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Gold prices hit six-year high: how to buy the ultimate 'safe-haven' asset

Jonathan Jones
The gold price has spiked - REUTERS

The gold price soared this week as tensions between Donald Trump and Iran intensified and concerns were raised that the American Federal Reserve could look to cut interest rates.

The precious metal is viewed as a safe-haven for investors in times of uncertainty and hit a six-year high today, rising above $1,360 an ounce for the first time since 2013.

As gold does not pay an income, the prospect of lower interest rates is a boost to its price, as investors are giving up less potential return from holding cash. This is known as the opportunity cost of owning gold (can you get a better return from cash).

Meanwhile, the Iranian foreign ministry, in response to fresh sanctions imposed by President Trump, said the America-Iran diplomacy is closed “forever”.

The news could worsen at the crucial G20 summit in Japan later this week, where Mr Trump has said he will decide whether to impose further tariffs on China following a meeting with President Xi Jingping.

Gold has divided the investment world for centuries. Some love it as a way of spreading risk, while others remain unconvinced of its intrinsic value.

Typically investors buy gold at times of market stress. When stocks are falling and the world looks as though it is coming to an end, gold is used as a store of value.

As it does not pay an income, investors are dependent on the price moving to make a real return. 

In theory, the greater the number of people who believe stock markets will continue to fall, the more that will buy gold, and this pushes up the price.

Gold performed well during the last crisis in 2008 and was continually bid up to unsustainable levels until 2013 when the bubble burst. 

Its latest rise could see investors return to the precious metal in force, should global problems persist. Below, Telegraph Money looks at the ways ordinary investors can buy gold.

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)

The most common way to invest in golf as an investor is to buy an ETF. These are shares that act like funds (so you can buy and sell them as you would shares) but that track an index, aiming to match its performance.

They can be bought and sold via stockbrokers or investment brokers, as with any other share.

Peter Sleep of Seven Investment Management recommended the Invesco Physical Gold ETF. The fund costs just 0.24pc, making it attractive as high fees can eat into returns quickly.

Unit trusts

There are a number of funds that offer exposure to gold, although they typically a basket of several precious metals or in conjunction with silver, or through gold-related stocks, such as miners.

The largest gold fund is the £872m Ruffer Gold portfolio, managed by Paul Kennedy. It invests in gold miners rather than the physical asset itself.

BlackRock Gold & General is perhaps the best-known gold fund. Run by Evy Hambro and Tom Holl, the £842m fund also invests in shares of gold-related companies.

Wealth managers Merian Investors, Smith & Williamson and Investec run similar strategies.

Physical Gold

One other option for investors to actually buy physical gold through trading platforms where gold bullion can be bought in small quantities and is placed in a secure vault on your behalf, such as BullionVault.

Coins and bars are also available from outlets including the Royal Mint.

However, it is important to know that not all dealers will buy your gold and when they do there will likely be a ‘spread’.

This means when you buy it you will probably pay slightly more than its value, while when you sell it it will be at a lower price.

It means that you need to be confident in the price of gold rise high enough to more than cover this spread before you buy.