China's Gold Demand Stagnates In 2014, A Year After Gold Rush Fueled By 'Grannies'

 @SophieXSong on April 16 2014 5:42 AM
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Customers hover over shelves in a jewelry store in Hong Kong. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

China’s gold-loving grannies bought enough gold last year to see them through this year, and perhaps longer. Despite prices lower than this time a year ago, when the gold rush in the world’s second-largest economy began, demand is likely to remain level this year, the first time it has not increased since 2002.

“We expect 2014 to be a year of consolidation,” a report from the World Gold Council, the trade group, said Tuesday. “The sudden price drop in 2013 meant some Chinese consumers brought forward jewelry and bar purchases, which may limit growth in demand in 2014.”

Gold prices around the globe dropped suddenly last April. In China, it plunged more than 14 percent between April 9 and April 16, to around $1,321.50 per ounce, accelerating a decline that had been underway since Oct. 4, 2012, when the metal closed at $1804.60 per ounce.

The price drop prompted a buying frenzy in China, which the media quickly dubbed the Chinese “Granny Effect,” with photos of middle-aged and older Chinese women surrounding display cases of gold and gold jewelry. In April alone, Chinese consumers bought 300 tons of gold, one tenth the world's annual gold production, worth more than 100 billion yuan ($16.24 billion).

According to the World Gold Council’s data, the private sector in China consumed 1,132 tonnes (1,247.82 tons) of gold last year, which makes China the world’s biggest gold consumer, bumping India to second place.

But a year after the rush, the grannies’ gold-buying fervor has cooled. Gold prices this year are even lower, and Chinese consumers are wondering whether they should have bought so much last year, according to ChinaIRN.com, a market research site run by Zero Power Intelligence, a consulting and industry research firm based in the southern city of Shenzhen.

“I bought 50,000 yuan worth of gold last year,” a Chinese woman identified by her last name of Ye told ChinaIRN.com. “But gold is cheaper this year. I got a bad deal!”

“It’s not realistic to expect to make money from gold,” Ye added. “It only makes sense if you want to hold onto the gold.”

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