If all of the world’s gold were squished together, it would form a cube just 68 feet on each side. That’s a very small amount of gold in a very big world. No wonder it’s so expensive. In times of economic uncertainty people often rally around what they see to be smart, safe investments. For some people this is treasury bonds and low-risk stocks, for others it is physical assets like gold. Although gold does have substantial value, ($1,553.65 per ounce as of May 15th) nothing can be produced from it and thus the only value gained from it is having it when others do not. This is also a quandary because the price of gold can only rise when it is highly sought after, meaning that many people must buy gold in order to keep the price of gold up.
There are tangible benefits to owning gold, such as fiscal security in the event of an extreme economic downturn or global disaster. However, the astute financial mind of Warren Buffet likens it to building a bomb-shelter in your basement. If you ever end up needing the bomb shelter than you have made a terrific purchase. However if no crisis occurs where a bomb shelter is necessary, you will be stuck with the sunk cost of a bomb shelter. I suppose it could make a decent man-cave.
The uncertainty in economies and markets has helped fee a frenzy in gold-buying. GLD, the exchange-traded fund introduced by State Street in 2004 is the second-largest ETF measured by assets under management. But with an average daily trading volume of over 10 million shares it seems that buyers aren’t ‘investing’ as much as they are placing a bet. Nothing wrong with trying to win a bet but with gold trading at historical highs maybe there are better bets to place.