China and India helped buy up investors’ biggest gold sales in more than a year.
Gold exports to China from the refining hub of Switzerland almost doubled to 46.4 metric tons in March, the most among monthly data starting in January 2014, according to the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. Shipments to India more than doubled to 72.5 tons as imports from the U.K. climbed sixfold.
That’s an indication that gold bars are leaving U.K. vaults for Switzerland, where they’re refined and sent to Asia. India and China, the biggest buyers, boosted purchases in 2013 when investors dumped the metal amid the biggest price rout in three decades. Global sales from gold-backed funds totaled 55.7 tons in March, the most since 2013, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
“The big investor outflows from the U.K. via Switzerland to China and India is a continuation of the flow of metal from West to East,” Matthew Turner, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd., said by phone from London. “Short-term, it is a sign of weakness, not of strength in the market.”
Investors returned to selling the metal in March after adding to holdings in January and February. Prices declined 2.4 percent in London last month and reached the lowest since December on March 17.
Bullion is little changed this year on speculation the first U.S. interest rate increases since 2006 will be gradual. Higher borrowing costs curb gold’s appeal because the metal generally only offers returns through price gains.
Swiss gold exports to China climbed from 23.6 tons in February, while those to India, last year’s largest buyer, rose to a four-month high from 27.1 tons, online customs data showed on Thursday. Shipments to Hong Kong fell 26 percent to 30 tons.
Trading volume for bullion of 99.99 percent purity in China, the benchmark spot contract, jumped about 60 percent from the previous month to a record in March, Shanghai Gold Exchange data show. Flows to India rose before this month’s Akshaya Tritiya festival, which is considered a traditional day to buy precious metals.
Switzerland imported 97.2 tons from the U.K. last month, up from 14.7 tons in February and the most since November. Total Swiss gold exports increased 65 percent to 223.3 tons, the highest since at least 2013.