Is de goudrush definitief over ?.........
Insuring against the worst has seen the price of gold soar - until recently. Many investors continue to buy into the precious metal, increasingly worried by the eurozone currency and debt stress, not to mention world growth drift.
But gold is not the dirt-cheap insurance it once was. Do gold bugs still have a strong investment case?
At $1,572 an ounce the metal has come a long way since 2003 when it struggled to get past the $400 an ounce level. But gold has given investors a rotten 12 months, peaking close to $1,889 per ounce late last summer before falling back considerably. That's a -16.7% fall.
That's disappointing when you compare the riches dividend investors have collected recently. Capita Registrars, for example, claimed that total dividend payments have hit record levels, more than 20% higher than in 2011. It thinks a total of £78.3bn could be returned to investors in 2012.
Gold, in contrast, gives most investors no dividend whatsoever. But it's not that simple says financial adviser Michael Bakowski from Chamberlain de Broe.
"People often go into gold for the wrong reason. You can't compare it to income-producing assets like equities or bonds. Someone once compared gold to the safety equipment you have on a boat. It takes up space. It's heavy. And it makes the boat go slower. You hope you never need it."
Stashing Krugerrands under your mattress, in your garage or inside your bank account isn't easy. You can of course buy gold 'virtually' through ETFs, but Bakowski warns that this route is not backed by real assets. (It's now thought there is more gold in ETFs than gold on the planet.)
And though the price of gold has dropped, shares in gold mining companies have done considerably worse. Productions costs, in many exotic locations, have risen sharply. Gold mining companies have also been sitting on a huge pile of cash, thanks to all the money they've been paid from what they dig out of the ground.
The market, says Bakowski, is waiting the these companies to distribute dividends from the miners - not something gold players are used to doing. But when - if - they do start to distribute income, expect gold miners to rise in value.
It could even be a time to consider buying in as part of a portfolio where gold should not take more up more than 10% of your invested assets. Depending on how you do it, gold may still have a case.
By Adrian Holliday