To anyone who is an investor in physical gold, a vexing handicap is the ability to store your gold bars. Once the bathtub is full of Kruger rands, apart from buying a larger property, what can you do?

Since its launch in 2004, the Streettracks gold trust has accumulated a stash of gold worth $10 billion. That is 467 tonnes or 15 million ounces of gold. Probably rather more than you could keep in your Hong Kong- or Tokyo-sized flat.

This fund was the fastest growing ETF in history, pulling in $1 billion in its first three days. It has an average daily trading volume of $400 million. Originally listed in New York, this gold ETF came to Asia at the end of 2006 and is now listing in Singapore. The bullion is kept in allocated form, stored in the USA and insured by its custodian HSBC. It trades like any other normal share or exchange-traded fund. There is no dividend, as the interest rate payable on a gold deposit is negligible.

"We have physical gold in vaults backing this fund. That differentiates us from exchange-traded funds which use futures,ö says Stuart Thomas, the principal of Exchange Traded Gold and the mastermind of this fund. ô ETFs using futures expose investors to a variety of risks including, but certainly not limited to, roll and credit risk associated with the futures."

There are now over 600 exchange-traded funds worldwide with assets of $500 billion. This was an investment industry that did not exist a decade ago. The advent of exchange-traded metals funds has been a material new source of gold demand, which in the past was led by central banks and more recently by jewellery manufacturers. It has made gold more accessible as a modern investible instrument. Some feel that the growth in investor interest heralds a rally in the gold price for the first half of 2007. The gold bullion price has risen consistently in the last five years from a level of approximately $240 per ounce to today's $667/oz.

"The outlook for the price should track higher over the coming months,ö says Paul Walker, CEO of specialist metals consultancy GFMS. öWe should be seeing prices getting in the $670 range in the first half, although it is less certain we will see the recent high of $725 surpassed. That could still occur, maybe further into the year or possibly in 2008, especially if the situation in the Middle East deteriorates significantly, driving oil prices higher.ö

Having made this case, for those who offered their better half a few shares in a gold ETF on Valentines Day this week, and then dodged a blow from a saucepan, please be advised that this gambit wasnÆt perceived as the apotheosis of romance.