World Gold Council’s Latest Gold Demand Trends Report

The World Gold Council (WGC)’s quarterly Gold Demand Trends report is always well worth analysing as it contains some excellent statistical research on global gold supply and demand supplied by London based precious metals consultancy, Metals Focus.  One may not agree with all their data, but overall it is among the most comprehensive available to the gold market analyst.  Here follows the WGC’s own release on the latest report, published today, and links to enable readers to access the full data set:

Gold demand rises 2% in 2016 as investment surges

Global gold demand rose 2% in 2016 to reach 4,309 tonnes (t), the highest level since 2013, according to the World Gold Council’s latest Gold Demand Trends report. This was largely driven by inflows into gold-backed Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) of 532t, the second-highest year on record, as investors responded to concerns over future monetary policy, geopolitical uncertainty and negative interest rates.

Continued global economic and political uncertainty, most notably Brexit, the US election and currency weakness in China, helped to boost overall investment demand by 70%, to a four-year high of 1,561t.   The price dip in November led to a strong recovery in the bar and coin market in the final quarter of 2016, although this didn’t offset weak demand in the first three quarters; annual demand reached 1,029t, down 2% year-on-year.

Alistair Hewitt, Head of Market Intelligence at the World Gold Council, commented: “2016 saw an unprecedented degree of political upheaval, which underpinned huge institutional investor flows into gold. Retail investors – having been subdued for most of the year – responded quickly to the price fall in Q4, a fact reflected by a surge in demand in the physical market. With an equally uncertain political and economic environment likely in 2017, we expect investment demand to remain buoyant.”

While overall investment demand rose sharply, it was counterbalanced by declines in both jewellery, a 15% fall in 2016 to 2,042t, and central bank purchases. Central banks faced a challenging backdrop, with increased pressure on foreign exchange reserves resulting in demand falling by 33% to 384t for the year. Despite this, 2016 was the seventh consecutive year of net purchases by central banks.

In spite of resilient consumer demand in the fourth quarter of 2016, the two leading gold markets, India and China, both experienced a drop in consumer buying in 2016, falling 21% and 7% respectively. In China, jewellery demand was dampened due to a high gold price throughout much of the year, coupled with constrained levels of supply in Q4, owing to a tightening of currency controls in the country.

Indian demand also faced a raft of challenges throughout the year, including regulatory changes, culminating in the surprise demonetisation policy, which severely hampered demand in both the jewellery and retail investment sectors.

Alistair Hewitt added: “The Indian market faces a challenging time in 2017. We anticipate many of the headwinds that affected demand in 2016 to continue into this year, but we are confident that the Government’s move towards a more transparent gold market will ensure that gold remains an important asset class for millions of people in India.”

Total supply reached 4,571t in 2016, an increase of 5% compared with 2015. Growth in the sector was supported by net producer hedging, which doubled in 2016, as gold producers saw an opportunity to secure cashflow at higher prices. It was also supported by high levels of recycling in Europe and the Middle East, driven by weak currencies and a high gold price. Mine production remained virtually unchanged from 2015 as a result of industry cost-cutting schemes, however, higher gold prices and lower costs have seen a renewed interest in exploration and increased project development is likely in the years ahead.

The key findings included in the Gold Demand Trends Full Year 2016 report are as follows:

Full year 2016 figures:

  • Overall demand for FY 2016 was 4,309t, up 2% compared with 4,216t in 2015
  • Total consumer demand for FY 2016 fell by 11% to 3,071t, from 3,436t in 2015
  • Total investment demand grew by 70% to 1,561t in FY 2016 from 919t in 2015
  • Global jewellery demand was down 15% at 2,042t, compared with 2,389t in 2015
  • Central bank demand was 384t, down 33% compared with 577t in 2015
  • Demand in the technology sector decreased by 3% to 322t from 332t in 2015
  • Total supply grew by 5% to 4,571t this year from 4,363t during 2015. This was largely driven by recycling, which increased 17% to 1,309t from 1,117t in 2015.

