May 8, 2012 Mainland China s gold imports from Hong Kong surged more thansixfold in the first quarter, adding to signs that the country maydisplace India as the world s largest consumer of the preciousmetal on an annual basis. Imports from Hong Kong were 135,529 kilograms (135.53 metric tons)between January and March, from 19,729 kilograms in theyear-earlier period, according to data from the Census andStatistics Department of the Hong Kong government. Shipments inMarch rose 59 percent from February, yesterday s data showed. Demand has climbed in the world s second-largest economy as risingincomes and curbs on property speculation boosted purchases. Chinamay become the biggest user annually this year, according to aforecast from the producer-funded World Gold Council. |
Last year,total Indian demand including for jewelry and investment was 933.4tons to China s 769.8 tons. We re looking at another solid year for Chinese demand based onthese early numbers, said Nick Trevethan, senior commoditiesstrategist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. While it s largely related to price, negative real interestrates should keep demand strong. Gold has lost 15 percent from its record $1,921.15 an ounce inSeptember as the European debt crisis, combined with reducedexpectations for further monetary easing by the Federal Reserve,boosted the dollar.
Spot gold traded 0.6 percent lower at $1,629.20at 5:24 p.m. in London. Largest Consumer The prospect of China becoming the largest bullion user reflectsthe country s economic ascendance. Per capita gross domesticproduct has more than doubled since 2000, according to World Bankdata.
The country is already the world s top consumer of copperand biggest producer of steel. Gold shipments to the mainland climbed in March to 62,913kilograms, the Hong Kong data showed. That compares with 39,668kilograms in February and 9,166 kilograms in March 2011. Chinadoesn t publish gold-trade data. Last year, imports from Hong Kongmore than tripled to 431,226 kilograms.
The purchases through Hong Kong may signal that the mainland isaccumulating reserves, London-based brokerage Sharps Pixley Ltd.said in February. The nation last made its reserves known more thantwo years ago, stating them at 1,054 tons. Summer is usually the low season for gold consumption, saidLiang Ruian, director at Pinpoint Investment Consulting Ltd. inBeijing. If we can see growth even in the low season, itrepresents the resilient nature of China s gold consumption.
Interest Rates China expanded 8.1 percent in the first three months of 2012 from ayear earlier in the fifth quarterly deceleration as authoritiescracked down on property speculation. Inflation was 3.6 percent inMarch, below a government target of about 4 percent. So-called realinterest rates are negative when the amount paid to savers ondeposits is less than inflation. Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said yesterday that he waswithdrawing an excise tax on precious-metal jewelry, boostingprospects for the country s gold demand this year.
Imports inApril had plunged to 30 tons to 35 tons from 90 tons a yearearlier, according to the Bombay Bullion Association. China s strong demand for bullion may help support gold pricesat lower levels, said James Steel, an analyst at HSBC Securities(USA) Inc. A recovery in Indian gold demand should be animportant factor in support of gold prices.
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