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Gold Investment - Investing in Gold:

This article discusses the use of the precious metal gold as an investment.

1 Gold as a store of wealth
2 Gold as an investment
3 Gold price
4 Factors influencing the gold price
5 Investment strategies
5.1 Technical analysis
5.2 Option writing
6 Methods of investing in gold
6.1 Bullion
6.2 Coins
6.3 Gold certificates
6.4 Gold accounts
6.5 Gold shares
6.6 Exchange-traded fund
6.7 Spread betting
6.8 Futures
7 Gold's value versus money supply
8 Bulls versus bears
9 References

Gold as a store of wealth

For over four thousand years gold has been regarded as a form of money and store of wealth. The use of gold superseded alternatives for a number of reasons including its rarity, luminosity, character (weight, softness), malleability, fungibility and resistance to tarnish.

Since the collapse of the gold standard, gold has largely lost its role as a form of currency, but is still considered by many, especially by central banks, as a store of value and a safe haven in times of crisis. Gold and other precious metals are unique assets in that they are real (i.e. have real value) and liquid (i.e. easily traded), unlike property which is real but not liquid, or company shares which are liquid but not real (i.e. a share certificate is just paper). Other traders and investors see gold as nothing more than just another commodity, such as copper or lead, and treat it as such.

However, gold does maintain a special position in the market with many tax regimes. For example, in the UK the trading of gold is free of VAT. Silver, and other precious metals and commodities, do not have the same allowance. UK capital gains tax may still apply for individuals.

Gold as an investment

Modern day investors in gold may invest in gold for several reasons:
The investor believes that he will make a profit from a rapid change in price. He may believe some future foreseen or unforeseen event will affect the demand for gold. He may think he has detected a pattern in the recent price behaviour which tells him the direction of the future price.
The investor believes that certain events, if they occur, (e.g. war or crisis), may have a negative influence on the value of his other investments, but the opposite effect on the value of his gold.
Krugerrands are a popular way to invest in gold because their gold content is exactly one troy ounce each.
Asset allocation
Traditional asset allocation strategists used to recommend a 5% to 10% exposure to gold was sensible on the grounds of diversification. Although the inclusion of gold in portfolios has largely been abandoned since the 1980s, it is once again being considered by asset allocators.
Portfolio hedging
Similar to asset allocation strategies, except the purpose of the investment is to hedge against unforeseen calamities which may affect the price of other investments negatively. Portfolios which contain gold are better able to withstand market surprises than those which don't. Some recent independent studies have suggested that traditional diversifiers, such as bonds, property and hedge funds often fail to stand up to market stress and may sell off with equities in times of uncertainty. Even a small allocation of gold to a portfolio significantly improves its performance during unstable periods.
Gold bugs
Gold bugs, in the traditional sense, believe, fear, or even hope for Armageddon or the total collapse of the monetary system, and that by holding gold they will survive and prosper.
Inflation hedgers
For centuries gold has remained a store of value. It has performed this function best in times of high inflation. Gold investors thus buy gold to protect themselves against a rise in inflation and a decline in the value of money, particularly paper folding money, or fiat currency.
Currency speculators
Since the main gold market is priced in U.S. dollars, speculators who believe the dollar will decline may buy gold. They think that if the Dollar declines, the gold price will remain constant in other currencies, thus rising in US Dollar terms. Gold may also be bought if they feel that a different currency will decline, since they expect the dollar price to be stable, but the foreign currency price to rise. Many currency traders treat gold as the 4th global currency, after the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen and European euro.
Gold Hoarders
Some investors respect gold as a long term store of value, and seek no profit, other than to maintain their purchasing power. By buying gold and hanging on for the long term, they believe they can keep their wealth intact.
Gold Cacheurs
Physical gold can be anonymous, if its ownership is not written down or recorded anywhere. Cacheurs seek to hide part of their wealth from their wives, family, tax authorities, creditors, extortionists, kidnappers, blackmailers, police, invaders or others. The anonymous nature of gold allows them to store a large value in a very small space, without fear of depreciation or erosion over a long period of time. A metric tonne of gold (1,000 kg) would be equivalent to a cube of side 37.27cm (1 ft 2? in), or roughly the size of a basketball. This small cube would contain 32,150 troy ounces, and be worth about $18,000,000 (January 2006).