 Q4 2016 figures:

  • Overall demand was 994t, a fall of 11% compared with 1,123t in Q4 2015
  • Total consumer demand increased by 5% to 989t from 940t in Q4 2015
  • Total investment demand fell 21% to 174t this quarter compared with 220t last year
  • Global jewellery demand was down 5% at 622t, compared with 653t in Q4 2015
  • Central bank demand reached 114t this quarter, a fall of 32% from 169t in Q4 2015
  • Demand in the technology sector increased by 3% year-on-year, up to 84t compared with 82t during Q4 2015
  • Total supply fell by 4% to 1,036t this quarter from 1,081t during Q4 2015.  
  • Recycling increased by 5% to 250t during the fourth quarter, from 239t during Q4 last year.

The Gold Demand Trends Full Year 2016 report, which includes comprehensive data provided by Metals Focus, can be viewed at http://www.gold.org/supply-and-demand/gold-demand-trends and on our iOS and Android apps. Gold Demand Trends data can also be explored using our interactive charting tool http://www.gold.org/supply-and-demand/interactive-gold-market-charting.

WGC Report Shows H1 Gold Demand Highest On Record

The latest Gold Demand Trends report from the World Gold Council (WGC) is now out with data supplied by London-based precious metals research consultancy, Metals Focus.  It shows the highest level of H1 gold demand on record, largely on the back of investment demand – particularly in gold ETFs which absorbed 580 tonnes in the first half of the year.  Overall this countered a fall in net central bank gold sales, and falling consumer demand in the world’s two biggest countries for this in India and China.

While demand was high – so was supply with a resurgence in scrap supply brought on by the 25% rise in the US dollar gold price over the half year – which was enhanced in some countries by falling domestic currency parities against the dollar.

The World Gold Council’s summary press release detailing some of the highlights of the latest report is reproduced below, complete with a link to download the full report.

Near record high in H1 demand driven by western investors

Global gold demand reached 2,335 tonnes (t) in the first half of 2016 with investment reaching record H1 levels, 16% higher than the previous record in H1 2009, according to the World Gold Council’s latest Gold Demand Trends report.

Q2 2016 continued in the same vein as the first quarter this year with overall gold demand growing to 1,050t, up 15% from the Q2 2015 figure of 910t, boosted by considerable and consistent investment demand. Investment demand reached 448t as investors sought risk diversification and a safe store of value in the face of continued political, economic and social instability. Exchange traded funds (ETFs) had a stellar first half of the year at almost 580t due to the additional inflows in Q2 of 237t. Bar and coin demand was also up in a number of markets in Q2, including the US at 25t (up 101%), leading to H1 bar and coin investment of 485t, 4% higher than the first half last year.

A cause and effect of the growth in investment demand was a 25% rise in the US$ gold price, the strongest H1 price gain since 1980. This contributed to lacklustre consumer purchasing, particularly in price sensitive markets. While there were increases for jewellery demand in the US (up 1%) and Iran (up 10%), the customary powerhouses of China and India saw drops in Q2 of 15% to 144t and 20% to 98t respectively. India was further impacted by rural incomes remaining under pressure, as well as the government’s decision to increase excise duty. Meanwhile, China faced a challenging quarter against a relatively soft economic backdrop and the implementation of new hallmarking legislation in May.

Central bank demand decreased 40% in Q2 2016 (77t), compared to 127t in the same period last year, resulting in net purchases for H1 now totalling 185t. While this quarter was the lowest level of net purchases since Q2 2011, it comes amid a significant rise in gold prices over H1, dramatically increasing the value of central bank gold holdings to US$1.4trn. Central banks are still expected to be key contributors to global demand, as gold provides diversification from currency reserves and, most notably, the dollar.

Alistair Hewitt, Head of Market Intelligence at the World Gold Council, commented:

“The strength of this quarter’s demand means that the first half of 2016 has been the second highest for gold on record, weighing in at 2,335t. The global picture for gold is dominated by considerable and continued investment demand driven by the West as investors rebalance their investments in response to the ever-expanding pool of negative yielding government bonds and heightened political and economic uncertainty.

