Global gold jewelry demand fell 4 percent year-over-year to 534.2 tons for the third quarter of 2014, according to the World Gold Council in its Gold Demand trend report released Thursday. However, the decline comes against an unusually robust third quarter of 2013, which experienced the strongest growth for jewelry demand since 2008.
“Longer term analysis shows a market in good health. Q3 demand was marginally stronger than the five-year quarterly average of 527.6 tons, while year-to-date volumes continue to extend the broad uptrend from the low seen in 2009,” the WGC said in its report.
Two markets did shine, the US, with a 4 percent rise that helped lift manufacturing outputs in several gold jewelry producing countries; and India, which surged 60 percent. China and Hong Kong, meanwhile, experienced steep declines in gold jewelry demand.
The WGC’s report said the economic recovery and a downward trend in the price of gold created a “revival” of gold jewelry demand in the US that has had a “ripple effect” around the world.
“The US sucked in greater volumes of gold jewelry imports from markets as diverse as India, China, Italy, Mexico and Oman, according to the report. “Third quarter growth in the US market was very much an extension of the trend that has prevailed since early last year. Mounting conviction in the economic recovery has boosted sentiment and whetted consumers’ appetite for discretionary purchases. Gold jewelry has been a clear beneficiary: improving sales of higher carat and non-wedding related items helped demand to the highest Q3 total since 2009.”
The report added, “Lower gold prices have aided the recovery of US demand as retailers are more easily able to meet key price points without crimping margins. Or, similarly, to increase karatage while maintaining price levels. This has enticed some mass- market retailers back into the gold jewelry sector.”
The market that had the strongest third quarter by far was India, which reported a 60 percent year-over-year increase to nearly 183 tons—the second highest third quarter on record, the WGC said.
“The third quarter of 2013 was decidedly weak as the introduction of complicated new measures to restrict gold imports and the subsequent sharp rise in local prices knocked demand,” the WGC said in its report. “But this quarter, other more positive forces were also at play.”
Among those forces is the confidence in the new Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a drop in the price of gold and robust buying during the Diwali festival season.
“Although Indian consumers are typically wary of buying gold while the price is still moving, preferring to wait until it settles at a more stable level, the opportunity to buy at cheaper prices proved, for some, hard to resist.”
Meanwhile, China experienced a 39 percent year-over-year decline to 147.1 tons in gold jewelry demand. Hong Kong (where consumers from the mainland China account for most of the demand) fell 31 percent to 9 tons. The WGC said much of this decline is in comparison to the rapid expansion throughout 2013 and that gold jewelry sales are normalizing.
“18-karat (K-gold) jewelry was relatively more robust than the 24-karat (chuk kam) segment,” the WGC said. “The government’s anti-corruption drive may have contributed to this trend.”
* Indonesia saw third quarter demand fall 16 percent to 9.7 tons partially in response to strength of demand last year. However, the WGC said “equally important was the Presidential election in July, which created a degree of political instability and discouraged spending on gold jewelry.”
* Third quarter jewelry demand in Turkey fell 18 percent, year-over-year, to 19.2 tons—the lowest third quarter on record, the WGC said. “Consumers were unnerved by domestic political turmoil; worrying economic signals; and escalating Syrian violence in close proximity to the Turkish border. The ban on paying for gold jewelry by credit card installments continued to hang over the market, although this restriction was partially repealed in October.”
* Demand in the Middle East fell 14 percent year-over-year to 36 tons. Demand for gold jewelry across the region suffered from the comparison with strong demand last year, the WGC said, leading to a trend towards lower-karat and gem-set jewelry.
* Jewelry demand in the UK increased 18 percent to 4.6 tons, the fifth consecutive year-over-year rise.
* Gold jewelry demand in Russia edged up 1 percent year-over-year to 18.6 tons, despite a rise in the average domestic gold price due to a weaker rouble, the WGC said.
* Demand in Italy fell 4 percent year-over-year to 2.7 tons.
The Gold Demand Trends report also tracks gold for investment and technology purposes. In the third quarter overall demand was “subdued,’ the WGC said, falling by 2 percent to 929.3 tons. The price was relatively stable for the period.
“Quarterly volatility in the US$ gold price was among the lowest levels seen over the past two decades,” WGC said. “This was both a cause and effect of the benign demand environment. Investor behavior in particular contributed to this circularity: the lack of a clear price signal caused investors to hold back from buying gold, which in turn dampened down price moves.”
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