Gold As An Investment
Of all the precious metals, gold is the most popular as an investment. Investors generally buy gold as a hedge or harbor against economic, political, or social fiat currency crises (including investment market declines, burgeoning national debt, currency failure, inflation, war and social unrest). The gold market is subject to speculation as are other markets, especially through the use of futures contracts and derivatives. The history of the gold standard, the role of gold reserves in central banking, gold's low correlation with other commodity prices, and its pricing in relation to fiat currencies during the financial crisis of 2007–2010, suggest that gold behaves more like a currency than a commodity.
Gold has been used throughout history as money and has been a relative standard for currency equivalents specific to economic regions or countries. Many European countries implemented gold standards in the latter part of the 19th century until these were dismantled in the financial crises involving World War I. After World War II, the Bretton Woods system pegged the United States dollar to gold at a rate of US$35 per troy ounce. The system existed until the 1971 Nixon Shock, when the US unilaterally suspended the direct convertibility of the United States dollar to gold and made the transition to a fiat currency system. The last currency to be divorced from gold was the Swiss Franc in 2000.
Since 1919 the most common benchmark for the price of gold has been the London gold fixing, a twice-daily telephone meeting of representatives from five bullion-trading firms of the London bullion market. Furthermore, gold is traded continuously throughout the world based on the intra-day spot price, derived from over-the-counter gold-trading markets around the world (code "XAU").
Factors influencing the gold price
Today, like most commodities, the price of gold is driven by supply and demand as well as speculation. However unlike most other commodities, saving and disposal plays a larger role in affecting its price than its consumption. Most of the gold ever mined still exists in accessible form, such as bullion and mass-produced jewelry, with little value over its fine weight — and is thus potentially able to come back onto the gold market for the right price. At the end of 2006, it was estimated that all the gold ever mined totalled 158,000 tonnes (156,000 long tons; 174,000 short tons). This can be represented by a cube with an edge length of 20.2 metres (66 ft).
Given the huge quantity of gold stored above-ground compared to the annual production, the price of gold is mainly affected by changes in sentiment, rather than changes in annual production. According to the World Gold Council, annual mine production of gold over the last few years has been close to 2,500 tonnes. About 2,000 tonnes goes into jewellery or industrial/dental production, and around 500 tonnes goes to retail investors and exchange traded gold funds.
Jewelery and industrial demand
Jewelery consistently accounts for over two-thirds of annual gold demand. India is the largest consumer in volume terms, accounting for 27% of demand in 2009, followed by China and the USA.
Industrial, dentistry and medical uses account for around 12% of gold demand. Gold has high thermal and electrical conductivity properties, along with a high resistance to corrosion and bacterial colonization. Jewelery and industrial demand has fluctuated over the past few years due to the steady expansion in emerging markets of middle classes aspiring to Western lifestyles,