Gold tops $1,900, looking 'a bit bubbly'

August 23, 2011: 7:44 AM ET
gold prices, commodity prices

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Gold prices have been on a tear lately, topping a fresh record high above $1,900 an ounce early Tuesday-- just two weeks after rising above $1,800.

While experts aren't too worried about each new milestones, they are starting to freak out about the rapid speed at which prices are hitting them. Gold started the year just above $1,400 an ounce.

Gold prices first crossed the $1,900 mark in after-hours electronic trading Monday. Early Tuesday, prices hit an all-time high of $1,917.90 an ounce, before pulling back to about $1,880.

"Gold could keep working its way higher, but it is starting to look a bit bubbly," said Matt Zeman market strategist at Kingsview Financial in Chicago. "The run-up reminds me of what silver did a few months ago. It climbed steadily week after week, sucked everyone in, and then the whole deck of cards came crashing down."

With investors plowing into gold in droves, the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD), one of the most popular funds for investors seeking exposure to gold, is now the world's largest ETF with nearly $77 billion in net assets. Since 1993, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) held the top spot. It boasts about $75 billion in assets, accord to State Street Global Advisors.

The gold rush is on

While the "parabolic surge" in the price of gold over the last couple of months is concerning, Lloyd Thomas, professor of economics at Kansas State University, says the rise is also worrisome over a longer period of time.

"Gold is considered a good hedge against inflation," he said, "But the increase in gold price has far outpaced inflation, especially during the last decade."

He noted that inflation has only picked up 2.4% on an annual basis during the last 10 years, but the price of the yellow metal has climbed more than 21% a year during the same time period.

Unless higher inflation -- to the tune of 10% a year -- is forthcoming, Thomas said gold prices are "clearly in a bubble."

But don't expect it to burst right away.

"Bubbles can run a long time -- just look at technology stocks in the late 1990s and housing prices a few years ago," said Thomas, adding that gold prices will likely soon threaten their inflation-adjusted high just above of $2,200 an ounce -- another warning bell of a things getting a little too frothy, he said.

However, some experts like Adam Klopfenstein, senior market strategist at MF Global, argue that they won't worry about a gold bubble until prices surpass their inflation-adjusted high.

As fiscal problems linger, Kingsview Financial's Zeman said gold prices will continue to gain luster, even reaching $5,000 or $7,000 an ounce over the next few years.

"Debt issues in the United States and Europe are playing a huge role in why investors are buying up gold, and those are not going away anytime soon," noted Zeman. "I don't see how the United States can get out of debt without further debasing the dollar, so that will continue to support gold prices."

That said, he's far from in a rush to buy gold at these lofty prices. Zeman is looking for prices to shave between $100 and $200 an ounce in a correction, and said they could drop as low as $1,650 an ounce, the level gold was trading at before its recent run.

But when that might be is anyone's guess. To top of page

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