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Investors ran—not walked—away from commodity-related investments this week, as over the past five sessions, the S&P GSCI Index fell the most since 2008. We saw silver plunge over 30 percent in a matter of days, while crude oil crumbled by almost $10/barrel in a single session.

Rather than any single news or economic event, the primary culprit seemed to be an unwinding of the extremely crowded trade in commodities. This exodus from commodities was very much evident in this week’s ETP flows data, which shows that investors pulled out a whopping $3.4 billion from the space. After including losses from capital depreciation, total assets in commodity-related ETPs fell a stunning $15 billion over the course of the week, ending at $164 billion.

Four of the five sectors saw investor withdrawals. Precious metals, unsurprisingly, led with $2 billion in outflows. The energy, agriculture and broad market sectors followed with $1.1 billion, $193 million and $71 million in outflows, respectively. Industrial metals ETPs bucked the trend, managing to attract $25 million of investor capital, despite the poor performance in base metals prices during the week.

Individual ETP performance mirrored sector performance, with precious metals and energy funds dominating the action. Once again, we saw the ProShares UltraShort Silver (NYSE Arca: ZSL) make the top inflows leaderboard, this time taking the top spot, with $138 million in inflows. Assets into this leveraged short product have ballooned from $118 million to $694 million over the past month, as traders sought to time the top in silver prices.

Interestingly, the iShares Gold Trust (NYSE Arca: IAU) and the PowerShares DB Precious Metals Fund (NYSE Arca: DBP) also made the inflows leaderboard this week, as investors added $94 million and $62 million, respectively, to the funds. IAU offers long exposure to physical gold, while DBP invests in gold and silver futures contracts.

Finally, the PowerShares DB Energy Fund (NYSE Arca: DBE) and the Alerian MLP ETF (NYSE Arca: AMLP) round out the top five, with $33 million and $27 million in inflows, respectively. The latter has been attracting a steady stream of capital, as investors consider high-yield master limited partnerships a conservative way to gain energy exposure.

Turning to the outflow leaders this week, the two behemoths in the precious metals space—the SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE Arca: GLD) and the iShares Silver Trust (NYSE Arca: SLV)—saw enormous investor withdrawals, of $1 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively. GLD’s performance contrasts with that of lower-cost rival IAU mentioned above, but it’s more in line with what we would expect, given the downward trajectory of gold prices this week. SLV was the big story of the week though, as the outflows from the fund offer a strong explanation for why silver prices plummeted in the period.

Meanwhile, United States Natural Gas Fund (NYSE Arca: UNG) saw big moves of its own, as investors pulled out $220 million from the fund. Rounding out the top five, the PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund (NYSE Arca: DBA) lost $179 million of investor capital.

Switching gears and taking a look at price performance for the week, we see that not a single ETP posted a positive return in the period. The iPath Pure Beta Aluminum ETN (NYSE Arca: FOIL) fared the best, as it lost only 0.02 percent.

As for the worst price performers of the week, every product was silver-related. The UBS E-TRACS CMCI Silver Total Return ETN (NYSE Arca: USV), PowerShares DB Silver Fund (NYSE Arca: DBS), iShares Silver Trust (NYSE Arca: SLV), ETFS Physical Silver Shares (NYSE Arca: SIVR) and ETFS Physical White Metals Basket Shares (NYSE Arca: WITE) saw losses of 30.82 percent, 28.95 percent, 28.65 percent, 28.63 percent and 21.18 percent, respectively.

Fund Flows Data: April 29 - May 5, 2011

Commodity ETF Weekly Flows By Asset Class

Net Flows
($, mm)
% of AUM
Broad Market-70.9416,624.50-0.43%
Industrial Metals24.643,900.510.63%
Precious Metals-2,023.5095,207.53-2.13%

Top 5 Commodity ETF Creations

TickerNameNet Flows
($, mm)
AUM % Change
ZSLProShares UltraShort Silver138.11694.3524.83%
IAUiShares Gold Trust94.466,624.291.45%
DBPPowerShares DB Precious Metals61.64584.0511.80%
DBEPowerShares DB Energy32.86248.8415.21%
AMLPAlerian MLP27.171,052.622.65%

Top 5 Commodity ETF Redemptions

TickerNameNet Flows
($, mm)
AUM % Change
SLViShares Silver-1,054.5812,490.34-7.79%
GLDSPDR Gold-1,040.2858,680.42-1.74%
XLEEnergy Select SPDR-558.399,134.14-5.76%
UNGUnited States Natural Gas-219.761,865.88-10.54%
DBAPowerShares DB Agriculture-178.943,453.95-4.93%

Top 5 Weekly Performers (Excluding Leverage/Inverse, >1,000 Shares Traded)

Weekly VolumeAUM
($, mm)
FOILiPath Pure Beta Aluminum ETN-0.02%21,7004.43
UBGUBS E-TRACS CMCI Gold Total Return ETN-0.15%13,6797.46
HEVYiPath Pure Beta Industrial Metals ETN-0.66%12,8004.67
CUPMiPath Pure Beta Copper ETN-1.31%16,5004.70
NUCLiShares S&P Global Nuclear Energy-1.37%19,41817.68

Bottom 5 Weekly Performers (Excluding Leverage/Inverse, >1,000 Shares Traded)

Weekly VolumeAUM
($, mm)
USVUBS E-TRACS CMCI Silver Total Return ETN-30.82%102,6499.23
DBSPowerShares DB Silver-28.95%3,433,154367.99
SLViShares Silver-28.65%1,177,115,68512,490.34
SIVRETFS Physical Silver-28.63%19,082,252673.72
WITEETFS Physical WM Basket-21.18%844,06458.46

Top 5 Volume Surprises (>$50mm AUM)

TickerNameAverage Volume
(30 Day)
1 Week Average Volume% of Average
JOiPath Dow Jones-UBS Coffee Total Return ETN88,7342,803,363631.86%
JJAiPath Dow Jones UBS Agriculture Total Return ETN160,4373,883,216484.08%
PSAUPowerShares Global Gold and Precious Metals Portfolio9,948226,931456.26%
GSCGS Connect S&P GSCI Enhanced Commodity Total Return Strategy ETN14,324254,297355.07%
GLTRETFS Physical Precious Metal Basket Shares73,8801,283,580347.48%

Disclaimer: Data provided by IndexUniverse. All data as of 6 a.m. Eastern the date of publication. Data is believed to be accurate; however, transient market data is often subject to subsequent revision and correction by the exchanges.

Source: Weekly Commodity ETF Flows Report: SLV Outflows Confirm Investor Exodus