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A coming gold surge?

While gold may well climb higher in the short term, a price surge could be years away.

After a nasty slide in 2013, gold has found its feet again, gaining almost 10% this year to around $1,340 an ounce. Some investors have sought shelter from emerging-market turmoil in the metal, while fears that the weather might not be solely responsible for the weak recent run of data in America have also helped.

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What's more, the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve have both made it clear that interest rates will stay low for a long time, which has reawakened fears that "central banks will stay too easy for too long", says John Authers in the FT.

Central banks mis-steps, and other reasons to fear that inflation could make a comeback in the next few years, mean that investors should keep around 5%-10% of their portfolio in gold as an insurance policy. But for now, the upside looks limited.

On the plus side, many gold mines become unprofitable at around $1,200, implying that supply will begin to shrink and bolster prices. Growing emerging-market demand for gold for jewellery and investment also helps establish a floor for the price.

But rising US real interest rates "will remain a powerful headwind against gold", says Capital Economics. As the US and the global economy recover, the US central bank is set to wind down its money-printing programme and eventually raise interest rates.

Higher real interest rates are always bad for gold as it yields nothing and so becomes less appealing compared to interest-bearing assets.

Gold can climb a bit further in the short term (Capital Economics sees scope for a rise to $1,450 by the end of the year), but if there is another surge to record levels as inflation returns, it will be a few years away.

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