Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.UK General Election 2015 - Forecasting Seats for SNP, LIb-Dems, UKIP and Others - Nadeem_Walayat
2.UK General Election 2015 Seats Forecast - Who Will Win? - - Nadeem_Walayat
3.Gold Price Downtrend Looks Set to Continue - Clive_Maund
4.Commodity Prices Set To Plunge Below 2008 Lows - Austin_Galt
5.New Greece Drachma Revealed Amid Bank Runs - Greeks Buy Gold Sovereigns - GoldCore
6.Gold and Silver Stocks or General Stock Market Indices? - Rambus_Chartology
7.“Forgive Us Our Debts” – Only Way To Prevent Economic Meltdown - GoldCore
8.UK House Prices Trend 2015 and the May General Election - Nadeem_Walayat
9.12 Reasons Why Barry Ritholtz and Many UK Experts Are Mistaken On Gold - GoldCore
10.Recession is On The Way; Beat The Stock Market Crowd, Panic Now! - Mike_Shedlock
Last 5 days
UK Election 2015 - Cameron Housing Bribe - 200,000 Discounted Homes for 400,000 Voters - 6th Mar 15
The Anthropology of Finance - 6th Mar 15
Portfolios, Insurance, and Gold - 6th Mar 15
Gold and Silver Justice For Some - Currency Wars - ECB Deposit Rates To -3% - 5th Mar 15
How to Play the Big Broker Stocks When Interest Rates Rise - 5th Mar 15
Here's What Stock Market Bulls Might Be Overlooking - 5th Mar 15
U.S. Soaring Crude Oil Stocks - Cushing and Gulf Coast Storage Filling Up Fast - 5th Mar 15
Japan's Intelligence Reform Inches Forward - 5th Mar 15
Gold Miner Index Breadth Oscillator, Forward Reckoning® - 5th Mar 15
Gold Price Set To Plunge Below $600 - 5th Mar 15
UK General Election Forecast 2015 - Immigration Crisis, SNP Insurgency and Housing Mini-Boom - 5th Mar 15
Spock, Debt and the Kingdom of Denmark - 5th Mar 15
The Psychology of a Sideways Stock Market Trend - 5th Mar 15
Freedom from America - Getting Out Of Dodge - 5th Mar 15
What Top Hedge Fund Managers Really Think About Gold - 4th Mar 15
U.S. Dollar Strategic Backfire On U.S. Government Policy - 4th Mar 15
Canada’s Central Banks Orders End to ‘Spocking’ Of Canadian Dollar - Defacing Debasing Currencies - 4th Mar 15
Chicago's Only Possible Salvation: A Detroit-Like Bankruptcy - 4th Mar 15
Gold Price and Mining Stocks Decline Together - 3rd Mar 15
Financial Slaughter - The Silence of the Lambs - 3rd Mar 15
Bondholders “Bailed In” In Austria – New Banking Crisis? - 3rd Mar 15
How to Profit from the Coming Oil Price Crunch - 3rd Mar 15
Is Japan Zimbabwe? Could Japan go Hyperinflation? - 3rd Mar 15
Bill Gross Says Fed May Raise Rates 25 Basis Points in June - 3rd Mar 15
The Secret Behind My Hedge Fund Trade on U.S. Housing Market - 3rd Mar 15
BLS CPI Lie - How's That Dsflation Working Out for You? - 3rd Mar 15
Tesla Bonfire of the Money Printers’ Vanities - 3rd Mar 15
Gold Demand in UK, Europe and U.S. – Reuters Interview GoldCore - 2nd Mar 15
Watch the Skies... for Investor Profits - 2nd Mar 15
How Investors Can Identify the Best Small-Cap Stocks - 2nd Mar 15
Gold and Silver - What If the Precious Metal Stocks Bulls are Back - 2nd Mar 15
Students Getting a PhD in Subprime Debt - U.S. Debt Breaking Bad Part 3 - 2nd Mar 15
The Stock Market is in The Process of Major Top! - 2nd Mar 15
Stock Market Weakening Trend - 2nd Mar 15
Gold Price Glimmer of Hope - 1st Mar 15
Stock Markets Are Riding High on Thin Air - 1st Mar 15
Varoufakis vs. the Troika - Showdown in Athens - 1st Mar 15
Subprime Rising - U.S. Debt Breaking Bad Part 2 - 1st Mar 15
Gold CoT Improving, But ... - 1st Mar 15
UK General Election 2015 Seats Forecast - Who Will Win? - 28th Feb 15
UK General Election 2015 - Forecasting Seats for SNP, LIb-Dems, UKIP and Others - 28th Feb 15
Stocks Bull Market Continues - 28th Feb 15
U.S. Debt Breaking Bad - 28th Feb 15
NATO Frankenstein - When Centralization Scales Beyond Our Control - 28th Feb 15
Gold And Silver Insanity Prevails; Precious Metals Without Direction - 28th Feb 15
Fed Raising U.S. Interest Rates - Shovelin’ Schmitt Against the Tide - 28th Feb 15
Don't Let This Stock Market Myth Cost You Your Gains - 28th Feb 15
Recession is On The Way; Beat The Stock Market Crowd, Panic Now! - 28th Feb 15
Stock Market Indexes Creeping Towards the Edge - 28th Feb 15
GGD Going for Mexican Gold - 27th Feb 15
Foreign Real Estate Is the New Swiss Bank Account - 27th Feb 15
10 Reasons Washington Has War Fever - 27th Feb 15
Gold and the Euro Tragedy, Iraq 3.0, Ukraine Conflict Three Ring Circus - 27th Feb 15
Deepak Chopra - New Age Genius or Bullshit Expert? - Video - 27th Feb 15 - Videos
New Greece Drachma Revealed Amid Bank Runs - Greeks Buy Gold Sovereigns - 27th Feb 15
Will Month Long Stocks Rally Continue? - 27th Feb 15
The Only Public Hedge Fund You Should Own - 27th Feb 15
UK House Prices Trend 2015 and the May General Election - 27th Feb 15
Why America is Ungovernable - The Republicans’ Civil War - 27th Feb 15
Gold vs Gold Stocks: Bullish Anomaly Developing? - 27th Feb 15
I Heart Capitalism, Nasdaq Stocks, Then And Now - 27th Feb 15
The Fed’s History of Assassination - 27th Feb 15 i
Gold Bull Market Forecast - Money Will Rotate Into These Dead Investments - 27th Feb 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The State of the Global Markets 2015

