Latest SGE figures could point to a Chinese gold demand turndown

Perhaps a week later than usual – due to the Golden Week holiday, China’s Shanghai Gold Exchange has just published its gold withdrawal figures for September, and they’ve come in around 12% down on the same month a year ago.  The question is does this represent a downturn in Chinese gold demand, despite the relatively low gold price with lower metal prices usually sparking an upturn in retail gold demand in mainland China and Hong Kong?  – See table below for monthly SGE gold withdrawals for the past couple of years:

Table: SGE Monthly Gold Withdrawals (Tonnes)

Month   2018 2017 2016 % change 2017-2018 % change     2016-2018
January   223.58 184.41 225.08 +21.2%  -0.7%
February*   118.42 148.24 107.60 -20.1% +10.7%
March  192.61  192.25 183.24  +0.2%  +5.1%
April  212.64  165.78 171.40  +28.3% +24.1%
May  150.58  138.08 147.28  +9.1%  +2.2%
June  140.59  155.51 138.51  -9.6%  +1.5%
July 137.41  144.71 117.58  -5.0%  +16.9%
August  190.59  161.41 144.44 +18.1%  +32.0%
September  188.12  214.24 170.90  -12.2%  +10.1%
October*  151.54  153.25
November  189.10  214.72
December  185.21  196.37
Year to date 1,554.55 1504.70 1406.03 +  3.3% +10.6% 
Full Year  2,030.48  1,970.37

Source: Shanghai Gold Exchange.  Lawrieongold.com

* Months include week long New Year and Golden Week holiday periods

A double digit percentage downturn for one month may in reality not be indicative of a downturn – yet – but taken into account with other factors  (not least the initial impact of the trade and tariff ‘war’ with the U.S.) we think it may be time to take note given the huge impact of Chinese gold consumption on global gold trade.

It is actually a somewhat contentious point as to whether SGE gold withdrawals are a real representation of Chinese demand.  The major gold consultancies dispute this and come up with far lower figures for Chinese  consumption, but, in terms of actual gold flows they do seem to be far closer to reality than the consultants’ estimates.  Known gold imports from those countries which break down their gold export figures by national destination, plus China’s own gold production, plus an allowance for scrap come far closer to the SGE withdrawal total than the consultants’ consumption estimates.  If we add in a small allowance for gold imports not detailed in national statistics we do end up with a sum total which equates to SGE withdrawals.  Regardless, though, the SGE figures given they are released monthly, are an easily accessed measure of trends in gold activity in the world’s largest gold consumer.

 

So we await future months’ SGE figures with particular interest given they will include demand leading up to the next Chinese New Year which falls on February 5th (a year of the pig), around 10 days earlier than the 2018 New Year.

Those with sharper eyes may note that this year’s February SGE gold withdrawal figures were some 20% lower than the previous year without prompting the kind of comment we are seeing here, but this is explainable by the comparative dates of the Chinese New Year, which fell mid-February this year and end-January in 2017 with much more of the corresponding holiday period, when the SGE is closed, falling within February this year.

I have added additional comment on the state of the Chinese economy and the impact of the SGE gold withdrawals in a post on sharpspixley.com which may be accessed directly by clicking here.

Suffice it to say that if the latest SGE gold withdrawal figures do presage a turndown in Chinese gold demand, this could have an important impact on global demand fundamentals given that China is the world’s largest gold consumer.

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Chinese gold demand looks to have risen sharply in April

An edited version of an article first written for the Sharps Pixley website – to see original click here

Despite the latest analysis from the World Gold Council (WGC) which suggested a poorish start to the year for gold demand (See:  Q1 gold demand lowest for 10 years), Chinese demand as represented by gold withdrawals out of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) appears to have picked up well in April coming out at 28% higher than in 2017 and 24% higher than in 2016 (see table below).  They are still around 9% down on the record 2015 figure for the first four months of the year, but at least the trend appears positive when some other demand statistics appear to be slipping.