Gold price

Article, data and chart GOLD PRICE Good article with charts and tables relating to the historic price of gold.

Factors influencing the gold price

Historically, before 1970, the price of gold was set by the US Government, so that an ounce of gold represented a certain fixed number of dollars. Until that time other countries set their currencies as being convertible into dollars at a fixed exchange rate, and thus the price of gold in those foreign currencies was also constant, until they devalued against the dollar. The dollar was itself occasionally devalued against gold by government edict. That was known as the gold standard. Since 1970, the price of gold has been allowed to float freely.

The usual benchmark for the price of gold is known as the London Fixing. This is done at a twice-daily meeting of a committee consisting of five representatives from bullion-trading firms. The meeting was chaired from its inception in 1919 until 2004 by the representative from N M Rothschild & Sons. In May of that year, Rothschild announced its intention to withdraw from the committee, and was replaced by Barclays Bank, and the chairmanship is now rotated annually. The other four representatives are the successor firms who have acquired the original London bullion dealers in the intervening years.

In addition to the gold fix, there is active gold trading based on intra-day spot price. These are derived from multiple gold-trading markets around the world as they open and close throughout the day.

Today, like all investments, and commodities, the price of gold is ultimately driven by supply and demand, including hoarding and dis-hoarding. Unlike most other commodities, the hoarding and dis-hoarding plays a much bigger role in affecting the price, since almost all the gold ever mined still exists and is potentially able to come on to the market at the right price. If, for example, the gold price were $100,000 an ounce, queues would form outside bullion dealers as people tried to sell their wedding rings. About one fifth of all gold ever produced sits in official gold reserves at various central banks, to be used only in a last resort in case of a national crisis. Given the huge quantity of above ground hoarded gold, compared to the annual production, the price of gold is mainly affected by changes in sentiment, rather than changes in annual production or gold jewelry demand.

The IMF and central banks play an important role in the gold price. European central banks, such as the Bank of England and Swiss National Bank, have been selling a total of approximately 500 tonnes of gold a year from the late 1990's until 2005 [1]. However, with inflation creeping back into the system, some say the tide may be turning. In November 2005, Russia, Argentina and South Africa expressed interest in increasing their gold holdings. Other than Russia, these are not viewed as significant central banks, but any move by Japan, China or South Korea to do the same would be seen as significant. Currently the USA has 75% of its foreign reserves in gold, whereas China holds approximately 1% in gold.

Although central banks do not generally announce gold purchases in advance, some such as Russia have expressed interest in growing their gold reserves again as of late 2005 [2]. In early 2006, China, who only holds 1.2% of its reserves in gold, announced that it was looking for ways to improve the returns on its official reserves. Many bulls took this as a thinly veiled signal that gold would play a larger role in China's reserves, which they hope will push up the price of gold. It would however be impossible for China to increase its gold reserves by anything other than a small percentage, since there is simply insufficient gold available in the market.

Inflation fears have also been influential in the past. Inflation is once again rising. The October 2005 consumer price index level of 199.2 (1982-84=100) was 4.3 percent higher than in October 2004. During the first ten months of 2005, the CPI-U rose at a 4.9 percent seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR). This compares with an increase of 3.3 percent for all of 2004.

