China's Gold Imports From Hong Kong Recover on Month in February

  • Purchases were smallest for month of February since 2012
  • Imports will probably pick up in coming months: Gambarini

China’s imports of gold from Hong Kong increased in February from the smallest level since 2011 a month earlier.

Net purchases by the world’s largest consumer rose to 42.9 metric tons from 17.6 tons in January, according to data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department compiled by Bloomberg. The mainland bought 55.1 tons, including scrap, while shipments to Hong Kong were 12.2 tons. Mainland China doesn’t publish the data.

Investors in China have been buying bullion amid a declining stock market and the slowest economic growth in a generation. The benchmark stock index slumped 24 percent in the first two months of the year. The central bank has also been adding to reserves. Net imports in December were 111.3 tons, the highest in more than two years.

While purchases increased from a month earlier, they were the lowest for February since 2012, according to the customs data compiled by Bloomberg. For the first two months, they were down 56 percent from a year ago.

Gold has been the best performing major commodity this year and surged 17 percent in January and February. The Lunar New Year festival in early February and price strength may have curbed demand, according to a note from Simona Gambarini, a commodities economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London.

Swiss exports of gold to mainland China fell to 27.2 tons last month from 43.4 tons in January and shipments to Hong Kong slid to 19.8 tons from 25 tons, according to the Swiss Federal Customs Administration.

“Local premiums in China suggest that the weakness in imports might have persisted through March,” Gambarini said after the data were released. “With prices now settling down and other temporary headwinds set to fade, imports should pick up again over the coming months.”

— With assistance by Ranjeetha Pakiam

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