The gold price has been in a tailspin this year, but physical demand for the yellow metal remains as robust as ever in China.
New data shows that net Chinese gold imports jumped 40% in May from the month before. Total imports from Hong Kong reached their second highest level ever during the month, behind only March of this year.
To put the numbers in perspective, analysts at Stifel Nicolaus noted that China has already imported about 20 million ounces of gold in 2013, compared to 26.7 million in all of 2012 and 13.8 million in all of 2011. If these import numbers hold up through the year, they would be equivalent to 50% of global mine production, or 35% of total world supply.
Those are huge figures, and they show that China is taking advantage of the drop in price to load up on bullion. To date, however, that buying has not been enough to stem the price decline.
“Investor selling in developed markets has continued to overwhelm the still robust physical demand in Asia and emerging markets. This will take time to play out,” the Stifel analysts wrote.
They remain bullish on gold, noting the recent unrest in emerging markets and the Middle East, sustained low interest rates, sovereign debt issues, and the fact that the U.S. monetary base is up another 18% so far this year.