Striking gold online is easy, but buyer beware

Q: Is there a way to monitor the price of gold online?

A: With so much uncertainty over both the health of the U.S. economy and the dollar, investors are looking for safety. And gold is where some nervous investors go to lock in wealth.

Gold's popularity as a store of value goes back a long time. The idea is that the glittering metal is rare and will have value, no matter if a government and its currency fail. Rugs and rare paintings have played similar roles as places to park money through history.

But gold is shining brighter than ever in the eyes of investors who fear the dollar is going to sink further, inflation is on the rise and corporate earnings are about to fall off a cliff. That helps explain the tremendous run-up in gold prices the past few years.

While it may be used as a hedge in times of trouble, gold, historically, hasn't been a great investment, and many financial advisors don't advise holding much, if any. But I understand the animal spirits of investing speculation, and it's hard to resist piling into an asset when it's rising and everything else is sinking.

A great first stop for gold price information is the Markets section at USATODAY.com. Go to money.usatoday.com and click on the Markets link at the top of the page beneath the green Money banner. Scroll down to the commodities section and change the chart's drop-down menu to gold. A chart will pop up showing you intraday changes of the price of gold. You'll also find a story that will give you a description of commodity markets that day.

If you'd like more detail, you can visit Nymex.com, which is an exchange where gold trades. To save you time, here's a direct link to the gold page. Before you get there, you'll be asked to acknowledge a disclaimer.

Matt Krantz is a financial markets reporter at USA TODAY and author of Investing Online for Dummies. He answers a different reader question every weekday in his Ask Matt column at money.usatoday.com. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at mkrantz@usatoday.com. Click here to see previous Ask Matt columns.

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