The foundations for this demand are strong and diverse, drawing on a broad spectrum of investors accessing gold via a range of products, with gold-backed ETFs and bars and coins performing particularly strongly. But the global gold market is, and has always been, based on balance: so whilst investment is currently the largest component of demand, we see a gradual return for the jewellery market in the second half of 2016.”

Total supply for Q2 2016 saw an increase of 10% to 1,145t compared to 1,042t in the second quarter of 2015. The primary driver of this increase was recycling, which saw a significant rise  of 23%, as consumers capitalised on the rising gold price, leading to first half recycled gold supply of 687t, 10% higher than the 626t seen in H1 2015. Mine production remained broadly flat at 787t (790t in Q2 2015), while gold producers added 30t to the hedgebook.

The key findings included in the Gold Demand Trends Q2 2016 report are as follows:

  • Overall demand for Q2 2016 increased by 15% to 1,050t, up from 910t in Q2 2015.
  • Total consumer demand was 656t down 9% compared to 723t in Q2 2015.
  • Global investment demand was 448t, up 141% from 186t in the same period last year.
  • Global jewellery demand fell 14% to 444t versus 514t in the second quarter of 2015.
  • Central bank demand fell 40% to 77t in Q2 2016, compared to 127t in the same period last year.
  • Demand in the technology sector fell 3% to 81t in Q2 2016.
  • Total supply was up 10% to 1,145t in Q2 2016, from 1,042t in Q2 2015. Mine production in Q2 2016 was virtually flat year-on-year at 787t.

The Q2 2016 Gold Demand Trends report, which includes comprehensive data provided by Metals Focus, can be viewed at http://www.gold.org/supply-and-demand/gold-demand-trends and on our iOS and Android apps. Gold Demand Trends data can also be explored using our interactive charting tool http://www.gold.org/supply-and-demand/interactive-gold-market-charting.

GFMS blows hot and cold on gold

The latest GFMS Gold Survey Update taking Q2 figures into account doesn’t make for particularly positive reading for the gold investor in terms of fundamentals, but nevertheless the consultancy has upped its average gold price forecast for the year from what looks to have been a rather low estimate of $1,184/ounce to what might seem a still relatively conservative $1,279/ounce.  It should be recognised, however, that this is an average price forecast for the full year, and despite the headline spot price currently heading for the $1,350 level after a downbeat US GDP assessment, the actual average for H1 is still some way below this at around $1,219 based on LBMA figures, so this still suggests a second half average of close to $1,340/ounce to achieve this kind of level for the whole of the year.  Perhaps not quite so conservative after all!

So why do we say that the fundamentals do not look quite so positive as the relatively upbeat survey title might suggest?  That is because of a remarkable estimated downturn in gold’s principal demand sector – jewellery manufacture, particularly in gold’s two largest markets, China and India.  GFMS does come in for some criticism on its Chinese consumption statistics in particular, largely because of its definition of what actually comprises demand.  This actually comes in way below known Chinese gold imports and even further below withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) which the Chinese Central Bank defines as Chinese demand in its Gold Yearbook.  The discrepancy is in part because GFMS consumption statistics ignore some very substantial gold flows into the banking and institutional sector, purportedly for use in financial transactions, but we have surmised they may also provide a back-door, and unreported, addition to China’s gold reserves given the country’s commercial banks are all state-controlled.  Certainly gold flows into China in total are way in excess of GFMS-estimated Chinese demand figures.

For China so far this year, GFMS reckons Chinese jewellery demand is seen as down by 31% year on year – the worst Q2 performance since 2009.  Investment demand is also seen as falling by 12% quarter on quarter for Q2.  Overall GFMS describes Chinese demand, as it calculates it, as being in freefall, although it is anticipating a pick-up in Q3.

While SGE gold withdrawal figures will also be substantially higher than the GFMS definition of Chinese gold consumption – they too are down sharply year to date as well by around 17% – which certainly confirms the trend noted by GFMS, if not the size of the downturn. Up until the end of June some 973.1 tonnes of gold had been withdrawn from the SGE.  Analytical consultancies like GFMS believe SGE figures include a significant degree of double counting, although some other analysts who follow these figures disagree saying SGE rules prevent this.

