- Associated Press - Thursday, August 18, 2011

NEW YORK The price of gold hit its latest record high, near $1,830 an ounce, as investors spooked by the prospect of a return to recession sought out safety Thursday in the precious metal.

Gold prices have more than doubled since the recession began in late 2007. They’ve risen about 19 percent since the beginning of June, as European leaders struggled to keep the debt crisis from infecting the region’s major economies and U.S. politicians nearly drove the country to the brink of default, prompting Standard & Poor’s to cut the country’s AAA credit rating.

Morgan Stanley on Thursday cut its forecast for global economic growth for this year and 2012, saying the U.S. and the 17 countries that use the euro were “hovering dangerously close to a recession.”

While gold has hit a series of record highs over the past 2 1/2 months, the Standard & Poor’s 500 has dropped about 15 percent, while the dollar, a traditional safe haven during periods of market turbulence and fear, is flat against a group of six major currencies.

The metal’s value, unlike that of a currency, doesn’t depend on the health of a single country’s economy. Its swift rise has made it popular with investors seeking big returns, as well as presumed safety from turbulent financial markets.

And the price could go higher.

BofA Merrill Lynch commodities analyst Francisco Blanch on Thursday raised his price target for gold to $2,000 an ounce. Just a week ago, he’d set a $1,700 target. He cited the trend of central banks in emerging countries switching more of their currency reserves into gold.

“Physical gold is the ultimate collateral because it has no credit risk,” Mr. Blanch wrote in a note to clients.