LONDON: Global gold demand fell 18 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier as US investors abandoned the precious metal after Donald Trump s election win, industry figures showed Thursday.
After a “really good” first quarter of 2016 for gold demand, the first three months of this year was “not a strong quarter”, World Gold Council director John Mulligan told AFP.
“In 2016 demand was concentrated on one source, which was professional investors, especially in the US” where activity was focussed on Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) — investment funds backed by physical stocks of gold, the WGC director added.
Demand stood at 1,034.5 tonnes between January and March 2017, its lowest level in 11 years.
At the same time last year, demand stood 1,261.8 tonnes.
Cautious US investors rushed to the ETFs before the US presidential election, but are now shifting their attention to riskier products — but it is a different story in Europe.
“There are multiple elections coming up, even in Paris… the election is not over. People are uncertain, it is generally good for gold,” said Mulligan.
Gold is viewed as a haven investment in times of economic uncertainty.
Despite enthusiasm from European investors, the demand for gold through ETFs dropped by 68 percent to 109.1 tonnes in the first quarter.
As well as in Europe, there was also an uptick in overall demand in India and China, the two leading buyers of physical gold.
The demand for coins or bullion increased by 30 percent in China to 105.9 tonnes.
“The demand is seasonally strong in China, with the Chinese New Year, but it is only the fourth time demand was stronger than a 100 tonnes,” said Mulligan.
With Chinese authorities reforming the financial system to avoid a property bubble, savers have turned to physical gold to preserve their wealth.
In India, demand for jewelry increased by 16 percent to 92.3 tonnes, while the sector suffered at the end of 2016 from the government s demonetisation effort.
“There are signs of improvement, especially from India where the gradual remonetisation of the economy is supporting the jewellery market,” added Mulligan.
Under India s monetisation programme, Indians are depositing their gold with banks for tax-free interest.
Banks in turn are lending the metal to jewellers to help boost the local economy.
Gold prices traded at $1,235.66 an ounce on Thursday, while the WGC said the metal was unlikely to see a return to last year s record high prices — at least until Trump unveils his tax plans.