Indeed April 2018 gold withdrawals were actually comfortably higher than those in April 2015 too, but in the latter year gold withdrawals out of the SGE were particularly strong in the second half and totalled almost 2,600 tonnes for the full year – around 80% of total global new mined production.  We don’t expect this figure to be matched in the current year, but the latest Chinese figures look to be off to a good start and we could be heading for the best demand figures since 2015.

Table: SGE Monthly Gold Withdrawals (Tonnes)

Month   2018 2017 2016 % change 2017-2018 % change 2016-2018
January   223.58 184.41 225.08 +21.2%  -0.7%
February*   118.42 148.24 107.60 -20.1% +10.7%
March  192.61  192.25 183.24  +0.2%  +5.1%
April  212.65  165.78 171.40  +28.3% +24.07%
May  138.08 147.28
June  155.51 138.51
July  144.71 117.58
August  161.41 144.44
September  214.24 170.90
October*  151.54  153.25
November  189.10  214.72
December  185.21  196.37
Year to date   749.07 690.68 687.32 +  8.45% +8.98%
Full Year  2,030.48  1,970.37

Source: Shanghai Gold Exchange.  Lawrieongold.com

*February and October tend to be anomalous months because of week long holidays when the SGE is closed

Of course, as we have pointed out here previously it is a contentious issue as to whether SGE withdrawal figures are truly an accurate indicator of total Chinese gold demand.  The major precious metals consultancies come up with all kinds of differing reasons why this is not the case.  But in support of our views on this we should point out that SGE gold withdrawal figures seem to relate far better to the sum of China’s own gold production plus known gold imports, plus a reasonable figure for scrap supply and unquantified imports, than these same consultancies’ rather narrower estimates of Chinese annual gold demand.

The latest SGE figures thus do suggest that Chinese investment demand for gold bars and coins may be picking up – particularly as the gold price will have appeared weak at times which could have appealed to bargain hunters.  The prospects of a trade tariff war developing with the USA may also be driving Chinese citizens with disposable income (a part of the populace which is increasing all the time) to safe haven investment.  Furthermore,the huge falls in the value of cryptocurrencies will also have diminished interest in these as a safe investment asset which again may have turned the gold-loving Chinese back to the yellow metal.

The WGC Q1 report noted above does suggest that gold jewellery demand in China is picking up too and points to a continuing sharp global growth in technological demand – and China is at the forefront of the latter in that its high tech industries are becoming world dominant.

Chinese 2017 gold demand headed for more than 2,000 tonnes

Another article published on the Sharps Pixley website taking Shanghai Gold Exchange withdrawal figures  as a proxy for Chinese demand: 

There is a certain amount of controversy over whether Shanghai Gold Exchange actual gold withdrawal levels are equivalent to the country’s true gold demand or not.  The major gold consultancies like Metals Focus, GFMS and CPM Group all aver that they are not, yet the monthly and annual gold withdrawal figures as published by the SGE bear a far closer relationship to known Chinese gold assimilations (gold imports + domestic production + scrap supply) than the consultancies’ demand estimates and therefore we stick by our opinion that SGE gold withdrawal figures are a far better representation of Chinese gold consumption (in terms of the amount of gold bullion being absorbed by the nation) than other estimates of Chinese demand despite a major discrepancy with the figures provided by the consultancies.  In any case SGE gold withdrawal comparisons on a month by month level have to be indicative of Chinese internal demand.

The table published below, thus presents the month by month SGE gold withdrawal figures for the past three years – years which include the record 2015 year where Chinese demand peaked.  As can be seen, on a year by year basis 2017 is coming out higher than last year although still comfortably below the 2015 record.

Table: SGE Monthly Gold Withdrawals (Tonnes)

Month 2017 2016 2015 % change 2016-2017 % change 2015-2017
January 184.41 225.08 255.42 – 18.1%  -27.8%
February* 148.24 107.60 156.36 +37.8% -5.2%
March  192.25 183.24 213.35  +4.9%  -9.9%
April  165.78 171.40 195.45  -3.3%  -15.2%
May  138.08 147.28 162.15  -6.2%  -14.8%
June  155.51 138.51 195.67  +12.3% -20.5%
July  144.71 117.58 285.50  +23.1%  -49.3%
August  161.41 144.44 265.27  +11.7%  -39.2%
September  214.24 170.90 259.98 +25.4% -17.6%
October  151.54  153.25 176.29  -1.1%  -14.0%
November  189.10  214.72 202.71 -11.9%   -6.7%
December    196.37 228.21    
Year to date 1845.27 1755.65 2368.15 +  5.1% – 22.1%
Full Year    1,970.37 2,596.37    

