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Thursday, August 18, 2011

U.S. Gold Jewelry Demand Down 8%; Global Jewelry Demand Up 6%; India Accounts for 32% of Demand


Gold jewelry demand in the U.S. fell 8 percent, year-over-year, to 21.7 metric tons for the second quarter of 2011, the World Gold Council said Thursday. However, in value terms, demand strengthened by 15 percent to $1.1 billion, which mostly reflects a 26 percent increase in the price of gold during the period.

“The combination of high unemployment, frail economic growth and stubborn inflation pressures produced an environment that was not favorable for gold jewelry demand,” the WGC said in its Gold Demand Trends report for the second quarter of 2011. “The quarter was characterized by continued thrifting among retailers among retailers in order to meet affordable price points and 10k items were encroaching 14k market share.”

The report went on to note that gold jewelry was facing “stiff competition” from silver, and specifically cited jewelry maker, Pandora, which specializes in silver charms. However, this company has lost some of its luster in recent weeks.

Overall global gold jewelry demand rose by 6 percent, year-over-year, to 442.5 tons, equivalent to $21.4 billion in value—led by India, which accounted for 32 percent of global jewelry demand, WGC said.

Gold jewelry demand in India rose 17 percent in the second quarter, compared with a relatively weak year-earlier period. In value, the rise was 42 percent for the period. The WGC noted that the Akshaya Tritya festival in May (traditionally a key gold jewelry buying occasion on the Hindu calendar) “stimulated a surge of buying.”

In China, jewelry demand in the second quarter, normally a quiet period, rose 16 percent, year-over-year, to 102.9 tons, WGC said. The local currency value of demand increased 40 percent, year-over-year, for the period. Demand for 24k and 18k gold in China represents gold's attraction as both an investment and as a reflection of the demand for better-quality jewelry.

“Increasing prosperity among Chinese consumers, supported by very strong growth in the domestic economy, is still a driving force behind gold jewelry demand,” the WGC said.

Among the European markets, Russia was the only country to experience limited growth for the second quarter, WGC said. Demand was “marginally higher” at 16.9 tons, which translated to growth in value of 27 percent. However, the WGC said that year-to-date imports have grown considerably in Russia as its economy improves.

The second quarter was weak for both Italy and the United Kingdom, with demand falling by 15 percent and 16 percent, respectively. In value, demand fell by 6 percent in Italy and 4 percent in the U.K. The report cites rising gold prices and continued economic weakness as the culprits.

Demand in Turkey was “unexpectedly” robust during the second quarter, up 7 percent to 17.4 tons, equivalent to 38 percent growth in value. Consumers purchased 22k gold jewelry during period of the quarter when gold prices dropped several times in May and June.

Among other Asian markets, gold jewelry demand fell 9 percent to 1.9 tons in Taiwan due to the rising price of the precious metal. However, gold demand for wedding sets grew 10 percent for the period.

In Japan, gold jewelry demand dropped 14 percent to 4.2 tons as consumers are still suffering from the March earthquake and tsunami, WGC said. In value terms, the decline was a more modest 4 percent. The WGC noted some “encouraging” signs in the Japanese market with increased demand for “very-high-end” jewelry and in gold chains, purchased more for investment purposes than adornment.

In the remaining markets in the Southeast region, gold jewelry fell due to its high price. Thailand, Indonesia and Korea reported year-over-year declines of 5 percent, 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively. In value terms, demand grew between 19 percent and 23 percent.

An exception for the region was Vietnam, where demand grew by 6 percent, year-over-year, to 3.3 tons, WGC said. This increase was concentrated in “chi” rings (plain 24k rings).

Middle East markets experienced weak second quarters. In Saudi Arabia, jewelry demand fell 16 percent to 21 tons, the largest drop in the region. Demand fell in Egypt by 8 percent to 8.3 tons. Demand from the other Gulf countries fell 4 percent to 4.9 tons. The most resilient market was the United Arab Emirates, I which demand fell by 1 percent to 16.1 tons.

Global gold demand for the second quarter of 2011 fell 17 percent year-over-year to 919.8 metric tons, according to the WGC Trends report. However, the value of the precious metal grew 5 percent to $44.5 billion—the second highest quarterly value on record due to the 26 percent increase in the price of gold during the period. Read more about the overall gold trends on my Forbes.com blog.

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