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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Double-Digit Decline in U.S. Gold Jewelry Demand

The high price of gold continues to have a detrimental impact on the worldwide jewelry market as demand in this sector for the precious metal fell by 6 percent, year-over-year, in the first quarter of 2012, the World Gold Council said Thursday. The value of jewelry demand, meanwhile, grew by 14 percent to $28.3 billion.

Gold jewelry demand was weaker in all but six countries and clearly reflects the year-over-year 22 percent increase in the average gold price of gold to 1,690.57, according to the WGC Gold Demand Trend report for the first quarter of 2012.

In the U.S., demand fell 10 percent to 17.6 tons. In addition to the high price of the precious metal, the report blames high gas prices and cautious consumers. In value terms, gold increased by 10 percent to $958.2 million.

In Italy, demand slid 14 percent to 3.5 tons “as the negative economic environment took its toll,” according to the report. In the U.K., demand dropped 4 percent to 3 tons.

India, the world’s largest consumer of gold and gold jewelry, was largely responsible for the worldwide decline, according to the report. An unexpected substantial increase in the import tax on gold and the introduction of an excise duty on gold jewelry resulted in a three-week countrywide strike among jewelers until the government agreed to end the excise duty. A weaker rupee also added to the decline.

Meanwhile, China dominated the jewelry market as demand increased 8 percent to 156.6 tons in the first quarter. China accounted for 30 percent of all demand for the period, making it the largest gold jewelry market for the third consecutive quarter.

Demand in Russia was also robust with a 28 percent increase in the first quarter to 20.4 tons, attributed partly to stock building among the trade. However, the repot notes that “historically low inflation, GDP growth, improving consumer confidence and real wage gold,” contributed greatly to the gains. “Gold remains the most popular metal of choice among Russian jewelry consumers.”

Overall, global gold demand in the first quarter fell by 5 percent to 1,097.6 tons, the WGC reports. “This decrease was largely to be expected given the introduction of import taxes in India and high gold prices,” the report states. “Demand for the quarter was underpinned by increased demand in China, continued central bank purchasing and inflows into exchange-traded funds.”

Gold demand value for the period increased 16 percent to $59.7 billion. Gold demand includes its use in jewelry, technology, investment and official sector institutions (such as world banks).

“China and India have seen continuing economic growth and whilst China’s economy is expected to slow, it will nonetheless surpass the rates of growth in the West,” said Marcus Grubb, managing director, Investment at the World Gold Council. “As we previously forecast it is likely China will become the largest source of demand for gold in 2012.”

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