The World Gold Council (WGC) reaffirmed the power of the Love Trade in its 2011 Gold Demand Trends report released earlier this month. Gold demand grew 0.4% in 2011 despite a 28% year-over-year increase in bullion’s average price.
After flirting with the top spot for some time, China emerged as the world’s largest gold market for jewelry and investment during the fourth quarter of 2011 as demand in India weakened. This is the first time China’s demand outpaced India’s in 11 quarters. However, India did retain the gold demand crown for the entire year, purchasing 933 tons compared to China’s demand of 770 tons.
I always say the trend is your friend, and I believe China’s increasing demand for gold is one trend that is just getting started. Although gold imports from Hong Kong were cut in half in December, HSBC Global Research reports that overall gold imports from Hong Kong were 10 times the historical average from January through November 2011. HSBC expects a continued rise in Chinese incomes will keep demand at a robust pace. The WGC sees domestic demand for gold jewelry and investment driving 20% growth in Chinese gold demand during 2012.
China should consider its leadership as the No. 1 gold market a short-term position, though. While China’s presence in the bullion market is strong and growing for jewelry and investment, India’s ancient relationship with the yellow metal is such that “domestic drivers of demand are largely independent of outside forces,” says the WGC. The WGC does not see India’s role in the gold market diminishing over the long term.