May 7 (Bloomberg) -- Gold consumption in China, the world’s largest user after India, jumped 26 percent in the first three months of 2013 from a year ago amid strong bullion sales and rising jewelry demand, an association said.
Total consumption reached 320.54 metric tons in the first quarter, the China Gold Association said today in an e-mailed report. Purchases of gold bars surged 49 percent to 120.39 tons, while jewelry gained 16 percent to 178.59 tons, it said. Gold output in China, the world’s largest producer, gained 11 percent in the same period to 89.91 tons, according to the association.
First-quarter sales preceded gold’s slump into a bear market last month, with prices tumbling 14 percent the two days through April 15, the worst drop in three decades. The slump led to a surge in demand for jewelry, coins and bars from India and the U.S. to China. China’s imports of the metal from Hong Kong surged to a record in March, the Hong Kong government said on its website today.
“This came out better than our expectation because these sales were done before the gold market rout in April when more people rushed to buy gold,” Song Qing, fund manager at Lion Fund Management Co., China’s first asset manager to place money in foreign exchange-traded gold funds.
Bullion of 99.99 percent purity on the Shanghai Gold Exchange dropped 4.3 percent in the first quarter, and was at 294 yuan a gram ($1,486 an ounce) today. The weeklong Lunar New Year holiday, when consumers bought gold jewelry and bars as gifts in the most-important festival, was in February this year. In London, gold for immediate delivery traded 13 percent lower this year at $1,459.29 an ounce.
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