Perth Mint Works Through Weekend on Highest Demand Since ’08

Australia’s Perth Mint, which refines nearly all of the nation’s bullion, said that demand has jumped to the highest level in five years after prices plunged, with the factory kept open through the weekend to meet orders.

There’s been strong interest, including from the U.S., with buyers speculating that the metal will rebound from the decline, Ron Currie, sales and marketing director, said in a phone interview from Perth.

Bullion plunged 14 percent in the two sessions to April 15, the most since 1983, spurring buyers to boost physical holdings. Billionaire John Paulson, the biggest investor in the largest exchange-traded product backed by bullion, reiterated his bullish view on prices. Coin sales by the U.S. Mint are set for the highest month since December 2009, while premiums to secure supplies in India rose to five times the level before the slump.

“We haven’t seen levels like this since the 2008 global financial crisis,” Currie said yesterday. “Compared to March sales, April sales have doubled or tripled,” he said, without providing figures.

Gold for immediate delivery fell 0.4 percent to $1,470.42 an ounce at 5:13 p.m. in Singapore. While prices have gained 11 percent from a two-year low on April 16, they are still heading for the biggest monthly loss since December 2011.

Increased physical purchases may help to offset declining holdings in ETPs, which are on course for a record contraction in tonnage terms this month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Holdings have contracted 168 tons in April as prices entered a bear market.

‘All Weekend’

The U.S. Mint said on April 23 it suspended sales of coins weighing a 10th of an ounce after demand more than doubled from a year earlier. The mint has sold 209,500 ounces of gold coins so far in April from 62,000 in March, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The U.K. Mint said purchases tripled in April.

“We worked all weekend to keep the factory running to make more stock and that was only to fill orders,” Currie said from the facility founded in 1899. “We’re being inundated with people buying products.”

Paulson told clients that central-bank buying and demand in Asia will support the metal in the near term, according to a letter from Paulson & Co. obtained by Bloomberg. The hedge-fund manager began investing in gold in 2009 for protection against eventual inflation and currency debasement as central banks pumped an unprecedented amount of money into the global economy.

“We’re seeing people are coming into the market because the price has come down, they think they can afford it now and expect that it will go up again,” Currie said. “The U.S. has got the money to purchase metal and is doing so as a hedge,” he said, referring to individual investors. “It’s extremely busy for us in the U.S.”

Russia and Kazakhstan boosted official gold reserves for a sixth month in March, International Monetary Fund data show. Central banks will buy as much as 550 tons this year after increasing holdings by 534.6 tons last year, the most since 1964, the World Gold Council estimates.

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