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Chinese Seizing Golden Opportunity; Gold Demand Surging

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Generally speaking, rising prices tend to temper demand, but when it comes to gold in China, the recent price rally has created the opposite effect. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “Chinese investors see a golden opportunity.”

Demand for gold has surged in China over the last several weeks, during a period generally considered out of season. And it’s not typical Chinese jewelry purchases driving the demand. Chinese investors are buying gold coins and bars.

gold

Typically, gold purchases in China are strongly associated with jewelry buying around the Lunar New Year holiday, which this fell in early February. But the uncertainty confronting global economies has driven up demand from a different sort of buyer—the hard-nosed investor.”

Padraig J. Seif serves as the chief executive officer for Finemetal Asia Ltd., a large Hong Kong-based bullion dealer. He told the Wall Street Journal his company sold more gold in the first three weeks of March than in all of February. He reported a 10-fold increase in sales of 250-gram bars. Sales of the 1,000-gram kilobars surged by 50%. Seif said corporate investors are driving demand, not jewelry makers.

The WSJ attributes the robust demand on economic uncertainty along with quickly rising real estate prices that are pushing investors toward gold:

Asian investment demand has contributed substantially to the three-month-old price rally, analysts say. It is offsetting the low seasonal demand for jewelry, according to the head of the bullion desk at Scotia Bank, one of largest international banks dealing in precious metals. Another sign of investment interest in gold is a rise in the premium sellers charge above international spot rates for quick delivery. In Hong Kong it shot up to $1 to $2 an ounce from 40 to 50 cents immediately after the Lunar New Year period.

China accounts for about a fifth of the world’s gold consumption, and it’s not just investors and everyday Chinese citizens. China’s central bank aggressively added to its stock of the yellow metal during the last half of 2015 and that trend is expected to continue this year. The country is also making an impact on the worldwide gold market. Earlier this year, ICBC Standard Bank bought a huge gold vault in London, expanding China’s largest bank’s footprint in the city’s bullion market.

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