Factors Influencing the Gold Price

It used to be said that "Gold is the world's frightened bunny". Whenever crisis threatened, the demand for physical gold increased.
Bank failures
When dollars were fully convertible into gold, both were regarded as money. However, most people preferred to carry around the paper dollars issued by their bank rather than the somewhat heavier and less divisible gold coins. If people feared their bank would fail, it may create a bank run. This is what happened in the USA during the Great Depression of the 1930s, leading President Roosevelt to impose a national emergency and to outlaw the holding of gold by American citizens.
Most paper currencies which ever existed have been inflated out of existence. Even the very few which have survived a hundred years or more, have seen almost all of their value eroded by the printing of paper money, or the inflation of the money supply. Rising prices, known as inflation are a symptom of the inflation of the money supply. In times when inflation is high, or is expected to be high, because it is rising, people seek protection through holding real assets rather than fiat currency, which can be printed ad infinitum. History is littered with examples of currencies which have collapsed in hyperinflation. Gold, which is a real asset, can never be printed by any government, nor is it a claim against any creditor. The demand for gold rises in inflationary times, pushing up the gold price.
War, invasion, looting
In times of national crisis, people fear that their assets may be seized, and the currency may become worthless. They see gold as a solid asset which will always buy bread or transportation. Thus in times of great uncertainty, particularly when war is feared, the demand for gold rises.
According to the World Gold Council, annual gold production over the last few years has been close to 2,500 tonnes. However, the effects of official gold sales (500 tonnes), scrap sales (850 tonnes), and producer hedging activities take the annual gold supply to around 3,500 tonnes.
About 3,000 tonnes goes into jewelry or industrial/dental production, and around 500 tonnes goes to retail investors and exchange traded gold funds. For the last few years, the official sector sales of around 500 tonnes have been taken up by retail investors and gold funds.
Supply and Demand
Some investors consider that supply and demand factors are less relevant than with other commodities since most of the gold ever mined is still above ground and available for sale at a price. However, supply and demand does play a role. According to the World Gold Council, gold demand rose 29% in the first half of 2005. The increase came mainly from the launch of a gold exchange-traded fund, but also from jewelry. Gold demand was at an all time record. Demand from the electronics industry is rising by 11% a year, jewelry by 19%, and industrial and dental by 21%.

Investment strategies

Technical analysis
Many investors base their investment decisions on various types of technical analysis. Typically this involves looking at past price patterns, and trying to draw a conclusion as to the future price trend [3]. This might include any of the following strategies:

Gold Price Chart.
30 Year Gold Price Chart

In charting price patterns are used to represent buy or sell indicators, usually because a similar pattern was seen before. The criticism is that charts are open to varying interpretations, and it is often only possible to see the pattern after the price move has occurred.
Buy low, sell high
The investor believes the price will revert to a previous level, thus he will buy after a fall and sell after a rise. The assumption is thus that the present price is wrong, and the previous price must have been the right one.
Buy on breakout
The investor looks for a previous price peak or summit, from which the gold price subsequently declined. This price, is known as a resistance point, and the assumption is that it represents a price at which more sellers than buyers appear. The more times the gold price reaches the resistance level, and the more time it spends there, the stronger the resistance is thought to be. When finally the price breaks-out to a higher level than the resistance point, it is assumed that there are no sellers left, and that the price can only rise. The previous resistance level is assumed to become a support level, below which the gold price will not fall.
Momentum trading
The assumption is that the price trend is likely to continue in the same direction as the recent days, weeks, months, or years. However in order to determine how likely it is that the trend will continue, the investor will employ a variety of techniques to determine the strength of the existing trend. For example, the investor may build a relative strength indicator by multiplying recent price changes by volume, and possibly giving more weight to recent price changes than older ones. Moving averages may be constructed, which would have given accurate buy and sell signals in the past (e.g. "buy when the 45 day moving average turns up, sell when it turns down"). Multiple moving averages may be used (e.g. "buy when the 20 day moving average moves above the 50 day moving average")

Option writing

Some investors believe that gold is the perfect investment for option strategies, since unlike most other securities, or even currencies, there is no possibility of insider dealing, that could distort the expected result of an option strategy. A Gold investor may use option strategies as follows: When he wishes to acquire gold, he will write a put option. Typically the strike price will be below the spot price. The investor receives a premium for writing the option. If the gold price has fallen below the strike price at maturity, he will acquire the gold at the strike price. Since he will have previously received the option premium, his actual acquisition cost will be below the strike price. By doing so, the investor is aiming to acquire gold cheaper than buying it directly. Whether he successfully acquires the gold or not, he still keeps the premium. Conversely, an investor who wishes to dispose of gold at a price higher than the spot price, may consider selling an out of the money call option. By doing so he hopes to sell at the higher strike price, but whether successful or not, he still keeps the option premium received.