China's "Mystery" Gold Buyer

Commodities / Gold and Silver 2012 Feb 20, 2012 - 03:24 PM GMT

By: Adrian_Ash

Commodities

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleWas the People's Bank of China really buying gold at the rate of 1 ounce in every 8 sold worldwide last quarter...?

SO THOSE MILITANT crazies known to the mainstream media as "gold bugs" – and to the FBI as subversives – got the headline they've been longing for, apparently, last week.


"China central bank in gold-buying push," declared the Financial Times. "It does appear the People's Bank of China has been a significant buyer," agreed a Reuters columnist.

At last, rapture is upon us! Beijing is buying gold in the open market! The FT picks up the story...

"China's imports from Hong Kong, which account for the majority of its overseas buying, soared to 227 tonnes in the last three months of 2011, according to data published by Hong Kong. Mine production in the country, the largest gold producer, stood at about 100 tonnes in the quarter, implying total supply of at least 330 tonnes.

"That compares to demand of 191 tonnes for gold jewellery, bars and coins – which account for the vast majority of Chinese demand – reported by the World Gold Council on Thursday."

With gold exports banned, you can see the gap right there...all 139 tonnes of it. The FT's conclusion? Courtesy of an "inference" and a "could be" from two leading analysts, that excess of supply over demand must have gone to the People's Bank of China. Must have, right?

Well...

  • The data came from 3 different sources, one of which is an official agency, another is the mining industry, and the third is trying to cover end-user sales in the world's second-heaviest gold market and most populous nation;
  • Those demand figures in particular are likely to be revised – upwards – by Thomson Reuters GFMS (who supply the WGC). The best data available, they were certainly revised –  upwards – quarter-on-quarter over recent years. And even on first release, China's retail jewelry and investment sales show average compound growth of 36% per year since 2001. That's one hell of a trend to keep count of in real time;
  • No, a revision to end-demand of 139 tonnes will not happen. But would a 75% hike be any less likely than the People's Bank of China growing its stated reserves (officially 1054 tonnes) by more than 13% inside 3 months? And inside 3 months that saw the gold price average $1684 per ounce, its highest level in history outside the $1702 record of July-Oct. last year?

Somehow, we doubt that China's central bank snapped up 1 ounce in every 8 sold worldwide between October and Christmas. Most especially because, if Beijing's policymakers were the "mystery" buyer, why would they then go and make importing gold a little bit harder for China's bullion brokers?

Starting this month, China's wholesalers now need to seek permission, reports our friend Bruce Ikemizu at Standard Bank in Tokyo, for each inbound shipment of gold from not only the People's Bank  of China, but also from the bureaucrats of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE). "So it takes longer to import gold," notes Bruce.

Weirdly, SAFE was the agency which hoarded the 600-tonne addition of 2003-2009, officially switched to and reported by the PBoC three years ago in its last public update. So again, why would anyone buying gold – and already paying very nearly the highest prices in history – want to temper supply?

"In the medium term we do know the Chinese central bank and other Asian central banks with large foreign exchange reserves have been increasing their holdings of gold," as Marcus Grubb of the World Gold Council told the Financial Times. Plugging some of last quarter's gap "is consistent with that." But plugging the whole 139 tonnes as the FT's headline suggests?

