Gold May Rise to $1,600 This Year on Investment, GFMS Says

Gold will rise as much as 9.5 percent this year to a record $1,600 an ounce, extending a rally that began in 2001, as investors boost demand for the metal as an inflation hedge, said researcher GFMS Ltd.

Prices in New York touched an all-time high of $1,478 on April 11 amid speculation that governments will keep borrowing costs near record lows to revive economic growth, increasing the risk of accelerated costs for consumers. Total gold demand rose 0.4 percent to 4,334 metric tons in 2010, the third straight gain, according to an annual report from GFMS.

“The prospects for gold prices this year remain bright,” GFMS Executive Chairman Philip Klapwijk said in a statement. “Investors continue to be concerned about the outlook for inflation, with governments in general showing little appetite to tighten monetary policy significantly.”

Gold, the most widely traded precious metal, rallied 27 percent in the past year as the Federal Reserve kept the benchmark U.S. interest rate at zero to 0.25 percent since December 2008 in a bid to pull the economy out of recession. Last week, the European Central Bank raised the main borrowing cost 25 basis points to 1.25 percent.

Gold futures for June delivery traded at $1,460.90 an ounce by 11:21 a.m. on the Comex in New York.

Investment in exchange-traded funds backed by the metal rose 18 percent to 2,177 tons in 2010, and buyers increased purchases of gold bars, coins and jewelry, according to GFMS.

Inflation Target

Demand for physical gold bars rose 66 percent last year to a record 880.5 tons, led by purchases from China. The country’s central bank has raised rates four times since early October to combat accelerating prices. China’s consumer-price inflation reached 4.9 percent in February, above the government’s target of 4 percent.

India, the biggest user, accounted for most of last year’s rebound in global jewelry demand, which increased 11 percent to 2,017 tons, according to GFMS. India purchased 685 tons, up 36 percent. While higher prices will act as “a bit of a cap” on jewelry demand this year, a decline in consumption will be “limited,” Klapwijk said today in a presentation in London.

Buying Gold

Central banks bought 73 tons of gold last year, halting a two-decade trend of reducing their gold reserves, the researcher said. The banks were “consistent” net sellers of the metal from 1989 to 2009 and accounted for 10 percent of total supply between 2001 and 2009, according to the report. Central banks will likely keep buying gold this year, Klapwijk said in London.

Mine supply expanded by 3.8 percent to 2,688.9 tons, led by the biggest producer, China, GFMS said. Production will rise 4 percent this year, while scrap supply will have a “fair increase,” pushing total supply up 6 percent, Klapwijk said in the presentation.

Miners paid an average $557 an ounce to extract gold, a 17 percent increase from 2009, according to the report. De-hedging by producers this year will be limited, Klapwijk said.

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