Gold trading for beginners: Basics of how to trade gold

Education /
Milan Cutkovic

Gold is a highly liquid yet scarce asset, known as the most popular commodity and a safe haven for traders. 

Gold has been traded for centuries with it's unique physical nature, from being used in jewellery to being high in demand across the technology sector for key components in electronics.

In this article, we will introduce traders to the precious metal that has been fascinating the world for years, explain how the gold market works and the ways in which traders can invest and trade in the commodity.

Table of contents

The value of Gold

Today, gold is used as jewellery, an investment or even in industries like medicine and electronics. However, for a long time, the precious metal has been used as currency.

But what makes gold so special? Why is, for example, Silver or Palladium not the most popular precious metal?

Gold has always been seen as attractive in colour and brightness (its unique shine), and it is almost indestructible as well.

Gold is rare enough to avoid producers flooding the market with it and bringing down its value, but abundant enough to keep the market liquid.

Humans also have an emotional connection to gold, and it remains important in many cultures today.

What is gold trading?

Gold is one of the world’s oldest and most trusted forms of currency. For traders, gold's intrinsic value – or “safe haven” appeal – makes it a popular investment and a great way to diversify a portfolio.

There are two main ways to invest in gold. The first is buying physical gold, or shares in a mutual or exchange-traded fund that follows the real-time price of gold.

The second is to take advantage of price fluctuations in the commodity trading market and trade derivatives linked to gold, such as futures, CFDs, options and more. Two of the most popular gold derivatives are gold CFDs and gold futures.

Gold bars

How does the gold market work?

Gold is primarily traded over-the-counter (OTC) and on exchanges. London is the global centre for the OTC market, where market participants trade directly with each other. While this market is less regulated and has a higher degree of flexibility, the counter party risk is higher.

Exchanges are regulated platforms and trading is centralised. They usually offer a standardised contract, which will not suit every trader, as it limits their flexibility.

Aside from London, the other two major gold trading centres are New York City and Shanghai. The COMEX exchange is located in NYC, while the Shanghai Gold Exchange is located in Shanghai.

How do you trade gold for beginners?

For beginner traders looking to buy and sell gold as a regular asset in their portfolio, different gold trading strategies and assets will be needed. Read through this section to learn the basics steps to start trading gold.

  1. Find a suitable broker - Gold is available on most trading platforms. Axi offers a variety of trading instruments, which means traders can trade currencies, metals, stocks, crypto and commodities all in one place. Simple sign up for a live trading account. If traders wish to keep their gold trading on a separate trading account, they will always have the option to create a sub-account where they could only trade Gold. 
  2. Choose which way you want to trade gold - Before traders start trading gold, it is important that they understand the differences between the two gold products offered as CFDs. The spot CFD generally has a lower spread than the futures CFD, but is subject to a daily swap charge. The futures CFD has a higher spread than the spot CFD, but no daily swaps are charged (instead, a rollover will apply upon expiry of the futures contract).
  3. Start testing a trading strategy by trading gold - Traders might prefer to do this initially on a demo account. This is an important step as it will give them insights whether their strategy is compatible with gold or not. If they are using fundamental analysis, they should follow news & events that are relevant to gold, and learn about the correlation of the precious metals to other asset classes.
  4. Open your first gold trade - Once traders are ready, and have the Axi MT4 platform installed, they can find the spot product under the ticker "XAU/USD" (or XAU/xxx for the other currency pairs) and the futures CFD under the ticker "Gold.fs".


"Investing in gold is a tale as old as time. Limited supply. Constant demand. There is a reason why it's the most traded precious metal in the world."

Michael Kuchar - CEO of Trading Beasts, Currency and Gold Trading Strategist


Different ways to trade gold

Discover the different ways that traders can access the gold market, whether they are interested in trading or investing in the precious metal commodity.

CFDs (Contracts for Difference)

CFD trading is speculating on the rising or falling prices of global financial markets – such as indices, commodities, shares or cryptocurrencies. A CFD trade is a contract between an investor and a broker to settle on the difference in the value of a financial asset or instrument for the duration of the contract. 

At the time of closing the contract (a trade), if the price is higher than the opening price, there will be a positive return for the buyer. The seller has to pay the buyer the difference, and that will be the buyer’s profit. The opposite is true if the trade price is lower than the opening price and the buyer will suffer a loss.

Recommended reading: What are CFDs?

Gold Futures

A futures contract is a contract to buy or sell a particular asset at a predetermined price at a specified time in the future. Futures are particularly popular amongst short-term traders who wish to speculate on the direction of the gold price. It can also be used for hedging purposes - for example, an investor holding physical gold will not want to sell those frequently, as the transaction costs would add up quickly. Instead, the investor could go short on gold to gain from a decline, while keeping their physical gold as a long-term investment.


Exchanged traded funds have seen a meteoric rise in the past few years, as they are a cost-effective way to invest in a certain asset. Gold ETFs could be suitable for investors looking to invest in gold while keeping transaction costs low.

Gold.fs CFD on laptop

Different ways to invest in gold

Gold coins

Gold coins still remain popular with the 5 most popular gold coins being the Krugerrand (South Africa), American Eagle (United States), Canadian Maple (Canada), Australian Nugget (Australia) and the Chinese Panda (China). The disadvantage is that those coins will always be sold at a premium, and investors need to store it appropriately, which can add to the costs (for example, buying a safe or renting a safe in a bank).

