Year of the Horse spurs gold sales
Miss Lu is a tourist from Guangzhou looking to buy a golden horse ornament worth about HK$20,000 in the shopping warrens of Causeway Bay in Hong Kong a few days before the Lunar New Year.
"It will be a gift to my mother on the mainland," she said as the crowd swirled around her. "Gold is cheaper now. I bought a gold ring last week for myself."
Jewellery stores saw robust gold sales in January, stoked by demand for gold horses before the Year of the Horse. Gold horses were getting a better welcome than the reception given to gold reptiles last year in the Year of the Snake, jewellers said.
"Horses are regarded as the symbol of energy and health to the Chinese," said Lau Hak-bun, chief operations director at Chow Sang Sang. "People like to wear accessories or have golden ornaments of horses rather than snakes, which are lazy and evil in their view."
The jewellery store chain said it saw a 15 to 20 per cent increase in sales volume for January compared with last year.
Wong Wai-sheung, chairman of Luk Fook, said he also expected single-digit growth rates for gold sales in the month. Tak Sang Jewellery and Goldsmith said its gold sales rose 5 per cent in the period.
"The peak period of the sale of golden horse goods started last week. Many buyers want to have the accessories before the Lunar New Year," Lau said.
Investors and consumers are looking to take advantage of falling gold prices, down 23.3 per cent from a year ago, in anticipation of the US Federal Reserve's tapering of quantitative easing in financial markets.
The spot price of gold, though, touched US$1,279.60 an ounce yesterday, the highest since November 18. As of January 24, it is up 4.8 per cent this year.
Mark Wan, chief analyst at Hang Seng Investment Services, said gold might get a boost from the seasonal demand inspired by the Lunar New Year.
The firm anticipated gold prices would rise steadily to US$1,300 to US$1,400 an ounce by the end of the year.
"The global economy is recovering slowly," Wan said. "This will help boost the price in the long run."
For the prime shopping areas such as Causeway Bay, more than 60 per cent of the gold purchases were from mainland visitors, said Wong.