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Up 650%: The investment Aussies are turning to in lockdown

Australian investors have been turning to an old favourite while the coronavirus damages the economy. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in heavy losses for shares and property since February.

But Australians with money to invest have to put it somewhere, and it seems an old favourite is once again coming into favour in troubled times.

Gold, which traditionally increases in value during crises, in April hit its highest price in eight years. And it's ready for another potential resurgence this week as news came that almost 600,000 Australians lost their jobs last month.

Australian online gold trading platform SendGold is reporting an incredible 648 per cent increase in transactions since the coronavirus took hold of the nation.

Not only that, the average value of transactions has surged 339 per cent during the same period.

"People are continuing to pile into gold because that weak economic picture is going to continue to drive interest rates lower," Blue Line Futures chief market strategist Phil Streible told Bloomberg.

In April, demand for gold was so high that the Perth Mint sent some bars over to New York City – on a plane.

Gold seen as 'safe haven'

Gold, as a metal valued for its aesthetics as well as its industrial uses, is perceived to be a commodity that holds its value without the volatility of other investments.

In good times, real estate and stocks are seen as having more potential for capital growth. 

They also both provide regular income in the form of rent or dividends – something that gold, as a lump of metal, can't ever provide.

But in recent downturns, such as the current pandemic, global financial crisis or the dot-com bust in the early 2000s, investors have sought gold as a 'safe haven'.

Another reason for the popularity may be that it's easier for the average person to buy and sell gold.

In the old days, an investor had to physically purchase gold bars and pay expensive overheads to store them in a secure facility.

These days, there are gold market ETFs and peer-to-peer digital trading markets like SendGold – meaning the investor never has to touch or even see a bar of gold to trade in it.

"With SendGold, you own the title to physical gold. It’s yours," states the sendGold website.

"It is not an ETF. It is not a currency backed by a bit of gold. It is gold... You can buy or sell your gold by weight or by dollar value any time."

Like any investment, the value of gold is an artificial construct. It only has value when other people who don't have it want it.

But if you're confident that frightened investors will continue to turn to it in difficult times, it may be the place to put your money in lieu of shares, real estate, bonds or cash.

The journalist does not own any gold or gold-backed securities. Financial advice should be sought from a professional according to personal circumstances.

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