The Importance of Gold in the Economy: Why It Matters and How It Impacts Financial Stability

The Spotlight

10 minutes read

Nov 28, 2023

A stash of gold bars with fluctuating yellow, red and green arrows on a blue background

Understanding the role of gold in the economy is essential for anyone investing in precious metals. We demystify its impact and what to look out for.

Gold has always held a significant place in the global economy, serving as both a symbol of wealth and a valuable financial asset.

Its importance stretches far beyond just its aesthetic appeal. Gold has played a crucial role in the economy for centuries.

But why does gold hold such value in the economy? 🤔

Why is gold important to the economy?

Gold has rightly earned its place throughout history as one of the most valuable metals.

Associated with affluence and power, the cultural significance of gold spans across civilizations and continents.

It’s been used to create intricate jewellery, crowns, and other adornments associated with status and prestige. 👑

Gold has also served practical purposes throughout history.

Ancient civilizations used gold for various applications such as currency, trade, and religious artefacts.

Gold properties: why it’s important to society

The unique properties of gold make it highly sought after in modern industries such as dentistry. Its corrosion resistance makes it a preferred material for dental fillings and crowns. 🦷

Its excellent conductivity also makes it an essential component in electronic devices like our smartphones and computers. 📱

From ancient civilizations to modern industries, the allure of gold continues to captivate us both aesthetically and practically.

Gold as a safe-haven asset and its role in times of economic uncertainty

In times of economic uncertainty, gold has long been recognised as a safe haven asset.

As a tangible asset, it provides a much-needed sense of security and stability when traditional financial markets dip.


Well, investing in gold during a recession or another economic crisis is used as a hedge against rising inflation.

Unlike paper currencies, the value of gold tends to hold or even increase during periods of high inflation, making it an attractive option for investors looking to protect their wealth. 📈

A graph showing gold often jumps in price during times of economic uncertainty

As the graph above shows, gold often jumps in price during times of economic uncertainty. For example:

  • 1980 Gold hits a new high due to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan;
  • 2003 Gold rises as investors buy gold as risk insurance for portfolios;
  • 2006 Gold prices peak against a weak dollar and rising tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions
  • 2008 Gold records highest single-day gain as due to the turmoil in stock markets at the start of the world financial crash

The price of gold has been rising for decades.

For example, if you bought 1g of gold in 1970 for £0.50, it would be worth around £50.

Gold is a great investment as its price is likely to continue to climb.

The price of paper currencies, however, tends to lose their value over time due to:

  • Inflation As inflation effectively decreases a currency's buying power, high inflation weakens paper currency relative to other currencies;
  • Currency depreciation A fall in the currency's value due to the exchange rate versus other currencies.

Central banks and gold: how their gold buying influences the market

A bank building

Another force shaping the price and demand for gold is central banks buying gold.

Their gold holdings can influence global markets and investor sentiment towards this precious metal.

One of the key ways central banks impact the price and demand for gold is through their gold reserves.

In their Q3 2023 gold trends report, the World Gold Council has said that demand – which was already at a record high in Q2 – remained well above the long-term average.

  • Central banks have bought a net 800 tonnes of gold so far in 2023;
  • This is 14% above 2022 levels;
  • The gold price is on average 12% higher year-on-year, another record over the first three quarters;
  • All this with record mine production in Q3 which reached a new year-to-date high of 2,744 tonnes.

How it works:

  • When central banks increase their gold holdings This signals to the market that they have confidence in it 👍, leading to increased demand from investors and subsequently driving up prices. 💰
  • When central banks sell off their reserves This can increase the market with supply, potentially leading to a decrease in prices.

However, experts don’t believe that central banks are going to stop buying gold anytime soon.

In fact, the World Gold Council just increased the gold-buying figures for central banks in Q2.

Banks are now thought to have bought 175 tonnes – up from 103 tonnes.

It looks like a trend that’s set to continue.

Which central bank is the largest buyer of gold? 🤔

Here’s one for the pub quiz. The People's Bank of China bank is the largest buyer of gold at the moment, followed by The Monetary Authority of Singapore and Poland's Narodowy Bank Polski.

