Sales Soar 900% as China Makes Grab for Aussie Gold

October 19, 2012 at 13:48

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Gold has soared past coal as Australia’s second most valuable physical export to China, with sales up a whopping 900 per cent for the first eight months of the year, bringing in $4.1 billion.

Chinese buyers are hoarding the precious metal amid a slowing economy, property-buying restrictions, and uncertain financial markets as its central bank increases its holdings.

The unprecedented jump in gold sales, along with continued acceleration of export revenues for other commodities led by coal — up 80 per cent to $4 billion — caused total exports to China to rise by 10.7 per cent for the year to August, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

Shipments of Australia’s biggest export, iron ore, were up 20 per cent for the same period but the total value of $26.9 billion was down 5 per cent compared to last year because of the mid-year price slump.

 

China’s foreign currency reserves of gold are low and its move to build them up will provide an important base demand for gold, analysts said.

Nigel Moffat, manager of treasury operations at the Perth Mint, said large quantities of the Mint’s gold had been supplied to China through a variety of banks.

“During the last year demand has increased significantly, which has meant that from time to time demand well outstripped supply,” he said. “In the last four to six weeks, though, demand has fallen off significantly, as it has everywhere.”

China’s gold demand was beginning to outstrip even India’s.

The trade in gold bars and coins for savings and investment has only ramped up in the past three or four years in China.

Jewellery investments have also soared in recent years as ornamental gold has once more become a fashionable investment.

At Caibai, a busy jewellery and gold market in Beijing’s western suburbs, customers were buying gold yesterday afternoon.

Local accountant Lu Qing, 38, bought a 20kg gold bar, a necklace, and a pair of earrings. “Buying gold is a stable investment,” she said. “You can expect to make a profit out of it, but if nothing dramatic happens you won’t lose much.

“If you put money in a bank your savings might be eroded with inflation or low interest rates — bank fees are getting higher too. We spend an average of 5 per cent of our annual income on gold, which we keep at home.”

The managing director of Australian goldminer Northern Star Resources, Bill Beament, said the Chinese were becoming very active in the corporate gold market.

“They are very active (in Australia) … and we aren’t talking small gold producers, it is the big Chinese gold producers that are visiting,” he told The Australian.

The attractiveness of gold as a safe haven has increased as governments around the world continue to print money, diminishing the value of the dollar.

“With gold, you dig it up and it’s not something that diminishes in value,” Mr Beament said.

China, the world’s largest gold producer, has already increased its interest in Australian goldminers this year and taken a majority stake in listed-company Focus Minerals.

Jake Klein, executive chairman of gold company Evolution Mining, said it was encouraging to hear more gold was going to China.

“China is going to be an increasingly important destination for gold — there is no doubt,” he said.