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Should You Buy Gold?

It's very risky at today's prices, say advisers. But over the long run, a little could help protect you

Is gold the magic bullet for your portfolio?

It's a natural question. At a time when the stock market seems to have become unhinged, the one investment everyone loves is the precious yellow metal.

See also: Gold holds its investment value.

If you haven't heard, it traded at more than $1,800 an ounce last week, up nearly $600, or 50 percent, since last August. If you have heard, you're probably kicking yourself for not having bought it a year ago.

In addition, gold seems particularly well suited to a time when the dollar is skidding against other currencies and many economists think much steeper inflation is inevitable. The thinking goes that the yellow metal has a unique ability to maintain its "store of value" if the nation's currency loses its purchasing power and prices head up.

The Federal Reserve argues that with unemployment holding over 9 percent and many factories operating at less than full capacity, there is plenty of time and room for the U.S. economy to expand before there's a long-term danger of inflation. On the strength of that conviction, the Fed announced on Tuesday that it would keep short-term interest rates near zero for at least another two years.

But that only reinforced many investors' conviction that the dollar could only go lower. (If you're going to get zero percent interest for the next two years for buying dollar-denominated debt, why buy it?)

Peter Schiff, CEO of EuroPacific Capital and a longtime gold bull, is one of those investors. "Until interest rates are allowed to rise to appropriate levels," he wrote in his blog on Friday, "The dollar will keep falling, consumer prices will keep rising, and the government will keep blaming our problems on external factors beyond its control."

In addition, the prestige of the dollar's guarantor, Uncle Sam, took a deeply symbolic beating when Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+ last Friday. And jitters over the debt crisis in Europe only reinforced the sense that the euro, too, is under siege.

Next: How much are you willing to risk? >>

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