Many media reports have been suggesting weak Chinese demand this year – probably based on the sharpish drop in gold export figures to the Chinese mainland from Hong Kong, which used to be the main import route for foreign gold entering China.  But to counter this, the most up to date SGE withdrawals figures suggest that 2017 is heading to come in at over 2,000 tonnes.  If December withdrawal figures come in at close to last year’s 196 tonnes, then the full year total will be comfortably over 2,000 tonnes, but given the Chinese New Year in 2018 falls around 3 weeks later than in the current one, the December withdrawals level could well be higher than last year bringing the annual total within range of the 2013 and 2014 totals –previously the second and third highest on record – see graphic of the 11-month SGE withdrawals totals for the past 10 years from Nick Laird’s www.goldchartsrus.com site.

So, by all considerations, Chinese gold demand is still alive and well, although not as high as in the record 2015 year, which is a bit of an outlier.  The fall in gold exports to the mainland from Hong Kong is because every year more and more of mainland China’s gold imports are arriving there directly through cities like Beijing and Shanghai and completely bypassing Hong Kong altogether.  A great example of this has been the comparative levels of Swiss gold exports to China and Hong Kong (see: Big Surge in Swiss gold exports to India and China for the most recent figures).  Switzerland is one of the biggest gold exporters to China and Hong Kong and over the past two years its exports to the Chinese mainland have dwarfed those going into Hong Kong.

SGE revises 2017 gold withdrawals downwards

We had previously noted some anomalies in the reported figures for China’s gold withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) and are pleased to note that a recheck has shown that the monthly and cumulative figures as announced by the SGE have been revised and now tally.  Earlier the announced cumulative total appeared to have been substantially adrift from that suggested by the monyh-by-month reported figures.The principal change is a sharp downwards revision of the gold withdrawal figures for February – a month where figures tend to be somewhat anomalous anyway because of the Chinese New Year holiday.  February figures have been revised downwards sharply from 179.24 tonnes to 148.24 tonnes, while the initially reported April figure of 171.17 tonnes has been adjusted downwards to 165.78 tonnes.  This brings the cumulative total for the year to date to 690.68 tonnes –only marginally higher than at the same time a year ago, and well down on the record 2015 figure.

Table: Revised SGE Monthly Gold Withdrawals (Tonnes)

Month 2017 2016 2015 % change 2016-2017 % change 2015-2017
January 184.41 225.08 255.42 – 18.1%  -27.8%
February* 148.24 107.60 156.36 +37.8% -5.2%
March  192.25 183.24 213.35  +4.9%  -9.9%
April  165.78 171.40 195.45  -3.3%  -15.2%
May   147.28 162.15    
June   138.51 195.67    
July   117.58 285.50    
August   144.44 265.27    
September   170.90 259.98    
October    153.25 176.29    
November    214.72 202.71    
December    196.37 228.21    
Year to date 690.68 687.02 820.58 +0.5% – 15.8%
Full Year    1,970.37 2,596.37    

Source: Shanghai Gold Exchange, Lawrieongold.com

For additional comment click on:

China’s SGE revises gold withdrawals lower

Update with chart: 2015 SGE gold withdrawals total 2596 t – 19% up on previous record year

The Shanghai Gold Exchange’s announcement of the full year figure for gold withdrawals for calendar 2015 show that a huge new record of 2,596.4 tonnes was taken out – 19% higher than the previous record of 2,182 tonnes recorded in 2013. This is just short of the 2,600 tonnes we had been estimating.  In the four days of trading in the final week of the year 40.94 tonnes were withdrawn – suggesting around 50 tonnes for a full 5-day week including Jan 1st – which is pretty much on par with other recent weekly withdrawal figures despite any minor disruption from the big Christian Christmas holiday period which has little, but possibly some very minor, impact on Chinese domestic trade.  This time of year does seem to see strong gold withdrawal levels from the SGE in the buildup to the Chinese New Year – a traditional time of gift giving in the Middle Kingdom of which gold ornaments and jewellery tend to figure strongly.  This year the Chinese New Year falls on February 8th.