Chinese demand may also indeed be beginning to pick up, despite media headlines which look to suggest the opposite.  Hong Kong remains the conduit for perhaps around 60% of gold imports into the Chinese mainland and the May figure was the best for five months at 101 tonnes.  June did see a fall back to 68.7 tonnes but theBloomberg report headlined China’s Gold Imports Slide in June as Rising Prices Deter Buyers, where the headline suggested a major downturn in Chinese imports, rather glossed over the fact that even so the June figure was still more than three times higher than the figure for June 2015 – and 2015 was a very strong year for Chinese gold imports and demand!  The SGE withdrawals figure for the year was a huge new record at just shy of 2,600 tonnes – equivalent to over 80% of global new mined gold output.

GFMS also saw Indian jewellery demand as being even worse with jewellery consumption down 56% – and even globally it sees overall jewellery consumption down 27.3%.  It also puts global industrial demand as down by 7%, net official sector purchases down 48.5% (due primarily to reduced purchases by Russia and China in H1 coupled with sales by Venezuela) and global retail investment demand off by 2.6% overall.  To make things worse, despite seeing a 2% fall in new mine supply, overall supply is estimated as growing by around 6% due to an increase in scrap sales brought on by higher prices, and an increase in gold hedging activity.

The one bright spark in the supply/demand fundamentals balance has been the huge inflow into gold ETFs, totalling an estimated 568 tonnes in the first half of the year, so while GFMS sees gold in a supply surplus over the period, it has not been nearly such a severe one as the other supply/demand statistics might suggest.  But what if the ETF inflows start to reverse as they have been over the past week or two?  The likelihood could be a summer slump in the gold price, unless some global black swan event intervenes to regenerate more safe haven demand.  Or can sentiment alone hold the gold price at around current levels?  The FOMC meeting this week saw no indication of any timetable for increasing US interest rates, which gave the gold price a strong boost.  The latest US GDP growth  figures have also come in way below expectations, which may dim further expectations of a September US interest rate increase – and the feeling is the Fed won’t want to rock the boat ahead of the US Presidential election, which will likely see any interest rate rise decision to be postponed until December at the earliest.

What positives for gold does GFMS see?  It is now reckoning that new mined gold supply is definitely on the downward path.  There are relatively few new projects and expansions expected to begin producing this year to replace old mines closing down or those seeing lower grades, and those new operations in the near-term pipeline are generally fairly modest in scale, hence an opinion that global mine supply is now set to begin a multi-year downtrend this year.  But even if mine supply were to fall by 10% next year, which is probably a hugely excessive guess (the more likely figure would be 2-3%), this would only take 300 tonnes or so out of the global picture and unless Asian demand picks up again we could be heading for quite a major surplus.

But, even so, GFMS has raised its price projections as noted above, which means perhaps its analytical team is a little more positive than its figures might suggest.  It puts this down to political uncertainties ahead including the ongoing impact of the Brexit vote in the UK, reduced expectations of a rate rise from the Fed, a wobbly Italian banking sector and the U.S. Presidential race.

The full GFMS Q2 Gold Survey update is available for download to corporate email addresses athttps://forms.thomsonreuters.com/gfms

The above article is a lightly edited and updated version of one published earlier this week on info.sharpspixley.com 

Why Gold, Why Now?

By Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer, U.S. Global Investors

During my most recent webcast a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being joined by the CEO of the World Gold Council (WGC), Aram Shishmanian. As expected of someone of his stature, Aram brought another level of insight and expertise to our discussion of gold’s Love Trade and Fear Trade.

You might wonder what the WGC does exactly. In Aram’s words, it focuses on “innovation and integration to create the gold market” around the world. Among other important endeavors, the group “lobbies governments to make their countries appropriately pro-gold” and is the only agency in the world to “train central bankers in the use of gold.”

Below, I’ve selected a few key moments from the webcast to share with you. You can hear the full replay and follow along with the slide deck at usfunds.com.

A Stellar First Quarter

Aram: It’s an understatement to say that gold had a good quarter. It increased over 16 percent in the first quarter, the fastest it’s done so in 30 years, overtaken only by the Iranian oil crisis in the 80s.

