Gold price rise limits mainland imports
The mainland's net gold imports from Hong Kong fell 26 per cent in August from a year earlier as consumption of the precious metal across the border weakened as a result of surging gold prices.
Hong Kong shipped 53.508 tonnes of gold to the mainland in August and imported 24.193 tonnes. The net exports, at 29.315 tonnes, were the lowest since January, according to official trade data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.
Gold demand from the mainland remained strong in the first half of this year before declining in August. Official statistics show imports of the metal between January and July were more than four times as much as in the same period last year.
"August was a turning point for international gold prices this year when it rose quickly to a relatively high level. It made people more cautious when purchasing bullion or gold jewellery," said Fung Chi-kin, honorary permanent president of the Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange Society.
The economic slowdown has also been another reason why people have been holding back on their gold purchases, he added.
Gold fell from a high of US$1,900 per ounce last year to around US$1,600 in the middle of this year.
In the past two months, it has rallied nearly 10 per cent to HK$1,800 as key Western central banks loosened their monetary policies, which greatly encouraging speculative interest in bullion but has done little to boost physical demand, according to metal traders.
Spot gold was trading at US$1,768 an ounce around 5pm yesterday, up nearly 13 per cent so far this year.
Fung expects gold imports on the mainland to stay soft this month as prices have continued to remain high.
"However, gold consumption is likely to climb again in the fourth quarter, a traditionally peak season when Chinese people buy gold jewellery for weddings and presents," he added.
Earlier this year, the World Gold Council said it expected China to surpass India this year to become the world's largest gold consumer.
Shipments into China stood at 509.838 tonnes in the first eight months of the year, exceeding the total gold inflow last year.