Miners expect gold prices to hit $2,000 this year

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The vast majority (80%) of gold mining executives expect bullion to continue its inexorable rise this year, with only 6% anticipating a fall, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Gold has benefited from its "safe haven" status - in times of trouble, investors pile into assets like gold that are considered less risky than others. Growing fears over the eurozone debt crisis pushed the precious metal to all-time highs of $1,920 last September.

Today, spot gold is trading at around $1,641. Cash prices have climbed 5% so far this year as investors return to the market following a 10% drop in December.

Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Lewis thinks the long-term outlook is positive for gold. He told Reuters: "We have central bank diversification, which we think is a bigger flow story than exchange-traded fund buying. We're also looking for dollar weakness to come back."

He added: "We still like the gold story because of negative real interest rates."

Similarly, Goldman Sachs sees gold rising to $1,940 towards the end of the year.

Even if gold reaches $2,000, this would still be below the inflation-adjusted high reached in 1980. The oil price shock in the wake of the 1979 Iranian revolution sent gold soaring to $2,500 an ounce.

In the short term, gold could come under pressure as buying in China is set to ease as the Lunar New Year celebrations get under way. "The market doesn't have the same expectations for Chinese gold imports in the lead-up to the holidays, compared to those seen last year," said analysts at UBS.

Meanwhile in India, a rise in the rupee to its highest level in five weeks prompted Indian jewellers to stock up ahead of the wedding season.

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