The record price set by gold Tuesday confirms, more dramatically than ever, that Wall Street's lack of confidence in paper assets now extends even to companies that mine the world's most reliable store of value.
The most actively traded gold futures contract on the CME Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange settled at a record $1,785 -- a 10 percent gain since Aug. 1 and nearly 50 percent in the past 12 months -- but there were no coattails for gold mining companies to grab. Stocks of nearly all miners fell with the rest of the market.
The one exception was shares of gold exchange-traded funds that are backed up with physical gold. The two largest such ETFs rose more than 1 percent.
The message from the day's moves is that the lack of confidence investors increasingly have in paper currencies like the U.S. dollar and the euro and paper assets like publicly traded company stocks now extends even to shares of companies that produce gold.
"Long-term investors are very hesitant to put their money into stocks right now," Bob Haberkorn, a senior market strategist with MF Global, told the Wall Street Journal. "Currencies are being disasters across the board. People are looking for some place to preserve wealth."
It also confirmed just how dubious Wall Street is about the ability of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to do what voters elected them to do. In Europe, the Greek contagion has now resulted in worries about the sovereign debt of Italy and France, the continent's second largest economy. The meeting Tuesday between the leaders of France and Germany to solve the crisis left Wall Street cold.
Meanwhile in the U.S., Commerce Departmentdata showed that residential real estate is contributing little to U.S. growth. New construction of homes and apartment buildings in July fell 1.5 percent from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 604,000. The figure was better than the expected 4.6 percent drop to an annual rate of 600,000, but still underscores the weak domestic housing market.
"Gold is the quintessential hedge when there are worries about the economy," Dave Meger, the director of metal trading at Vision Financial Markets in Chicago, told Bloomberg News.