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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Regional Instability Causes 3% Drop in Global Gold Jewelry Demand

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The world continues to be more complicated and complex as it also becomes more interdependent. The World Gold Council’s Gold Demand Trends report for the first quarter of 2015 reflects this instability.

Global gold jewelry demand for the first quarter of 2015 declined 3 percent to 600.8 tons, primarily due to large swings in demand in regions throughout the world, but particularly in the world’s two largest gold jewelry markets: China and India.

The largest decline in gold jewelry demand in tons came from China, which fell by 10 percent year-over-year to 213.2 (a 23 ton decline), according to the World Gold Council’s quarterly report, Gold Demand Trends. This was offset by a 22 percent rise in demand in India to 150.8 tons (a 27-ton increase).

“The impact of these two key markets is illustrated by removing them from the global total,” the World Gold Council said in its report. “Jewelry demand excluding China grew 1 percent, year-on-year, while removing India from the total yields a 9 percent decline. The extent of this impact confirms the importance of both markets to global consumer demand.”

The WGC said the sharp increase in demand in India was more of a reflection of unusual weakness in the year-earlier period than any particular strength in the first quarter of 2015. Economic uncertainty and temporary government restrictions on the purchase of the precious metal restricted demand a year ago.

The story with China is somewhat similar in that first quarter 2015 demand was paired against a particularly robust first quarter of 2014. The WGC said the current decline in gold jewelry demand in China is due to three factors:

* Slowing GDP growth;
* Rallying stock markets; and
* Cautious outlook for gold prices.

“Against this background of factors, Chinese New Year—traditionally a popular time for buying and gifting gold jewelry—was relatively restrained,” WGC said.

Well-designed 18k gold is particularly appealing to the younger generation of Chinese, according to the report. In recent years, 24k “Chuk Kam” gold far outweighed the lower-karat segment, accounting for around 90 percent of the market at its peak, WGC said. Eighteen-karat gold now accounts for around 12 percent of the gold jewelry market in tonnage terms.

“Despite the year-on-year decline in Q1, the longer-term rising trend remains firmly intact,” the WGC said.

Jewelry demand in Hong Kong was down 26 percent as it was harder hit by the Chinese government’s anti-corruption campaign than the mainland. The number of tourists visiting from the mainland China jumped during the Chinese New Year holiday in February. However, it was followed by a 10 percent decline in March on tension between Hong Kong and the Chinese government. Measures to limit the number of trips Shenzhen residents can make to Hong Kong were introduced in April, which may further dampen demand in the second quarter, the WGC said.

In the US, gold jewelry demand experienced its third consecutive year-over-year increase in the first quarter as what the WGC describes as a “fragile recovery” continues with household wealth and economic growth. This year the increase in first quarter gold jewelry demand was at 4 percent to 22.4 tons.

Higher carat jewelry remains popular the US. “However, (consumers) were cautious in their approach to spending and the trade views the prospects for the remainder of the year with guarded optimism,” the WGC said.

It adds that “conservative consumer attitudes towards spending and a general lack of innovation in the design and market are potential headwinds.”

The UK market continues to mirror US trends, WGC said, where demand there also grew by 4 percent. However, European markets as a whole were weaker where demand dipped by 2 percent to 12.5 tons “amid stronger euro prices and mixed economic signals.”

In the Middle Eastern markets, domestic unrest, particular in Egypt, has had an impact on gold jewelry demand. In Egypt, demand fell by 31 percent to its lowest level since the second quarter of 2012. The entire region, with the exception of Saudi Arabia (which grew by 5 percent), saw varying year-over-year declines that on average were at 8 percent. Russia reported the largest drop in gold jewelry demand at 40 percent. Turkey saw a 28 percent decline in demand.

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