Gold surged to a record high on Wednesday as investors sought safety from the risk of Greece's debt crisis spreading to other countries, with demand for coins, bars and bullion-backed exchange-traded funds all climbing.

Spot gold hit $1,244.45 an ounce, a gain of nearly 20 percent since early February. It was bid at $1,238.45 an ounce at 1441 GMT (10:41 a.m. EDT) from $1,232.05 late in New York on Tuesday. U.S. gold futures hit a record $1,245.40 an ounce.

Investor buying this week was triggered by doubts that a $1 trillion rescue package to contain an escalating debt crisis in Europe would be enough to cut the chances of sovereign default in the euro zone.

Gold priced in euros extended its record high to 982.51 euros an ounce on Wednesday, and has risen 28 percent since early February, outstripping dollar gold's climb.

The recent move in gold has been all about the gradually, and then more rapidly escalating fiscal crisis in Europe, said Nic Brown, an analyst at Natixis.

Clearly, the largest move has taken place in euros. For me, this is a classic illustration of gold being a store of value in times of crisis. In particular, it is useful for investors in the particular currency which is suffering the crisis.

Investors and many traders think the scale of Greece's fiscal problems could make it tempting for the country to default, despite the package, which could start a run on the debt of countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Gold priced in sterling hit a record 835.49 pounds, and in Swiss francs a record 1,381.16 francs.


The scale of investor buying can be seen in the holdings of the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, the SPDR Gold Trust, which said its holdings stood at a record high of 1,192.150 tonnes as of May 11.

Sales of smaller gold investment products like coins and bars also jumped. The Austrian Mint, which produces the popular Philharmonic gold coin, said it sold more gold in the two weeks from April 26 than in the entire first quarter.

Elsewhere Swiss refinery Argor-Heraeus said investor demand for small gold bars and minted products had jumped tenfold since the start of the year.

Our trading desk has seen a marked increase in demand - especially for allocated gold and physical gold coins and bars. Demand for silver coins and bars has risen as well, bullion dealer Goldcore said in a note.

The significant uncertainty in currency markets... is what is driving demand and leading to higher prices.

Spot silver rose to $19.68 an ounce, its highest since March 2008. It was last at $19.57 from $19.28 late on Tuesday.

The world's largest silver-backed exchange-traded fund, the iShares Silver Trust, said its holdings rose to 9,115.15 tonnes as of May 11, up 27.43 tonnes from the previous business day.

Platinum was bid at $1,731.50 an ounce from $1,702 and palladium at $537.50 from $532 on Tuesday.

(Editing by Sue Thomas)