22 Jul 2020

Gold's safe haven allure polishes price to nine year high

3:26 pm on 22 July 2020

Gold's safe-haven allure in times of crisis has driven its price to a nine-year high.

Gold bullion.

Photo: 123RF

In the past day gold has peaked at $US1843 an ounce, the highest since September 2011, a gain of 19 percent so far this year.

The price has been on an relentless rise since March when the Covid-19 pandemic gathered pace and governments moved to lockdown large parts of their economies and central banks swung into action with interest rate cuts, and other monetary stimulus measures.

"What's really driving the gold market is stimulus and we are going to get more of it. It's the eye candy that's driving sentiment right now," said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at financial services firm AxiCorp.

Gold tends to benefit from massive stimulus as the metal is seen as a hedge against rising prices and currency falls.

The metal is largely used in jewellery, with India being a major buyer. But it's also used in electronics and medicine.

It has long been replaced as a metal for coins, and the need for governments and central banks to hold gold bars in the vault to back their currencies has diminished.

But the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic has prompted investors - big and small - to buy the commodity as a safe asset.

The head of Barrick Gold, the world's biggest gold mining company, Mark Bristow, said central bank policies to pump money into their economies was a major factor in the metal's rise.

"Everyone is printing now, the printing presses are rolling and the impact of that is negative interest rates, devaluation of paper money and that drives the value of gold up... and you should have some in your portfolio."

Some small investors buy physical gold in the form of coins or small gold bars, but most investment is through specialised investment funds.

A survey of analysts and traders by finance wire Reuters has pointed to prices heading towards record highs over the next 18 months as the coronavirus crisis encourages investors to hoard the metal as a hedge against possible turmoil in the wider markets.

But low jewellery sales and the likelihood of some economic rebound would cap its rise.

"The more uncertainty over the control of the virus and by association the global economy, the more bullish for gold," said StoneX analyst Rhona O'Connell, adding that prices could reach record levels above $US2,000 in 2021.

"Any substantive economic recovery would probably produce something of a headwind," she said.