Updated from 12:39 p.m. ESTGold prices came close to smashing their record highs Thursday as funds piled into the metal as a safe-haven investment. Benchmark contracts for bullion were ahead by $8.60 at $868.60 an ounce in recent action on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, having retreated from a high of $872.90 earlier in the session. Still, the move puts the price for the metal within reach of the $875 all-time high reached in January 1980 amid the Iranian hostage crisis. Spot prices have rallied from around $670 last summer driven by a slew of unfavorable news -- problems with dodgy home loans going bad, worrisome political developments in Pakistan, the rising cost of energy and a limp greenback. "There's a lot of fund money coming early in the year," says Jon Nadler, a bullion analyst at the Montreal bullion dealer Kitco. In particular, he points to the malaise in Pakistan following the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto last week, as well as the latest rally in oil, as key factors spurring recent demand for gold. Some investors buy gold as hedge against geopolitical uncertainly or to counteract the asset-withering effects of consumer price inflation, which can be stoked by rising energy prices. The declining value of the U.S. currency also tends to buoy the value of dollar-denominated assets such as precious metals.