China’s Gold Imports From Hong Kong Climb to Record

Gold shipments to China from Hong Kong rose to a record in 2013 as bullion’s slump attracted buyers in the world’s second-largest economy.

Net imports more than doubled to 1,108.8 metric tons last year from 2012, according to calculations by Bloomberg News based on data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department. The figure includes a 51 percent rise in December, before the start of China’s Lunar New Year holiday that starts Jan. 31. The data deduct flows from China into Hong Kong.

Gold capped a 28 percent drop last year, the biggest since 1981, as the U.S. Federal Reserve decided to cut its monthly bond purchases while some investors lost faith in bullion as a store of value. Rising demand in China, which probably overtook India as the world’s largest consumer last year, helped gold rise from a six-month low of $1,182.52 on Dec. 31.

“Increasing disposable income guaranteed healthy demand for gold in China last year,” said Song Heping, assistant general manager at Xiamen City Commercial Bank Co. “December demand is usually strong before the Chinese New Year as consumers buy gold gifts regardless of the price outlook at this time of the year.”

Bullion for immediate delivery in London fell 0.6 percent to $1,262.25 an ounce at 3:20 p.m. The metal gained 4.7 percent this year. Investors cut holdings in gold-backed exchange traded products by 33 percent in 2013 on prospects for a global economic recovery. The price tumbled to $1,180.50 on June 28, the lowest in 34 months.

Bullion of 99.99 percent purity on the Shanghai Gold Exchange fell by 3.2 percent in December, declining for a fourth month.

Jewelry Demand

China’s demand for jewelry, bars and coins rose 30 percent to 996.3 tons in the 12 months through September, while usage in India gained 24 percent to 977.6 tons, according to the London-based World Gold Council. Data for the fourth quarter will be released in February, according to the council.

Net gold imports jumped to 91.9 tons in December from the previous month as mainland buyers purchased 126.6 tons, including scrap, compared with 107.4 tons a month earlier, data from the Hong Kong government showed. China’s purchases in December were 10 percent higher than the 114.4 tons a year earlier, according to the Hong Kong data. Mainland China doesn’t publish such data.

Exports to Hong Kong from China were 34.8 tons in December, according to a separate statement from Statistics Department. That compares with 46.4 tons in November and 29.7 tons in December 2012.

— With assistance by Feiwen Rong

(Corrects second paragraph to show net imports more than doubled in story that ran Jan. 27.)
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