Here are key facts about the market and different ways to invest in the precious metal.
- Spot markets
Large buyers and institutional investors generally buy the metal from big banks. London is the hub of the global spot gold market, with more than $33bn in trades passing through the city’s clearing system each day. To avoid cost and security risks, bullion is not usually physically moved and deals are cleared through paper transfers.
Other significant markets for physical gold are India, China, the Middle East, Singapore, Turkey, Italy and the United States.
- Futures markets
Investors can also enter the market via futures exchanges, where people trade in contracts to buy or sell a particular commodity at a fixed price on a certain future date.
The COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange is the world’s largest gold futures market in terms of trading volume. The Tokyo Commodity exchange, popularly known as TOCOM, is the most important futures market in Asia.
China launched its first gold futures contract on January 9 2008. Several other countries, including India, Dubai and Turkey, have also launched futures exchanges.
- Exchange-traded funds
Media coverage of high gold prices has also attracted investments into exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which issue securities backed by physical metal and allow people to gain exposure to the underlying gold prices without taking delivery of the metal itself.
Gold held in New York’s SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed ETF, rose to a record high of 1 320.436 tonnes in June 2010. The ETF’s holdings are equivalent to nearly half of global annual mine supply and are worth about $62bn at today’s prices.
Other gold ETFs include iShares COMEX Gold Trust , ETF Securities’ Gold Bullion Securities and ETFS Physical Gold, and Zurich Cantonal Bank’s Physical Gold.
- Bars and coins
Retail investors can buy gold from metals traders selling bars and coins in specialist shops or on the internet. They pay a premium for investment products of 5% to 20% above spot prices, depending on the size of the product and the weight of demand.
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