As gold prices hover near record high, Citigroup sees it smashing past $3,000

Gold prices are already close to record highs as tensions flare in the Middle East. But Citigroup says there’s a long way to go before it peaks.

Gold futures on Wednesday stood at $2,407 per ounce in mid-morning trading, but Citi analysts say they expect it will reach levels of $3,000 over the next six to 18 months in a note dated April 15.

“The recent gold rally has been aided by geopolitical heat and is coinciding with record equity index levels,” Citi wrote.

Those gains are welcome news to Costco shoppers, who have been buying the gold bars from the retailer for the past seven months. The price of that one-ounce bar stood at $2,370 Wednesday morning, though it was sold out online.

Gold is a favorite way for many investors to protect their assets against inflation. It doesn’t traditionally show the same gains as stocks do long-term, but it holds its value and performs well during periods of economic or global insecurity. (To date, the precious metal is outpacing the S&P 500.)

It’s also a safe haven as interest rates fall, often becoming a preferred investment to bonds, which show weaker returns in those periods.

Since the start of the year, gold prices have increased 16%.

Costco’s entry into the market has been a head-turner, as it has made gold more accessible to individual investors. An analyst note from Wells Fargo earlier this month estimated sales of the company’s gold bars currently account for between $100 million and $200 million per month. While the revenue numbers are significant, the research note suggests the profits from these sales are low, at best. The real value, it says, is in how the price reinforces Costco’s value position.

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