Gold bars

Gold bars are available in a variety of dimensions. Premiums are a bit lower, and the market for gold bars is more liquid than for coins.

Gold mining stocks

Gold mining stocks can be traded or invested in through individual stocks, stock CFDs or ETFs that consist of a portfolio of gold miners.

What affects the price of gold?

There are multiple factors that can affect the gold price, but the following are amongst the major ones:

Geopolitical developments

The precious metal is generally seen as a safe haven, and prices tend to rise during times of geopolitical tensions.

Inflation fears

During times when investors are worried about rising inflation, gold will generally appreciate, as holding cash becomes increasingly unattractive.

Monetary policy

Gold and the US Dollar have an inverse relationship. Therefore, expectations of rising interest rates in the US will boost the Dollar and put Gold under pressure. On the other side, should US rate expectations decrease, the US Dollar may decline while gold prices rally.

Physical supply/demand

Buying gold ETFs or trading gold CFDs and futures has become popular, but physical gold is still being used for the production of jewellery and investment (e.g. coins and bars). Demand for such products will have an influence on the gold price too.

Advantages of gold trading

Discover the advantages and disadvantages of trading the safe haven precious metal.

  • Gold has historically been a good hedge against inflation. Inflation is the No. 1 enemy for investors. During times of turbulence when the stock market is in distress and cash is losing value due to low interest rates, gold can become an attractive asset class for investors to own.
  • While the gold price is fluctuating and occasionally sees high volatility, the metal has maintained its value over the long-term and is therefore seen as stable investment.
  • Gold is highly liquid, meaning buyers will easily find sellers in the market, and vice-versa. This is important as it lowers transaction costs and reassures traders and investors. Even the market for physical gold is liquid, as it is not difficult to find a buyer.
  • Gold is a great diversification tool. It can outperform the stock market during certain periods (e.g. a period with broad risk-off sentiment).

Disadvantages of gold trading

  • If the traders are holding physical gold, its storage can be complicated and expensive, depending on how much gold they own. Safe deposit boxes and vaults don't come cheap.
  • Gold doesn't produce any yield. If traders hold certain stocks, they might pay them a dividend. If they hold cash in their bank, you might get interest on that. Meanwhile, they don't earn any yield from Gold.
  • Returns can be poor during times of "risk-on" as investors will flock into riskier assets.

Gold trading tips for beginners

Before traders start trading gold, they should understand the characteristics of this asset class, how it correlates to other trading instruments (such as stocks and bonds), and whether it is suitable for their trading strategy. To get a great understanding of gold, sign up for the FREE gold trading course on Axi Academy.

Once traders have decided when they want to start trading gold, they should find the most suitable product based on their trading style and strategy. Some traders will benefit from the spot CFD product, which has lower spreads, while other traders will prefer the futures CFD product, which has a higher spread but no daily swap charges.

After determining which product suits the traders the best, they should test whether their strategy performs well when trading the asset - ideally in a risk-free demo environment. Depending on their trading style, they might find the volatility in gold too high or too low.

Gold trading


How much money is needed to trade gold?

With Axi, traders can deposit as little as $50 and start trading gold immediately. However, a deposit of $500 allows for more trading options.

Trading gold as a CFD allows traders to take advantage of leverage, meaning they can use a small amount of capital to open a larger trade position. Although leverage creates the potential for larger profits, it can also increase risk of losses greater than the margin in their accounts.

To help traders develop robust risk management strategies, a free demo account that allows trading with virtual funds for 30 days is available. Traders can then upgrade to a free live trading account while retaining access to their demo account.

What is the market symbol for gold?

The ticker symbol for Gold is XAU. The letter “X” represents “Index” while ‘AU’ is gold’s chemical symbol and stands for ‘Aurum’, the Latin word for gold.

Using a ticker makes it easy to search for products on the MT4 trading platform. With Axi, traders can trade gold as a CFD against the USD, AUD, CHF, EUR and GBP. A gold trade against the US dollar would be displayed as XAU/USD. If traders buy XAU/USD, they would be buying Gold and selling the US Dollar. If they sell XAU/USD, they would be selling Gold for US Dollars.

When trading gold futures CFDs, the symbol will be shown as 'GOLD.fs'.

Who regulates the gold market?

There is no regulator with oversight over the global gold market. However, local regulators have influence over the trading that is conducted within their jurisdiction. Furthermore, there are voluntary codes that many market participants adhere to.

For example, the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) is regulating the conduct of the LME, where gold contracts are actively traded. The LBMA gold price also falls within the FCA's jurisdiction.

Milan Cutkovic

Milan Cutkovic

Milan Cutkovic has over eight years of experience in trading and market analysis across forex, indices, commodities, and stocks. He was one of the first traders accepted into the Axi Select program which identifies highly talented traders and assists them with professional development.

As well as being a trader, Milan writes daily analysis for the Axi community, using his extensive knowledge of financial markets to provide unique insights and commentary. He is passionate about helping others become more successful in their trading and shares his skills by contributing to comprehensive trading eBooks and regularly publishing educational articles on the Axi blog, His work is frequently quoted in leading international newspapers and media portals.

Milan is frequently quoted and mentioned in many financial publications, including Yahoo Finance, Business Insider, Barrons, CNN, Reuters, New York Post, and MarketWatch.

Find him on:  LinkedIn  |  Twitter

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