(Bloomberg) -- As global tensions escalate, signs of a slowdown mount and equities decline, more investors are turning to gold. Worldwide holdings in bullion-backed exchange-traded funds have expanded for 17 days in a row, capping the longest run of inflows since 2009.

The total stash now stands less than 35 tons away from a record set in 2012, according to the latest tally by Bloomberg. The consistent influx has come even as prices struggled to extend gains above $1,500 an ounce in recent weeks.

Bullion has climbed in 2019 as the U.S.-China trade war hurts global growth and central banks loosen policy. The rise in ETF holdings comes as investors fret that high-level talks between Washington and Beijing set for later this week are unlikely to yield a breakthrough. In addition, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hinted on Tuesday at the possibility of another interest rate cut.

“Gold inflows are likely to persist,” Citigroup Inc. said in a note, sticking with its forecast for a rally to $1,700 an ounce over six to 12 months. “Markedly weak manufacturing and services ISM data show that the slowdown in global trade is starting to bite the U.S. economy.”

This week there have been a series of warnings about risks, encompassing the trade standoff and other long-running frictions. Societe Generale SA Chairman Lorenzo Bini Smaghi warned on Monday a hard Brexit could plunge the world into recession and would be a disaster for the financial system.

In a similar vein, Kristalina Georgieva -- in her first major address as head of the International Monetary Fund -- painted a downbeat picture of the world economy in remarks in Washington on Tuesday. The fund estimates that 90% of of the world is seeing slower growth, she said.

Spot gold, a traditional haven and beneficiary when investors shun risk, traded little-changed at $1,506.65 an ounce in early Asian trading, up 17% this year. Prices have risen for the past four quarters, hitting $1,557.11 early last month, the highest since 2013.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ranjeetha Pakiam in Singapore at rpakiam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Phoebe Sedgman at psedgman2@bloomberg.net, Jake Lloyd-Smith, Keith Gosman

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