Gold's allure to investors seeking a safe haven from volatile equity and property markets and inflation's corrosive impact on asset values will continue to underpin bullion prices, said Albert Cheng, managing director of the World Gold Council's Far East operations. The latest bull run on gold started in 2001 when the gold price was well below US$300 an ounce. It has since advanced to US$833.75 at the end of last year and hit a record high of US$1,011.25 on March 17 this year before profit taking saw the price slip to current levels of around US$900 an ounce. 'Historically, the shortest bull market for bullion lasted for 14 years from 1966 to 1980. By comparison the current bull market has lasted just seven years up till now,' Mr Cheng told a media briefing on Friday. While declining to give a target price for gold, Mr Cheng said supply factors and market sentiment were positive as output declined because of soaring costs of exploration and mining. On the demand front, investor appetite was growing, especially among retail buyers in China and India. In China demand for gold jewellery had risen from 200 tonnes a year five years ago to above 280 tonnes, he said. These factors indicated that gold's retreat from its March record was a consolidation and the price could be expected to gain further. Gold is viewed as a tool to hedge against rising prices, thus investment in the precious metal will increase as global inflation accelerates, according to Mr Cheng. He said plans by local stock market regulators to launch gold futures contracts would further promote investment demand for the metal while enhancing Hong Kong's reputation as a financial hub. At present the World Gold Council is in discussions with the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing to cross-list its New York-listed StreetTRACKS Gold Shares, a gold-backed exchange-traded fund (ETF), in Hong Kong. The London-based industry group began marketing gold ETF in Asia three years ago and listed its first gold ETF in Singapore in November 2006.