The role of gold in international trade and currency reserves

a vault full of gold bars
  • Gold has always played a significant role in international trade transactions, providing a universally accepted form of currency;
  • This has made for smoother international trade by reducing the need for complex currency conversions;
  • As gold’s price is global, it also mitigates the risks associated with fluctuating exchange rates – a fall in a currency's value compared with currencies – levelling the playing field internationally;
  • The stability offered by gold helps maintain confidence in national currencies and provides an anchor during times of financial turbulence.

🏆Which country has the largest gold reserves? 🌍

It’s the USA! They have the largest gold reserves in the world, followed by: Germany; Italy; France; Russia; China; Switzerland; Japan; India; and Turkey.

Australia and Russia hold the largest reserves of unmined gold in the world.

Did you know? The International Monetary Fund (IMF) holds around 2,814.1 metric tonnes of gold, one of the largest gold reserves in the world.

Gold market trends and the impact on the global economy

globe and gold coins

Global gold market trends can also be affected by:

  • Supply and demand dynamics 🔄
  • Geopolitical tensions 🌐
  • Inflation rates 💹
  • Central banking policies 🏦

Using all of the above, stakeholders can gain valuable insights into the state of the global economy and make more informed decisions about their investments.

Is gold a risk asset?

a pie chart showing a well-diversified portfolio

Gold has long been regarded as a safe-haven asset, but is gold a risk asset?

Like any other investment, the price of gold can fluctuate based on market conditions and investor sentiment.

It is important to note that gold does not generate income or dividends (a sum of money paid out to the investor regularly).

Its value is best seen as a long-term investment with prices that tend to increase over time.

As well as being an asset and a tangible safety net that families can pass on to the next generation, gold is seen as a great form of savings.

Compared to stocks and cryptocurrency, gold is a relatively stable investment.

Few investors see gold as a risk asset.

Instead, can be a good way to diversify your portfolio.

Frequently asked questions about the economic importance of gold

A man looking at a question mark

Does gold price affect stock prices? 📊

A lot of the time, gold prices and the stock market tend to have an inverse correlation.

When stocks underperform or go down, the price of gold will tend to rise.

This is another reason why gold is seen as a safe-haven asset.

If the stock market is bullish, and share prices are rising, investors will often invest in stocks, viewing them as opportunities for higher returns.

However, gold and stock prices are not directly correlated.

There have been times when stocks and gold were both performing well, such as 2017-2019.

This can be investors anticipating a market crash or correction.

There are numerous other factors at play in the stock market and fluctuations in the price of gold can be one of them. Others include:

  • Company performance
  • Economic indicators
  • Interest rates
  • Investor sentiment

Always consider a wide range of factors when making investment decisions.

What happens to gold when the stock market goes up or down? ↕️

Typically, when the stock market experiences significant gains and investor confidence is high, the demand for gold decreases.

Similarly, when stocks experience a decline, investors may seek to diversify their portfolios and mitigate risk by investing in assets such as gold.

As the demand for gold increases, its price is driven up. 📈

However, how much gold a country exports or imports can also impact the price of gold.


If a country has access to gold reserves that it can export when the price of gold goes up, so does the value of its exports.

Can gold predict wider economic trends?

In short, it sometimes can. The price of gold can be an indicator of big movements in the market. If confidence in the global economy is high, gold will tend to fall as investors seek higher returns elsewhere.

If confidence in the global economy is low, gold prices will rise as investors look for safe places to store their money.

Take the 2008 financial crisis as an example. As global markets became very uncertain very quickly, the price of gold rose sharply as investors looked to protect their capital.

Markets had a similar reaction during the 1979 oil shock, which saw gold prices soar as investors worried about the drop in the value of currency.

What is the relationship between gold price and the US dollar?

100 US dollars banknote and gold coins

The price of gold usually goes in the opposite direction to the US dollar.

When the dollar is strong, gold tends to be cheaper. When the dollar is weak, gold prices will often go up.

So when high inflation arrived in 2022, things started to cost more and the value of the US dollar went down.

Investors were then spooked by inflation and a possible recession, meaning the price of gold rose again in 2023.

So overall, how important is gold to the economy?

As we’ve seen above, gold is an important cog in the global economy.

Its relative stability and worldwide pricing helps central banks mitigate the risks associated with fluctuating exchange rates and can maintain confidence in national currencies.

The dynamics of the global gold market can have an impact on everything from inflation rates and the price of the US dollar to the stock markets.

It can even be a good indicator of turbulence in the financial markets – even before commentators and the public cotton on.


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