The story is not just about the gold price. The gold ETF industry has increased by over 50 percent worldwide.  In addition to that, we’ve seen the market capitalization of members of the World Gold Council—which represents the majority of the gold mining companies in the world—increase 70 to 80 percent in the past four months alone.


click to enlarge

Rise of the Global Middle Class

Frank: The growth of gold’s Love Trade depends on rising global GDP per capita, and last year there was a tipping point in China. For the first time, the size of China’s middle class reached 109 million people, overtaking the U.S. middle class. This group gets lost in the sea of 1.4 billion people, but these 109 million people—a third the size of America—want to travel and buy higher quantities of gold for gift giving.

The same goes for India, where 600 million people are under the age of 25. That’s two times the size of the population in the U.S. They’re all wired. They’re all connected. They’re driven for education. Their affinity for gold is not going away.

If you look at China, the U.S. and India, there’s a significant portion of GDP growth, which is so important for the gold market.

China to Become a Gold Price-Maker

Aram: Today, China and India represent over 70 percent of world demand, driven by hundreds of millions of people and supported by pro-gold government policy. The U.S., by comparison, is 6 percent of world demand, yet price discovery on the COMEX (Commodity Exchange) and  in London is somewhat overweight because it is U.S. or Western economy-centric.

The Shanghai Gold Exchange was established 13 years ago and today is the largest gold exchange in the world, not to mention the most sophisticated. In April this year, it launched the Shanghai gold benchmark, which parallels that of the London benchmark price of physical gold. Last year, trading volumes in Shanghai were over 10 trillion renminbi.

China launched its yuan-denominated fix price for gold on Tuesday, April 19, with a gram set at 256.92 yuan ($39.69) equivalent to $1,234.50 an ounce

I think for those who haven’t had the opportunity to visit China, you have to go to understand that China is the biggest producer and consumer of gold. It imports over 600 tonnes a year and is driven by highly diverse demands by hundreds of millions of people. Three hundred million Chinese households will become middle class in the next two years, and they have a higher savings ratio than anyone in the world.

Gold Jewelry and Financial Security

Frank: Jewelry ends up becoming money whenever there’s a crisis in a country’s currency. Right now, it’s not so much a crisis as gold is an important asset class, in a world where we have zero interest rates.

Aram: Jewelry demand is still 45 percent of the gold market, and in Asian societies—India, China, Southwest Asia—it’s about wealth preservation. In India, a marriage is not a marriage without gold. It’s crucial to their belief system. The husband owns the land and the farm and other assets, but the wife owns the gold. It’s her security blanket. It’s not just about adornment, it is about financial security. That’s quite often misunderstood in the West where we think of jewelry as discretionary adornment.

In India, a marriage is not a marriage without gold

Frank: You can buy the most incredible gold jewelry, but it is 24 carat.

Aram: Yes, Chinese gold demand is purely 24 carat gold, which is 100 percent. In North America, 18 carats is the norm, but in India it’s 22 carats. During Diwali, it is auspicious to buy gold, and at certain festivals in India throughout the year, it is an auspicious time to marry and then you see peaks that are highly predictable.

Strong Gold Positions in Global Pension Funds

Frank: It’s unprecedented that a third of all global government debt has negative yields.

Aram: Which drives gold demand. Effectively what we’re seeing is people’s pensions being decimated because the policymakers have had very few if any alternatives left. It is in this environment that gold will help satisfy need.
Take the Japanese economy. Today, over 200 pension funds allocated about 2 percent to gold. It’s not only about wealth creation like the model in the Western world, where we generated 7 percent returns on investment for pension funds. That is gone in Japan, and therefore it’s more about protection of wealth rather than creation. That’s where gold plays.

Frank: In the state of Texas, where we’re based, Shayne McGuire, portfolio manager of the Gold Fund for the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) of Texas, is doing a great job. They’ve taken up a real strong position.

Aram: They took a strong position quite a few years ago. The TRS has been one of the forerunners of U.S. pension funds holding gold.

