NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's been one of the biggest financial stories of the year and, now, the holiday season: Gold.Apart from the fake foil stuff that dangles from Christmas tree branches, December may prove a banner month for the shiny yellow metal. (Of course, November also proved a banner month, with gold prices rising 14%, their sharpest monthly increase in a decade.) Already, on the first day of the last month of the fourth quarter, futures prices surmounted the $1,200-per-ounce level and looked to be going higher. But by the end of trading Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange's Comex division, the gold December contract retreated below that mark, settling at $1,199.10, up $18, or 1.5%, from the previous close. Gold for February delivery, the most heavily traded contract, settled at $1,200.2, up $17.90, after touching as high as $1,204 intraday. Gold mining equities also continued to climb, with shares of Barrick ( ABX), Kinross ( KGC), Goldcorp ( GG) and AngloGold Ashanti ( AU) all gaining more than 5% Tuesday. The reasons the so-called gold bugs and gold bulls and gold hawks have moved with force into this particular commodity are well known. From a longer-term perspective, doomsday inflation worriers seem to be reacting to soaring government spending -- and debt -- and what that might hold in store for the value of the greenback (which is to say: devaluation). Gold, in this view, will become a kind of ultra-haven -- the world currency of last resort -- and hedge-fund superinvestors such as John Paulson (who recently created, to much fanfare, a gold-specific fund) and Paul Tudor Jones (who has been amassing long precious-metals positions all through the autumn) appear to be making wagers based on this line of thinking.