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Gold's decline could signal investor relief

Markets Update: Gold prices have fallen from dizzying heights over the past three months, a development that could be a good sign for the fragile state of global investor sentiment.

Gold prices have fallen from dizzying heights over the past three months - and it could be a sign global investor sentiment is a little less fragile than before.

So far this month, gold has declined 1.8 per cent to about US$1,719 per ounce.

While that is still sky-high by historical standards, prices have come down about 9 per cent from their peak in September.

Gold is widely viewed as a stand-in for risk appetite - when it goes up, people are seeking safety, and when it goes down, they are more willing to invest.

So while gold's recent decline is undoubtedly an unwelcome sign for those who have invested in it, it may point to slightly better perceptions of the global economic environment than a few months ago.

Clouding the picture, however, is the fact that gold's fall is not only a result of a bullish trend in sentiment.

Europe's sovereign debt crisis, after all, is far from a resolution as leaders push austerity and propose closer fiscal bonds.

The commodity's price is partly driven by demand at the retail level in large gold-consuming economies such as India's.

And that demand has sagged recently as the rupee weakens, posing a threat to gold's price that has little to do with sentiment.

"The market is very slow, and we don't see much demand from Thailand, Indonesia or even India," a dealer in Singapore told Reuters yesterday.

"The weak rupee in India has pushed up buying costs a lot and effectively stopped buyers."

So do gold's recent declines point to increasing optimism?

That is hard to decipher, but the fact that they are not continuing to rise at least provides some evidence that fear might just be on the ebb.


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