The Power of Scarcity

Aram: An important aspect of gold is its scarcity value. The total amount of gold produced in the history of mankind is about 170,000 tonnes. That’s the size of two Olympic-size swimming pools and it is still in use.

The amount of gold discoveries are very, very few now. Gold production at the moment is pretty constant. As you’ve seen with mining equities, huge capital investments were made in the last few years, but very little new supply came forward because the mining companies had to invest huge amounts of money to get licenses to operate and to find new discoveries and increasingly more complex mining conditions. In terms of supply, it is virtually constant. It goes up and down 1 or 2 percent per year, but it is constant.

Gold’s Timeless Allure

Aram: Producing gold iPhones has increased sales dramatically. It goes back to the idea that gold is integral to our belief system. It’s integral to our language. Not just in the DNA of far-flung countries but in our Western society.

Frank: And then talk about extravagant wealth in the Middle East, where some of these princes have their cars gold-plated. It’s extravagant, but I’m trying to highlight the allure of gold, which can be found everywhere, from the iPhone to buying 24 carat gold jewelry. I think this is important for investors to realize.

 

Physical gold demand strong with Central Bank and Asian purchasing

While the US dollar gold price may suggest otherwise it looks as though physical gold demand may be running at record, or near record levels, but still the gold price drifts, although is currently back off its bottom – but for how long?  Click here to read my latest article on Sharpspixley.com   which discusses this apparent anomaly, but one that has been prevalent pretty much since April 2013

The World Gold Council has, for example, just reported the second highest ever quarterly central bank purchases (although to be honest this conclusion could be described as  a little misleading as pointed out in the Sharps Pixley article linked above) and strong retail demand elsewhere.

Meanwhile the Shanghai Gold Exchange has been reporting huge new record physical gold deliveriess (this year’s to date figure has already exceeded the full year SGE deliveries record of 2013 and already is some 366 tonnes higher than at exactly the same time in 2013.

As we note in the article there are differences of opinion on the exact correlation between SGE deliveries and what is classified as Chinese gold demand – largley due to the classification of what actually comprises ‘demand’ or ‘consumption’ but as a like-for-like indicator of what is happening in China in comparison with prior years one cannot ignore the SGE statistics – and the mainstream analysts do not dispute that 2013 was the record year for Chinese gold consumption.

And in terms of global gold consumption it is still China and India which between them hold the key. China is rebooting its economy but as was seen in the absolutely enormous recent  ‘Singles Day’ (dwarfing those of the U.S.’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday put together – see Chinese Singles Day Sales Eclipse Black Friday And Cyber Monday Combined …) the purchasing power in the hands of China’s ever growing consuming classes is already absolutely huge and growing at perhaps 5-6% a year.  There is also a propensity for buying gold so we are entering an era where Chinese gold purchasing alone will probably start to exceed total new supply.  And Indian demand remains huge too – and again with a potential economic growth potential which greatly exceeds anything in the West. If the Modi Government can deliver on its promises, then demand growth here could start matching that of China – although the Indian intelligentsia have their doubts as to whether Modi is anything more than a consummate politician and thus a master of spin to match many of his Western counterparts!  (This is being written from India and the comment comes from conversations with Indians from Modi’s own state of Rajasthan).

However, how long gold prices can continue to move downwards under a massive, and ever-continuing, Sino-Indian growth scenario, remains the $64,000 question!

65 tonnes out of SGE: Another enormous week for Chinese gold demand

Another week’s gold withdrawal figures from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) and it appears that the demand momentum is holding up – if not accelerating.  The latest figures are from the week ending August 14th with the Exchange reporting flows of 65.3 tonnes out .  This is an enormous figure for an August week when historically Chinese demand is usually at its lowest and follows several weeks of plus 50 tonne withdrawals at a time of year when 30 tonnes would normally be seen as a strong figure.

There are reports that demand has slowed over the past week given the recent recovery in the gold price, with Shanghai premiums falling accordingly, so the next week’s withdrawal figures will be viewed with additional interest to see if this really is the case, or whether Chinese overall ‘demand’, as expressed by SGE is still holding up well.

