With a rough economic road ahead, U.S. stock investors are nervously asking themselves: Should I stay or should I gold?
Gold has long been touted as the ultimate hedge against hard times. They don't call it the gold standard for nothing; central banks the world over stockpile the stuff to defend the value of their currencies.
Historically, gold prices rise when currency values and interest rates fall. Gold has been on a seven-year rally that has seen it rise precipitously out of back-to-back price slumps at $255 an ounce in 1999 and 2001 to early 2008 peaks of more than $900.
“I think gold will certainly rise into the thousands, perhaps reaching $10,000.”
Gold's recent upward mobility, especially a 31-percent gain for 2007 followed by another 11-percent spike in the first month of 2008, has gold enthusiasts (known as gold bugs) and precious metals analysts alike watching in wonder at the commodity's latest high-wire act.
Some say a price correction is imminent and long overdue, others maintain that gold's next great historic run is just getting started.
The question is, should you buy gold now, even at historic highs of $900-plus an ounce?
Too high to buy?Although it may seem counterintuitive, experts say it is definitely time to put a little bling into your portfolio.
"Yes, it is a buy right now," says Ashraf Laidi, chief strategist for CMC Markets. "Even though gold is at an all-time high, I think you should look into at least 10 percent to 15 percent (gold) allocation. My personal portfolio was at 10 percent; it's now at 55 percent. But I got in a long time ago."
Leo Larkin, equity metals analyst for Standard & Poor's, admits gold continues to exceed his expectations.
"I'm surprised at just how strong it has been. Even though I think it could pull back, probably if you don't own some, you still should," he says. "It's high now, but what if it's going to go higher? I believe it will."
- Commodity -- A physical substance, such as food, grains, and metals, which investors purchase, usually through what are called futures contracts.
- Asset allocation -- An investing strategy that tries to minimize risk and maximize returns by putting money into different investment instruments.
See the Guide's Glossary
for a further explanation of these terms.
Shayne McGuire, author of "Buy Gold Now," thinks conditions are ripe to push gold beyond reasonable expectations.
"I think gold will certainly rise into the thousands, perhaps reaching $10,000," he says.
"The last 100 years, stocks have outperformed gold perhaps 10 to 1 as an investment, so there's no disputing that the place to be is in stocks in the long run. But there are these peculiar moments in history when I think: gold. So few people own it that just the move of people into gold will cause it to really surge. I think we're in the second or third inning of the gold rally."
'A stealth bull market'So why hasn't there been a modern-day gold rush?
Larkin admits it puzzles him, too: "Considering how well it's done, gold has been something of a stealth bull market because I don't get the sense that there is any kind of public fever about it."
Younger investors likely missed the last gold boom that occurred in January 1980, when gold shot up $400 an ounce to $850 in one month; in inflation-adjusted dollars that would top $2,000 an ounce today. Although a pullback followed, gold continued on an upward tack. Suddenly, Granddad's Krugerrands didn't seem quite so uncool.