Both the WGC and GFMS's Phillip Klapwijk – also quoted in the FT's report – in fact added that bullion banks and other stock-pilers would be likely candidates, too. And that would make sense after the scramble to secure supplies in early 2011. Because gold imports through Hong Kong – well ahead of last month's 2012 Lunar New Year holidays – actually peaked in November. They then fell hard in December as the festivities drew closer.

Indeed, as the London gold price dropped late last September, the Hong Kong premium tripled to jump above $3 per ounce. So calling your UK supplier and booking new shipments would have been a natural response. Cheap prices, plus a fat mark-up if the metal arrives in good time? What trader wouldn't try to book that? October and November then saw record imports of gold through Hong Kong to China. But the premium had fallen quickly however (according to Reuters data), already back down to $1 per ounce in October.

That's the trouble with a physical market – delivery needs brokers and shipping, and wholesalers need stockpiles to draw on. Not much of a headline though, is it?

Stock-piling is common in base metals and oil. Standard Bank's commodities team now reckon silver stockpiles in China are equal to 15 months of fabrication demand. And if Beijing were really on the bid for imported metal, then why, immediately after January's Chinese New Year celebrations – the single biggest event on China's gold buying calendar – did it set China's gold importers a new hurdle?

Our guess? No doubt China is buying gold direct from its miners. That metal is then lacking for retail consumption. So to ensure lots of supply for what proved another strong Chinese New Year, importers booked early and often. But following that trebling of gold imports in 2011, the timing of SAFE's move, immediately after New Year – and only two weeks after India doubled its gold and silver import duties – suggests Beijing is live to the trade-balance risks posed by Chinese households' soaring demand.

"IMF slashes forecast for China current account surplus," announced the Wall Street Journal last week.

"China's current account surplus for 2011 shrank to $201.1 billion ($187.37bn), from $305.4bn in 2010. More important, as a ratio of gross domestic product, the surplus fell to about 2.7%...close to a decade-low."

Now, "as China's trade surplus declines dramatically," reports University of Peking professor Michael Pettis, "more and more people within the country are calling for interventionist steps to halt the decline, including depreciating the [Yuan], or at least halting its appreciation."

Pettis' comment should remind us that Beijing is a big bureaucracy, with lots of divergent views and voices. Devaluing the Yuan would look a highly aggressive decision to its would-be friends in Washington, especially those US politicians talking up China's "violations" of international law. But trying to stem – or rather slow – the pace of import growth wouldn't look quite so rude.

This new rule is already frustrating those banks importing gold, but it's likely only to delay, rather than deter, the flow of bullion. Still, it's a hat-tip to the potential drain on China's foreign currency holdings which gold has become for India – still the world's No.1 consumer, and importing twice as much as bullion as China in 2011 because it has no domestic mine output to help feed its consumption, whether central-bank or private.


India's hunger for a metal it does not produce is plain to see in its trade balance. The only current-account deficit in the region as Morgan Stanley notes, this gold-heavy outflow of cash also weighed on the Rupee's exchange rate in 2011, down 15% versus the Dollar as the currency markets tried to force an adjustment.

Because even then, and with Rupee gold prices pushed to fresh record highs despite a 20% drop for US investors after September's top, India's full-year 2011 gold demand still rose from 2010 in Dollar terms, setting a fresh record of $46 billion on the World Gold Council's data, and equal to more than three-quarters of the country's current account deficit.

"[We hope to] discourage imports so that the Rupee steadies against the Dollar," admitted a senior, unnamed official quoted by India Today after New Delhi raised import duties and handed a tax advantage to the domestic recycling lobby in January. Beijing's policy wonks are being equally coy about trying to dampen gold bullion imports just ever so slightly. But China's feint should remind precious-metals bulls that Asia's massive demand growth can pose a risk to itself.

First, high prices could dissuade new buyers, as shown all too clearly by Western jewelry demand since 2005. A slow-down in GDP growth, worsened by a shrinking trade surplus, would make that risk worse. But for Asia's ravenous gold buying, state interference is perhaps the present threat, especially in a market averaging 36% compound growth by value each year since China began deregulating gold a decade ago.

China's gold buyers have needed no help from over-excitable headlines. But they have needed Beijing's blessing to date.

By Adrian Ash
BullionVault.com

Gold price chart, no delay   |   Buy gold online at live prices

Formerly City correspondent for The Daily Reckoning in London and a regular contributor to MoneyWeek magazine, Adrian Ash is the editor of Gold News and head of research at www.BullionVault.com , giving you direct access to investment gold, vaulted in Zurich , on $3 spreads and 0.8% dealing fees.

(c) BullionVault 2012

Please Note: This article is to inform your thinking, not lead it. Only you can decide the best place for your money, and any decision you make will put your money at risk. Information or data included here may have already been overtaken by events – and must be verified elsewhere – should you choose to act on it.


© 2005-2015 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014