Gold imports into mainland China from Hong Kong surged 94% to an all-time high last year as rising incomes in the world’s second-largest economy underpinned increased demand and helped the metal to post a 12th annual gain.
Mainland China imported 834,502 kilograms (834.5 metric tons), including scrap and coins, compared with about 431,215 kilograms in 2011, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong government. Imports in December rose to a monthly record of 114,405 kilograms, according to data from the department yesterday.
China was expected to displace India as the world’s biggest gold consumer last year, according forecast in November from the producer-funded World Gold Council. Rising consumption in the country may help to offset concern that the metal’s bull run may be coming to an end as the global economy recovers. Spot gold is little changed so far this year, while the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of raw materials has risen 4.4%.
The increase in gold imports last year “was largely a result of income growth,” Jiang Shu, a senior analyst at Industrial Bank Co. Ltd., said from Shanghai before the data was released. “The Chinese are becoming more wealthy.”
Economic growth in China, the world’s largest gold producer, has boosted the country’s consumption of everything from copper to energy and farm commodities. The nation, which snapped a seven-quarter slowdown in the final quarter of last year, is the world’s largest base-metals user, the biggest importer of soybeans and the top crude-oil consumer after the U.S.
Gold for immediate delivery traded at $1,675.26 an ounce at 5:27 p.m. in Singapore yesterday after rallying 7.1% last year. The price reached a record $1,921.15 in September 2011. Cash bullion of 99.99 percent purity rose 0.8 percent this year to 337.10 yuan a gram ($1,681 an ounce) on the Shanghai Gold Exchange.
Spot gold fell in January for a fourth monthly loss, and investors’ holdings in exchange-traded products declined as improving economic data from the U.S. to Europe and China signaled that the global recovery was gaining traction. Credit Suisse AG said last week that it’s increasingly probable that the price peak in 2011 was bullion’s top.
The imports in December compared with 90,764 kilograms in November, and were more than double the 38,650 kilograms a year earlier, according to the data. Net imports, after deducting flows from China to Hong Kong, were 84,687 kilograms in December, compared with 61,787 kilograms a month earlier. China doesn’t publish such data.
Exports of gold to Hong Kong from China more than tripled to 310,861 kilograms in 2012 from about 95,529 kilograms a year earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations. Shipments were 29,718 kilograms in December, up from 28,978 kilograms in November, a separate statistics department statement showed.
China’s urban per capita disposable income rose 12.6% in nominal terms in 2012 to 24,565 yuan, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Jan. 18. Per capital rural net income increased 13.5% in nominal terms, and 10.7% in real terms, to 7,917 yuan, the bureau said. The economy may expand 8.1% this year from 7.9% in 2012, according to the median of analysts’ forecasts tracked by Bloomberg.
“We see demand continuing to be robust into 2013,” said Wang Xiaoli, chief investment strategist at CITICS Futures Co., a unit of China’s biggest listed brokerage. “The economy will recover, albeit slowly, while real interest rates will remain low and central banks will continue to accumulate. These are all bullish for gold.”