Many of the most cherished hopes of gold bugs have come true in the past few months — but not, alas, the only one that matters to them in the end: a sharp rise in the price to bring it back into record-breaking territory.

The Comex front-month futures contract for gold peaked just shy of $1,800 an ounce in early October before dropping again, defying bulls’ hopes that it would rise above the 2011 peak of $1,912. In Monday’s New York lunchtime trading it was $1,730. Should its flat recent performance make institutional investors wary of its luster in the future?

The run of favorable news for gold bugs began in August when Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank (ECB), stoked inflationary fears by outlining his outright monetary transactions program to buy the sovereign bonds of troubled member states where necessary. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s September announcement of a third round of quantitative easing (QE3) — an injection of another $40 billion into the economy each month — added inflationary pressure to the U.S. economy.

The reelection of Barack Obama as U.S. president on November 6 provided further impetus for gold, by increasing the chances that Bernanke can continue with ultra-loose monetary policy for longer. Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger and a monetary-policy hawk in comparison with Obama, was set to replace Bernanke with an inflation hawk after the chairman’s term in office expired in January 2014.

These three factors boosted gold — but not as much as bulls had hoped, given past surges in the price in response to signs that inflation might dilute the real value of the dollar and the euro.

One argument for gold’s rather muted rally is that while potentially inflationary news from the developed world was boosting the yellow metal, the fundamentals for gold were poor in China. Last year the Middle Kingdom was judged to have altered the market forever by overtaking India to become the world’s largest consumer of gold. However, demand from China fell at its fastest year-over-year rate since 2003 in the third quarter, hit by a retreat in inflationary fears: Chinese consumer price inflation dropped to only 1.9 percent in September, down from a high of 6.5 percent in 2011.

Nevertheless, it is likely that inflation fears will stalk China again before long, since the country’s economic slowdown is proving short-lived.