Methods of investing in gold

Investment in gold can be done directly through ownership, or indirectly through certificates, accounts, shares, futures etc. However, gold's benefit as a secure asset may only be truly realised when directly owned and stored in bullion or coins. Most investors would not recommend storing gold oneself (e.g. in one's home or buried in the garden) but to use a bank or dealer. Other than storing gold in one's own safe deposit box at a bank, gold can also be placed in allocated (also known as non-fungible), or unallocated (fungible or pooled) storage with a bank or dealer. In the unfortunate case of the latter going bankrupt, the client will be unable to claim the gold and would become a general creditor, whereas gold held in allocated storage should be returned to the client in full. However even with gold held in allocated storage, many gold bugs would still choose their storage provider carefully, making sure of high net worth, with some preferring an offshore bank or storage facility.


The most traditional way of investing in gold is by buying bullion gold bars. In some countries, like Switzerland and Liechtenstein, these can easily be bought or sold over the counter of the major banks. Bars are available in various sizes. In Europe these would typically be in 12.5kg or 1kg bars (1kg = 32.15072 Troy ounces), although many other weights exist, such as the Tael, the 10oz or 1oz bar. Some European banks, particularly in Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland have gold counters where bullion gold bars and coins can be bought and sold tax free, depending on an individual's circumstance. There is no capital gains tax in Switzerland. Alternatively, there are internet bullion exchanges and storage providers, such as BullionVault.


Buying bullion gold coins is a popular way of holding gold. Typically bullion coins are priced only, or mainly according to their weight, with little or no premium above the gold price. Amongst the most popular bullion gold coins are the South African Krugerrand, the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf, and the Australian Gold Nugget. All these coins are popular because they contain exactly one troy ounce of gold. Other popular one ounce bullion coins include the American Gold Eagle, the Chinese Panda, and the Austrian Philharmonic. Other gold coins which are used as bullion coins include the British Gold Sovereign, and the Swiss Vreneli, but these are much lighter than one ounce, making it difficult for an inexperienced person to know their value. Again the large Swiss and Liechtenstein banks will buy and sell these coins over the counter. Also available is the Gold dinar which has Islamic significance. Many bullion coin dealers can be found around the world by a simple internet search.

Gold certificates

A certificate of ownership can be held by gold investors instead of storing the actual gold bullion. Gold certificates allow investors to buy and sell the security without the hassles associated with the transfer of actual physical gold. The Perth Mint Certificate Program (PMCP) is the only government guaranteed gold certificate program in the world. Some argue that it is not the same as owning the real thing, as a certificate is just a piece of paper, especially in a war, crisis, or credit collapse.

Gold accounts

Most Swiss banks offer gold accounts where gold can be instantly bought or sold just like any foreign currency. Unlike physical gold, the customer does not own the actual metal, but rather has a claim against the bank for a certain quantity of metal. Digital gold currency accounts, such as e-gold or GoldMoney, work on a similar principle. Gold accounts are backed through unallocated or allocated gold storage.

Gold shares

These do not represent gold at all, but rather are shares in gold mining companies. If the gold price rises, the profits of the gold mining company could be expected to rise and as a result the share price may rise. However, there are many factors to take into account and it is not always the case that the share prices rise when gold rises. Some of the following questions should be asked before investing in the shares of a gold mining company: Has the company already sold its future gold production, through forward sales? Is the company already producing gold, or is it mainly exploring for gold? Does the company make a profit? How many years of ore reserves are left in the mines before they have to be closed down? What PE ratio and dividend yield does the company have now and in the following years? Are the mines subject to political or economic risks? Instead of personally selecting shares, some investors prefer investing in precious metal mining mutual funds.

Exchange-traded fund

Gold exchange-traded funds (or ETFs) are traded on the major stock exchanges including London, New York and Sydney, under the symbols GBS, GBL, GLD, GOLD or IAU. The first gold ETF, namely Gold Bullion Securities (GBS) by Exchange Traded Gold, was originally represented by exactly one-tenth of an ounce of gold. Due to costs, the amount of gold in each certificate is now slightly less. They are fully backed by gold which is both deposited and insured. The gold can be withdrawn, subject to a minimum size of 100,000 GBS. Exchange Traded Gold is two-thirds owned by the World Gold Council. In February 2006, Exchange Traded Gold and iShares held 463 tonnes of gold in total [4] [5].

