world growth

world growth

Saturday, May 19, 2012

China to become world's top gold consumer

Chinese purchases of gold rose 10 percent to a record 255.2 metric tons in the first quarter, defying a global slowdown and putting China, already the top producer, on pace this year to overtake India as the biggest buyer of the precious metal, the World Gold Council reported Thursday.

"China and India have seen continuing economic growth and while China's economy is expected to slow, it will nonetheless surpass the rates of growth in the West," said Marcus Grubb, managing director for investment at the industry-funded council based in London.

The council, reiterating its February forecast, said it expects China to become the biggest source of demand for gold this year.

Spurred by investors' concerns over high inflation and limits on real estate holdings, demand from China between Jan 1-March 31 increased 7 percent from the previous three months - the second consecutive quarter in which Chinese gold buying topped India's, the council reported. Indian demand fell 29 percent, to 207.6 metric tons, from the first quarter of 2011 due to a strike by jewelers, the weak rupee and government measures to reduce gold imports and the country's current account deficit.

China and India together make up about 54 percent of the world's purchases of gold, although India has long been the top buyer.

Gold demand in China could jump by as much as 30 percent, to between 900 and 1,000 metric tons this year from 769.8 metric tons in 2011, Albert Cheng, the council's Far East managing director, told Bloomberg News. Indian usage may fall within the range of 800-900 metric tons, from 933.4 metric tons, he said.

"Investors are selling gold now to seek cash and rebalance their investment portfolio because of concerns about the euro zone sovereign-debt crisis," he added. "The fundamental reasons for investing in gold remain very strong, so these investors will return."

Globally, demand for gold fell 5 percent during the first three months of 2012, to 1,097.6 metric tons. Gold prices during the quarter were on average 22 percent higher than a year ago though well off their all-time high set in early September 2011.

Reduced demand from the world's central banks as well as the jewelry and technology sectors outweighed an increased appetite from investors.

In China, however, both areas saw growth. Gold demand from jewelers in China rose to 156.6 metric tons, about 30 percent of the global total for the category, while investors' consumption rose 13 percent year-on-year to 98.6 metric tons.

"Further growth is expected in China," the gold council forecast in Thursday's report. "Investors remain wary of high inflation rates, and property market restrictions continue to drive demand."

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