* SPDR Gold Trust lost 142 T in gold valued at $6.6 bln
* American Eagle gold coins up 10 times yr/yr to 209,500 oz
* Dealers report 20 pct premium per US silver coin
By Frank Tang
NEW YORK, May 1 (Reuters) - Gold's historic sell-off last
month has intensified a disconnect between funds that sold on
dissatisfaction over bullion's underperformance and individual
investors who could not get enough physical gold coins and bars
at bargain prices.
In April, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded
fund (ETF), the SPDR Gold Trust , posted
a record monthly outflow in tonnage terms.
In contrast, sales of the U.S. Mint's American Eagle gold
coins rose to their highest monthly tally since December 2009.
While equities ETFs are often used by longer-term retail
investors, high-profile hedge fund managers, including John
Paulson and other institutional investors, are by far the
biggest shareholders of gold ETFs.
"It's been primarily the financial component that has been
selling. I don't think that we have seen a lot of small holders
changing their view on gold," said Nicholas Johnson, a portfolio
manager who helps manage the $30 billion in commodities at PIMCO
in Newport Beach, California.
Johnson said he expects tremendous Asian buying on dips and
demand by central banks there to more than offset
fast-money-type selling by Western financial institutions.
Bullion held by the SPDR Gold Trust dropped by around 143
tonnes in April from March - valued at $6.6 billion at
Wednesday's prices - for its biggest monthly decline since its
launch in November 2004.
It now holds 1,078.5 tonnes of gold, the lowest level since
2009, versus 1,221.26 tonnes at the end of March.
Gold prices dropped $225 per ounces between April 12
and 16 on fears of a withdrawal of the Federal Reserve's
monetary stimulus and after the European Central Bank and the
International Monetary Fund asked Cyprus to sell reserves as
part of a bailout deal.
GOLD, SILVER COINS FLYING OFF SHELVES
In contrast, gold coins and bars, favorites of longer-term
individual investors who want to gain exposure to the precious
metal, soared after gold's spectacular sell-off.
Shops selling gold coins, jewelry and bars around the world
reported an unprecedented surge in demand and mints and
refineries were working over time to keep up.
Sale of the American Eagle gold coins, jumped 10 times
year-over-year in April to 209,500 ounces, the highest level
since December 2009, U.S. Mint data showed on Wednesday.
In the first four months this year, sales of the U.S. gold
coins increased to 502,000 ounces in 2013 from 116,200 ounces in
the same period last year.
The strong performance came even after the U.S. Mint had
suspended sales of its one-tenth ounce gold coins last week as
surging demand depleted its inventory.
Chris Carkner, a managing director at the Royal Canadian
Mint, said demand for gold and silver Maple Leaf bullion coins
increased sharply year-over-year in the first four months of
2013, and the Mint is managing its inventories closely to ensure
continuous supply to its global customers.
New Orleans-based retail coin dealer Blanchard & Co said
huge demand from both new and existing clients boosted its April
American Eagle gold coin sales 400 percent versus sales in
In addition, the Mint's American Eagle silver coin sales
also climbed to over 4 million ounces in April from around 1.5
million ounces in the same month in 2012.
Dealers reported as much as $5, or a 20 percent premium per
one-ounce American Eagle silver coin, partly due to a lack of
coin blanks and production lag as the U.S. Mint has been
rationing them after a brief halt in January.