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Bitcoin investors are running from the crypto to invest in gold this year: ETF strategist

VIDEO8:0608:06
The man behind two gold ETFs says this about bitcoin

Bitcoin's hot streak is well and truly dead.

The cryptocurrency has not been able to crack above $4,000 in three weeks just 12 months after trading at more than $12,000.

Signs show that bitcoin investors are moving toward a more traditional commodity, says Jan Van Eck, CEO of Van Eck Associates.

"I do think that Bitcoin pulled a little bit of demand away from gold last year, in 2017," Van Eck told CNBC's "ETF Edge" on Wednesday. "Interestingly, we just polled 4,000 bitcoin investors and their number one investment for 2019 is actually gold. So gold lost to bitcoin and now it's going the other way."

In the 12 months to bitcoin's peak above $20,000 in December 2017, the cryptocurrency increased in value 25 times over. Over that same stretch, gold rallied 4 percent. More than a year since bitcoin's peak, it's down 82 percent, while gold is up 2.5 percent.

It may be difficult for the tide to turn back to bitcoin and away from gold from here, says Tim Seymour, founder and chief investment officer of Seymour Asset Management.

"Not only have we lost all liquidity on the underlying [commodity] but truly outside of the existential blockchain argument, it's been very difficult to argue store of value which is really what we started hearing about," Seymour said on "ETF Edge" on Wednesday. "Gold is a store of value and there's no disputing that."

Canadian maple leafs sit on the faces of one ounce gold coins in this arranged photograph at Gold Investments Ltd. bullion dealers in London, U.K., on Tuesday, July 15, 2014.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

If gold shares do get a bid this year, one of the ways to play it is through gold ETFs, says Van Eck. His firm created the most well-known gold ETFs: the GDX gold miners ETF and GDXJ junior gold miners ETF.

"The shares have been acting tremendously well over the last two or three months … It's starting to zig when the stock market zags," Van Eck said. "In the majority of the days in Q4 when the S&P was down, GDX was up. So that zigzag, that decoupling makes me really excited about gold shares as a diversifier."

The GDX ETF rallied 14 percent in the fourth quarter, its best since the second quarter of 2016, while the slumped 14 percent. That performance has not carried over into the new year — the GDX is up less than 1 percent in January as the S&P 500 has spiked 6 percent.