Japan's exports of gold plunged to a 15-month low in May to 2.79 tonnes, down 67 percent from a year ago, as sales of gold bars and jewellery by consumers fell sharply after prices eased, resulting in a steep fall in gold scrap.

Gold touched a record of about $1,920 an ounce in 2011, when investors turned to the metal as a safe haven during the debt crisis in Europe. But bullion has lost some of its appeal after the U.S. Federal Reserve decided to take only a modest step to boost the economy and the market turmoil prompted investors to cash in the metal to cover losses.

Gold traded at around $1,576 on Thursday.

There wasn't much selling in April and May, and that led to a sharp reduction in exports, said Yuichi Ikemizu, managing director at Standard Bank.

In late 2011, the surging gold price led to a huge rise in gold scrap from jewellery and bar disinvestment among Japanese consumers. Looming capital gains tax also encouraged some investors to sell back their larger bars before the law came into effect at the end of 2011.

Japan's Exports of Gold in KG (Non monetary, unwrought gold other than powder)

 May-12 Yr ago % change Apr-12 Yr ago % change

 2,790 8,331 -66.5 5,267 7,358 -28.4