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Materials ETFs Cash In on Gold's Appeal

Because of waning confidence in global growth and currency instability, investors continue to seek gold as a safe haven, pushing the shiny metal to record levels.

On Friday, gold soared passed the mark of $1,260 an ounce, pushing gold futures up nearly 15% year to date and there is positive support indicating that the metal will go higher.

From a demand perspective, not only are risk-averse investors turning to gold, but central banks are as well. According to data released by the World Gold Council, nations around the world are gobbling up gold in an attempt to decrease risk and mitigate the effects of a country's economic policies.

Russia appears to be the largest buyer of gold among all central banks, purchasing nearly 26.6 metric tons of the metal in the first quarter of 2010. After Russia, the Philippines reportedly purchased 9.6 tons earlier this year in an attempt to support its local industry and hedge against inflationary pressures.

The third major buyer of the precious metal is Kazakhstan, which reportedly has purchased 3.1 metric tonss in the first quarter of the year. Not only does gold enable these nations to diversify their wealth by spreading risk, but it also bolsters their global creditworthiness.

Although India and China have not made any significant gold purchases in 2010, they are still considered major buyers of gold. In November 2009, India increased its gold reserves by 55% through the purchase of 200 metric tons of the metal from the International Monetary Fund.

As for China, it is the world's largest producer of gold and often buys from its own mines, not publicly reporting the purchases. With this in mind, the nation could potentially be the world's largest buyer of gold. One thing is for sure -- China is a major buyer and holder of gold and has admitted to significantly increasing its gold holdings over the last seven years.

The appeal of gold, both from an investor's perspective and from a central bank's, will likely remain prevalent as fear continues to loom over the overall strength of the global markets and safe-haven assets are sought after.

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