Gold bugs stocked up on their favorite coin last month in a post-election pop.
Sales of American Eagle gold coins, a popular investment among retail buyers, jumped 130% in November.
The U.S. Mint sold 136,500 ounces worth of American Eagle gold coins in November, up from 59,000 ounces in October. The coins come in various sizes ranging from one ounce to a tenth of an ounce.
The surge in demand came immediately after the U.S. election and was "heavy with retail investors," said Chris Blasi, president of Neptune Global Holdings, a boutique precious metals firm in Wilmington, Del.
"After the election, investors felt that the gridlock in Washington and the policies that were supportive to gold were not going to change," he said. "There's also a degree of fear and uncertainty about what lies ahead for the economy, and that's where gold steps in as a safe haven."
Gold is seen as a way to preserve wealth since it is tangible and should therefore hold its value when other assets do not. It is also increasingly viewed as an alternative currency by investors who believe the value of the U.S. dollar will continue to fall.
Over the past 10 years, gold has risen 518% from about $275 an ounce at the end of 2002 to current levels near $1,700 an ounce. Gold hit an all-time high above $1,900 an ounce in September 2011.
This year, gold has gained about 8%. The yellow metal could get another boost later Wednesday when the Federal Reserve is widely expected to announce additional monetary easing, said Blasi.
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The Fed's zero interest rate policy and various forms of quantitative easing have helped lift gold prices, which tend to rise when interest rates are low.
While there may be some "short-term pressure" on gold prices, Blasi said the metal "looks positioned to continue higher."
But other experts say the price of gold, which has risen steadily for more than a decade, is nearing its zenith.
Jon Nadler, senior analyst at Kitco Bullion Dealers in Montreal, said he thinks the spike in demand for gold coins in November was a "one-off aberration."
For the year, the U.S. Mint has sold just over 700,000 ounces worth of American Eagle coins. That compares with a total of 1 million ounces sold in all of 2011.
"Sales are off across the board," said Nadler, who talks with dealers in Canada, the United States and Australia. "Investors are either satiated or unwilling to chase prices at these levels," he added.
Goldman Sachs recently lowered its outlook for gold prices in 2013, saying it expects prices to peak sometime over the next 12 months. While the metal could benefit from political uncertainty and cheap money in the short term, gold prices are expected to fall in the second half of the year as the U.S. economy recovers and interest rates fall.
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