Here’s Nick Laird of Sharelynx’s chart setting out the SGE withdrawal figures for the past eight years, which demonstrates nicely the huge (and very consistent apart from a blip in 2014) upwards trend in withdrawals as China’s economy has continued to grow and individual purchasing power has grown with it. The growth in the economy may be slowing down, but it is still growing at a rate which any Western Government will envy enormously.

SGE 2015

While the Chinese central bank – the People’s Bank of china (PBoC) – seems to equate SGE withdrawals to total Chinese demand, Western analysts tend to suggest that the actual figures are considerably lower and come up with various, and differing, reasons for the possible discrepancy.  Indeed their consumption estimates may well prove to be around 1,500 tonnes lower than those the SGE withdrawals figure might suggest.

As we have noted before, a significant proportion of the difference is down to how the analysts estimate ‘consumption’.  Demand categories such as gold used in financial transactions tends to be ignored by the analysts, yet this is still gold flowing into China and in terms of gold movement from West to East remains hugely relevant.

But these same western analysts also seem to ignore the evidence of known Chinese gold import figures and China’s own gold production. Together these look as though they will have totalled just short of 2,000 tonnes in 2014.  It seems strange that in the age old argument as to which country is the world’s largest gold consumer – China or India – that the analysts pretty well equate India’s reported gold imports as that nation’s consumption, while not applying the same principle to China’s known gold imports plus its own domestic gold output (reckoned to be around 470 tonnes in 2015).

Whatever the analysts may suggest, SGE withdrawal levels in comparison with previous years, have to be a good indicator of total Chinese demand (excluding Central Bank purchases which apparently don’t go through the SGE).  Thus it appears Chinese gold demand remains very strong indeed despite the sharp fall in the country’s GDP growth over the past year.

Another 53.4 t gold withdrawn from SGE. YTD 2061.9 t

Read my new post on sharpspixley.com looking at the latest Shanghai Gold Exchange withdrawal figures which continue to show that SGE deliveries are continuing to head for a big new record – and that Chinese demand is alive and well.

The article also discusses the continuing anomaly between mainstream analysts’ calculations of Chinese demand and the vastly bigger SGE figures.  All explainable!

To read the full article click on this link.

Best Answer Yet to Great SGE Gold Withdrawals Anomaly?

There has been very considerable disagreement between the levels of Shanghai Gold Exchange gold delivery figures and assessed Chinese gold demand as estimated by the mainstream precious metals analytical consultancies.  The figures have been diverging and the latest differences are enormous with SGE gold withdrawals this year running at more than double the analysts’ assessments of Chinese demand.  As we have pointed out beforehand, the basic difference is in the classifications of what the analysts take into their demand calculations – it would otherwise be remarkable that the differences would be so consistent within diverse analytical consultancies – so who is right?……….

This is the opening paragraph to my latest article on the Sharps Pixley website.  To read the full article click on: LAWRIE WILLIAMS: Best Answer Yet to Great SGE Gold Withdrawals Anomaly?

Yet another massive gold delivery week on the SGE

The latest week’s figures on Shanghai Gold Exchange withdrawals see that the Chinese demand for gold remains enormous.  It may have been exaggerated a little due to the prior week being a short trading one due to the Chinese holiday which kept the Exchange closed on the Friday and Saturday, but even so the latest week’s SGE withdrawals totalling 73.7 tonnes for the week ended September 11th is one of the highest single week figures on record – and brings this year’s total to date to just short of 1829 tonnes.  This is fully 241 tonnes higher than at the same time in 2013 when the annual SGE deliveries figure was a huge new record, and 498 tonnes higher than last year – the second highest ever year for SGE withdrawals.

