Liam Dann: Gold looking like the new Bitcoin as investors pile in

Liam Dann: Gold looking like the new Bitcoin as investors pile in

Prices touched new records this week sparking speculation that the precious metal may break though US$2000 an ounce for the first time in its very long history.
In fact gold has been pushing through new highs for more than a month.
It has risen more than 25 per cent since late January – just prior to the widespread outbreak of Covid-19 – from US$1576 an ounce to yesterday’s close at US$1973.
In New Zealand dollar terms its most recent peak was in mid-May.
Read More Gold price spikes as investors rush to safe haven – NZ Herald Market close: NZ shares fall, US-China tensions push gold to record – NZ Herald Market Watch: Low bank rates and high share prices see investors turn to gold – NZ Herald Gold has long been seen as a safe haven and is sometimes treated as an alternative to cash during recessions and periods of political unrest.
Traditionally that’s been as a hedge against inflation, although that isn’t a factor this time.
Nevertheless, it’s not too surprising that the Covid-19 crisis should see prices on the rise.
The simple reason it has soared this year is that the central bank response to the pandemic has pushed interest rates so low they offer almost no real rate of return.
Meanwhile, sharemarket valuations continue to look precariously high given the dire earnings outlook for many companies.
But gold’s rapid rise this year should raise some alarm bells with regards to treating it as a safe haven.
As an asset that offers no yield, it isn’t much less speculative than cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Unlike cryptocurrencies it does have some underlying value as an industry commodity – it is still used for jewellery and in electronics.
But without demand from investment speculation the price would be much lower.
By way of comparison, the traditional second-prize precious metal – silver- is trading at just US$24 an ounce.
For the record, silver prices have also doubled (US$ terms) in the past few months.
None of this is to say that gold hasn’t been a good investment. It certainly has history on its side.
Gold’s reputation as a safe haven is probably a legacy of its time tied to the value of the world’s major currencies.
The gold standard – adopted in the 1880s – saw major nations peg their currency values to gold prices.
Things stayed that way, and gold prices stayed relatively stable, through to the end of the 20th century.
The US dropped the gold standard in 1971. The Swiss were the last major nation to drop it in 2000.
Since then the gold price has risen dramatically
An ounce of gold is now worth around 575 per cent more than it was in 2000.
Business editor Liam Dann talks to Pie Funds CEO Mike Taylor about gold. But that hasn’t been straight line growth by any means.
During the period of relative economic strength, from 2011 to 2016, gold fell more than 40 per cent.
In other words, while history suggests gold is always likely to hold some value, investors should be aware that it is still a speculative investment.
It’s not necessarily a safe alternative to cash in the bank.
And when the price of an asset spikes this dramatically, without any meaningful change to its supply or demand, it always pays to be wary.
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