Standard & Poor's lowered its outlook for America's long-term debt to "negative" from "stable," based on uncertainty surrounding the nation's fiscal problems.
That's exactly the type of news that creates a flight to safe haven assets like gold.
Gold futures for June delivery hit an intraday record of $1,500.50 an ounce near midday, before retreating to settle at $1,495.10 an ounce -- also a new record.
The price of gold has tracked steadily higher in recent months, as a cavalcade of unsettling world events created uncertainty in global markets.
Since the start of the year, investors have been forced to consider the implications of a Japanese tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster. That's in addition to a spike in crude prices and a slew of revolts in the Middle East and North Africa.
Inflation -- which gold is often used to hedge against -- has been rising sharply in emerging economies and is becoming more of an issue in Europe.