ETFs represent a quick and easy way for an investor to gain exposure to the gold price, without the need to deal with the hassle of storage of physical bars. Typically a small commission of 0.2% is charged for trading in gold ETFs and a small annual storage fee is charged. The annual expenses of the fund such as storage, insurance, and management fees are charged by selling a small amount of gold represented by each certificate, so the amount of gold in each certificate will gradually decline over time. In some countries, gold ETFs represent a way to avoid the sales tax or the VAT which would apply to physical gold coins and bars.

Spread betting

Firms such as Cantor Index and IG Index, both from the UK offer the ability to take a bet on the price of gold through what is known as a spread bet. Say the price of December gold was quoted at $475.10 to $476.10 per troy ounce. An investor who thought the price would go down would "sell" at $475.10. The minimum bet is $2 per point, (i.e. equivalent to 200 ounces). If the price of gold finished at $480.10 when the seller closed his bet, the loss would be 500 points multiplied by the bet of $2 making a loss of $1000 in total. No commissions or taxes are levied in the UK on spread betting.


Futures based on gold currently trade on various exchanges around the world. In the US this occurs primarily on COMEX (Commodity Exchange) which is a subsidiary of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Speculation about the future price of gold and other commodities is carried on at COMEX.

Gold's value versus money supply

Historically increases in the supply of paper money or fiat currency through increased money supply would cause the demand for gold to increase. There was a time when gold was money and vice versa. If citizens felt that there may be insufficient gold to cover the paper money in circulation, they would queue up at the bank to change their paper currency back into gold.

However, since the gold standard was ended on August 15, 1971, governments have been free to print as much money as they choose, without fear that their populations will come knocking on the Central Bank's door demanding to change their paper money back into gold.

In January 1959 US M3 money supply was $288.8 billion [6], and the official gold reserves of the United States was then 17,335.1 tonnes, or 557,336,000 ounces [7] (there are 32,150.7 troy ounces in a tonne). That means that in 1959, there were $518 in circulation for every ounce of gold reserves held by the USA. Although the theoretical price should then have been $518 per ounce, the actual price, as fixed under the gold standard was only $35 an ounce.

By August 2005, the US M3 money supply had risen to $9,873.9 billion, whilst at the same time the Official Gold Holdings of the United States had fallen to just 8,133.5 tonnes, or 261.50 million Troy Ounces [8]. This means that today, in 2005, there are $37,831 in circulation for every troy ounce of gold held by the United States.

However, this increase of 75 times in the ratio of central bank gold holdings to debt does not allow for the fact that the gold standard was abandoned in 1971 and gold holdings have been deliberately and considerably reduced. Another far less dramatic way of looking at the same figures is this: In 1959 US government debt valued in gold was 8 billion Troy ounces, in 2005 US government debt was 20 billion oz gold - an increase of only 2.5 times.

The above numbers show the falling influence of gold in the monetary system of the world today. Gold bugs believe, or even hope, that one day gold's importance will return as the printing of paper money gets out of control and we end in a hyper-inflationary fiat money collapse.

They sometimes cite the huge US Government Debt and budget deficits as additional evidence that things are getting out of control. For example, in 1959 US Government debt was $290,797,771,717.63 ($290 billion), whereas by February 2006 it had reached $8,205,376,724,587.34 ($8.2 trillion) [9]. The US budget deficits are the largest in history and according to the U.S. Government's own published plans, the budget will not be balanced in the foreseeable future [10].

Bulls versus bears

Many argue that gold's role in the world's monetary system has ended, and that it will never again represent the store of value that it once was. John Maynard Keynes, the influential economist, as early as 1924, described the gold standard as a "barbarous relic". Many central banks, especially in Europe seem to agree, and have been selling off their gold reserves at the rate of around 500 tonnes a year. Given that the gold price peaked at around $850/oz t ($27,300,000 per tonne) in 1980, and in real terms is still well below that. Gold has proven to be one of the worst investments you could have made 25 years ago. However, since April 2001 the gold price has more than doubled in value against the U.S. Dollar (as seen here), prompting speculation that this long bear market has ended and a bull market has returned [11] [12].

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