CAMBRIDGE, England — Earlier this year Japanese and U.S. television stations carried pictures of Japanese housewives queuing up to buy kilo bars of gold, costing around $10,000 at the time. Their action and subsequently that of investors around the world have resulted in a 15 percent increase in the price of gold since the beginning of the year. February saw a 700 percent surge in Japanese gold imports. Gold sales surged in other markets, too.

Japanese housewives are canny investors. So what is going on, what can they see that millions of us don’t — even after the value of our stock market investments fell more than the price of gold rose over the same period?

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