Panic strikes, and investors sell gold and buy dollars -- yet again

Rattled by concerns about Dubai's debt, investors fled gold for the safety of the U.S. dollar during early trading on Friday. The move comes as the booming appetite for the precious metal among smaller investors has led to near record prices and shortages of American Eagle gold coins at the U.S. Mint.

But as the enthusiasm for gold reaches a fevered pitch worldwide with speculation focused mainly on how high it can go, the sharp drop also serves as a useful reminder: While often thought of as a "safe haven," gold is marked by volatile prices, and it recently sold off sharply when investors truly got nervous.