Worldwide demand for gold climbed to a record in the second quarter of this year, with buoyant economic conditions in some of the world's biggest markets setting a positive tone for the precious metal. Demand rose 16 per cent from a year earlier to 809.5 tonnes, an all-time high for any three-month period. The World Gold Council (WGC), the industry's peak body, said economic strength in the United States - where demand rose 17 per cent from a year earlier - as well as in India, where economic recovery in the rural sector led to a 6 per cent rise, were the principal drivers of the increase. The council's manager of gold market analysis, George Milling-Stanley, said: 'In the US, people are buying jewellery, they feel prosperous. 'There is some nervousness about the stock market and also about the Y2K problem, which has led to increased buying of gold coins as well.' Demand for coins rose a year-on-year 75 per cent. Mr Milling-Stanley said favourable macroeconomic conditions in India - the world's biggest gold market - caused the jump in demand there, particularly in rural areas, where incomes had risen because of good harvests. Demand also grew in Southeast Asia, where economic recovery had taken place more quickly than expected. As a result, the WGC said, demand in the region was now back to about 90 per cent of pre-financial crisis levels. Gold's ascendancy in the period from April 1 to June 30 is all the more intriguing, as it goes against historical trends. Traditionally, demand is highest in the first and fourth quarters of the year, during which fall the main religious festivals, Christmas, the lunar new year and Ramadan. Against the trend, demand in Hong Kong remained weak, falling 6 per cent from a year earlier. In the first half of this year, demand was down 27 per cent. Despite the positive worldwide result, Mr Milling-Stanley conceded the industry faced an uphill battle in turning the market tide of sentiment against gold. Central bank sales, most recently those by the Bank of England, as well as continued speculation that Switzerland and the International Monetary Fund would sell its reserves, have cast a pall over the metal for more than two years. More recently, physical gold prices have fallen to 20-year lows, with no imminent recovery predicted. However, Mr Milling-Stanley pointed out that only five central banks had sold substantial amounts of their reserves, while other major holders, such as Germany, had clearly stated they have no intention of selling. 'I think people's perception of what central banks are doing is certainly one of the most crucial issues that we face,' he said. WGC chief executive Haruko Fukuda described the second-quarter figures as very encouraging.