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ASX shares in danger? Why the gold price is creeping towards all-time highs

The Gold price is on the rise!

The S&P/ASX 200 Index (INDEXASX: XJO) is having a pretty flat day so far. At the time of writing, the ASX 200 is flat after ‘sine-curving’ up and then back down this morning. But that’s not what has caught my eye in early morning trade.

Instead, it’s a very special metal of the yellow variety that has me choking my coffee this morning.

Yes, gold is on the move this week and are creeping towards all-time highs. In early trading this morning, gold hit US$1,760 an ounce for the first time since 2012. It has since pulled back slightly but is still sitting around US$1,750 an ounce at the time of writing.

Why is gold suddenly in demand?

This may seem to have come out of the blue, but gold had actually been in its own mini bull market for a while now. Since dropping below US$1,200 an ounce back in September 2018, gold has been steadily climbing since. According to macrotrends.com, the commodity rose nearly 19% in 2019 and are up another 13.5% in 2020 so far.  There was a moderate dip during the ‘rush to cash’ we saw during the March market sell-off, but this was quickly bought up and gold has resumed surging. We’re now just below the all-time high of U$1,896.50 that we saw back in 2012.

I think gold is in demand right now for several reasons. Many investors (particularly our friends over in the United States) are very worried about inflation. The US government has been ploughing an unprecedented amount of cash into financial markets over the last few months in order to shore up markets in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. This is keeping the markets afloat right now, but printing money usually leads to long term inflation if history is anything to go by. And gold is traditionally viewed as a good asset to hold during inflationary periods.

Low-interest rates are also a factor. Almost every advanced economy around the world right now has interest rates at 0% or very close to it (our own cash rate is currently 0.25%). Low-interest rates make using cash and debt instruments very unattractive s investments. Why bother buying a government bond when it yields you less than 1%?

That leaves property and shares as likely the only real assets worth holding right now. And if you’re worried about having all of your money in these ‘risky’ assets, gold is the only real alternative.

Foolish takeaway

Whilst some investors like to diversify their wealth with gold, I think it’s not really a path that most ASX investors should follow. Warren Buffett likes to say that gold has no real use or ability to generate wealth – it’s simply worth what someone else is willing to pay for it at any one time. That’s why he sticks with good-quality shares, and that’s why I think most ASX investors should follow his example.

Take heed, though. A rising gold price could indicate that investors are seeing trouble for the share market on the horizon. So just make sure you’re prepped for anything in this market!

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Motley Fool contributor Sebastian Bowen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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