Skip to main content
market blog

Does gold look any different at $1,500 (U.S.) an ounce? Futures topped that level - briefly - on Tuesday, following any number of global concerns that have sent investors flocking to gold recently. Unrest in the Middle East: check. Concerns about inflation: check. European financial crisis: check. Rising concerns about the U.S. deficit: check.

All of these factors have been simmering for some time, which is why the actual gain in the price of gold - it rose a much as $8 an ounce, before settling back - is a relatively modest move. Indeed, focusing too much on gold's steady march to record highs can distort the actual gains for investors.

Over the past five years, to the end of March, gold has made some impressive moves, of course, rising 145 per cent versus a rise of just 14 per cent for the S&P 500. But in recent months, the pace has slowed to a crawl and gold's returns don't shine so brightly next to various other assets.

In 2011, gold has risen 5.3 per cent, out-muscling the S&P 500 by a mere 0.7 percentage points. And in Canadian-dollar terms, gold has risen just 1.4 per cent this year, which is half the return of Canada's S&P/TSX composite index.

Meanwhile, gold isn't looking so great next to a broader basket of currencies either. The Reuters/Jefferies CRB index of 19 commodities - which includes commodities like lean hogs and wheat, which don't exactly quicken the pulse - has pulled ahead of gold this year, with a gain of 8.6 per cent.

However, there is something to be said for the power of headlines (look above) and round numbers, and gold at $1,500 an ounce certainly has a nice ring to it that will no doubt be seized upon by gold bulls.