner rather than later, though weak economic data have damped their case.

Hiking rates would raise the opportunity cost of holding assets such as gold, which despite its strong price gains this year yields little.

Precious metals commodities funds tracked by Thomson Reuters Lipper, a research service, have recorded negative performance for the four weeks through the end of August.

But the flows have started to rebound alongside of a rise in the price of gold recently. GLD took in $607 million on Tuesday, according to FactSet Research Systems Inc, which tracks the ETF market.

John LaForge, head of real asset strategy at the Wells Fargo & Co's Investment Institute, said he does not see concerns over central bank policy or economic problems helping support gold prices further.

"If you look at gold versus the other major assets, it's overpriced relative to its history," said LaForge.

It was a fairly quiet end to August for other asset classes.

Stock funds posted $910 million in outflows, ICI data showed, a more moderate figure than the $3.3 billion in outflows averaged over the prior five weeks.

Bond funds, which unlike stock funds have been popular for the better part of the year, took in $2.5 billion, according to the ICI. That is a slower pace of inflows for the funds, compared to the $7.5 billion prior five-week average.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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