The latest figure for total SGE withdrawals for the year to date is now a massive 1,585 tonnes, fully 161 tonnes more than in the record 2013 year at the same time – see www.sharelynx.com chart below.  A quick calculation of SGE withdrawals to date (close to 50 tonnes a week so far this year), if extended over the full year would suggest a total figure for 2015 at over 2,500 tonnes – hugely higher than the record 2013 figure of 2,181 tonnes.  While one should perhaps regard a continuing weekly withdrawal rate of 50 tonnes as being an optimistic projection, it is also worth bearing in mind that SGE withdrawals are usually far stronger in Q4 than in Q3!

sge32

With the Chinese Central Bank now reporting its own monthly gold accumulations – 19 tonnes in July and these apparently are additional to the SGE reported figures, and Russia continuing to expand its gold reserves – another 12 tonnes in July – and Indian imports rising sharply according to latest Swiss gold export data, global physical gold demand appears to be running well ahead of new mined supply, although whether that makes any difference at all in a paper-gold futures led market is perhaps doubtful.  But with fear stalking the Dow after a huge week of falls (around 530 points on Friday alone), and general stock market indices around the globe  a sea of red, maybe at last gold sentiment is beginning to get a safe-haven boost with worries about a general worldwide stock market meltdown.

Is gold demand/supply balance crunch already here?

We are indebted to Nick Laird (www.sharelynx.com and www.goldchartsrus.com)  for the fascinating chart reproduced  below which shows the cumulative gold demand from China and India (represented by SGE withdrawals for the former and gold imports for the latter) which demonstrates in graphical form just how much gold these two Asian giants have been accumulating over the past seven years.  Note specifically the lower chart section month-by month figures, which also shows global gold new mined production, which demonstrates that since the start of 2013 monthly gold demand from the two nations on their own has exceeded global production on no less than 10 monthly occasions – and sometimes very comfortably so. Overall it suggests that China and India between them are accounting for virtually all gold’s new mined supplies.

chindia full

The chart also shows the inexorable rise of China’s gold consumption to overtake India in 2013 as the world’s leading gold consumer – India had held this position for many years beforehand.  It can be seen how Indian imports fell away so sharply during 2013 when the then Indian government imposed significant gold import duties and introduced other measures to try and control the very substantial gold flows into the nation to counter the significant effects Indian gold imports had been having on its Current Account Deficit.  It may be seen though that since last year Indian gold imports have been beginning to pick up again despite the 10% import duty imposed.

Given that China and India are not the only net gold consuming nations – the World Gold Council suggests around 545 tonnes was consumed by other nations last year – and that some central banks, notably Russia and Kazakhstan, have been taking gold into their reserves month in, month out amounting to 477 tonnes last year and one may well ask where all this gold is coming from.  Scrap will account for most of this.  Overall, scrap supply last year was largely balanced out by the central bank purchases plus other nations’ demand.   But scrap supplies have been falling along with the gold price and if China and India keep on absorbing gold at the current rate. Then demand will be exceeding apparently available supply so where will this come from?  ETFs could be a source, but at the moment sales out of and purchases into these seem pretty much in balance.

Ed Steer in his Gold and Silver Daily newsletter www.caseyresearch.com/gsd   says that any balance o f global demand over supply must be coming out of Central Bank vaults as the only other available unaccounted-for source.  It is hard to disagree with this suggestion but this would presumably be in leased gold which enables the banks to keep it in their books, although in reality the chance of this ever being repaid as bullion look increasingly slim, given the physical gold flows into firm eastern hands.

With the overall trend of gold accumulations by China and India together continuing to rise alongside incomes and middle class growth, we have to be getting pretty near the crunch point at which there is a serious shortage of available physical gold – some think we are there already.  Whether gold prices can be controlled at current levels under these circumstances will become increasingly difficult.  And with China in particular seeking to tie down more gold supplies through Chinese company acquisitions of, and major stakes in, other gold producers outside their own country and creating gold-positive initiatives like its proposed $16 billion ‘Silk Road Gold Fund’ it’s hard to see the gold price being held down within its current trading range much into the future.