Precious and industrial metals have experienced some extreme price movements in recent years, which has increased investor interest in them.
Prices of gold and to a lesser extent silver are influenced by political events and market sentiment as well as by supply and demand due to precious metals characteristics of being so-called safe havens. In addition, gold has traditionally been a treated as an investment and a store of value, and used as an alternative to currency in monetary exchange. Even today investors turn to gold, and more recently also to silver, in times of uncertainty in the expectation that its price will withstand economic downturns or crises more effectively than other asset classes.
As a longer term investment, buying and holding precious metals in physical form has seen a surge of popularity with individual investors in recent years. For shorter trading horizons, trading through derivatives and exchange traded contracts offers a simple and less capital-intensive way to take a position on the price movements of metals.
Gold prices, unlike most commodities are not dominated by production and consumption levels. The majority of gold ever mined remains accessible and can re-enter the gold bullion market. Gold prices therefore tend to move with political events, making it an interesting hedge against other markets in times of uncertainty.
Silver is unique as a precious metals in having a number of industrial uses as well as having value for jewellery and silverware. Used extensively in the electrical industry and in photography its price is more dynamic than many other metals as a result of these varied uses.
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