Surely there is some connection here between the reported rundown in COMEX Registered gold stocks and the recent backwardation in gold in London – a truly unsusual occurrence – which has been noted recently?  Physical gold is very definitely flowing east – and by the SGE figures at an increasing rate.  Once again we re-iterate that whether SGE withdrawals are an accurate representation of Chinese gold consumption as some Chinese officials tell us they are certainly a terrific indicator of the continuing Chinese thirst for the yellow metal.

Once again we publish the latest chart from Nick Laird’s sharelynx.com website comparing the latest SGE physical gold withdrawal figures with those at the same time in previous years showing how Chinese gold interest, if anything, is accelerating as its middle class continues to grow.

sge36

As we have noted before it looks like the SGE may be headed for a huge new record in physical gold withdrawals this year – particularly given that the final two months of the year are usually among the strongest for SGE deliveries and the current part of the year usually among the weakest.  The latest projection for the full year total is 2,600 tonnes plus which represents around 80% of global new mined gold supply.  If the current weekly rate holds up for the remainder of the year this percentage could be even higher.  With Russian central bank purchases also high, and Indian demand to take into account to, its not surprising that Western gold stocks appear to be running down.

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.

Low gold prices seeing Chinese pile in again. SGE withdrawals exceeding new mined supply.

One of the big questions which the gold sector may be asking is what is the low gold price doing to Chinese demand.  Have the Chinese become disillusioned with gold given they piled in so strongly in 2013 when Shanghai Gold Exchange withdrawals for the year hit a massive record 2,181 tonnes, but the gold price has largely been on a downwards path ever since.

We had already seen the beginnings of a pick up in Chinese demand, as expressed by SGE withdrawals, when they hit well over 60 tonnes for the week ended July 10th (see Huge latest week SGE gold withdrawal figure – 62 tonnes) all at a time when seasonality suggests Chinese demand should actually be at its lowest.  But the gold price continued to fall so it would be particularly interesting to see how demand would continue, or whether it would actually increase with more bargain hunters climbing in.  In the event, SGE withdrawals for the week ended July 17th have come out at the fifth highest weekly total ever – again, it should be emphasised that this high demand level has been at what is normally a very weak time of the year for Chinese demand – and brings SGE withdrawals for the year to date according to the chart below from Nick Laird’s excellent www.sharelynx.com and www.goldchartsrus.com charts sites to a huge 1,366 tonnes – probably nearly 80% of global new mined production over the same period.  (Global weekly new mined gold supply is around 62 tonnes – so for the past two weeks Chinese SGE withdrawals will have actually exceeded the world’s mined supply!)

week29sge

As can be seen from the above chart, SGE Withdrawals are currently running some 59 tonnes higher than at the same stage in China’s record 2013 year.

Now we will have to wait for another week to see what the past week’s gold price takedown did to Chinese SGE demand – it could well prove to have been even higher and may have helped lead to the end-week price pick up.

But a word of caution here.  In China’s record 2013 year for gold demand, as expressed by SGE withdrawals, the gold price fell from a beginning of the year level of $1681.50 at the LBMA morning fix on January 2nd to 1201.50 at the close on December 31st, a decline of 28.5%. The fall was perhaps precipitated by heavy gold sales out of the major gold ETFs in the West and although these were more than counterbalanced by the Chinese figures the latter seem largely to have been ignored by the COMEX dominated market.  And this year we are again beginning to see big ETF gold liquidations, albeit not at the same levels as in 2013.   This year, gold opened in London on January 2nd at $1184.25.  A similar 28.5% decline would take the year-end gold price down to just below the $850 level!  We very much doubt this will actually happen – indeed gold could be well set for a major recovery after the absolutely blatant bear raid which has highlighted how easily the gold price can be manipulated to a previously unenlightened general public and the continuing physical gold flows from West to East have to make such manipulations more difficult as Western physical stocks are depleted.

It is also as well to note that the fall in the price of gold in dollar terms so far this year has actually been exceeded by falls in the price of copper, nickel, aluminium and iron ore in particular – See my article on Mineweb on this: Commodities collapse: It’s not just about gold.  Indeed the overall commodities price crash suggests similarities to 2008 and the so called Global Financial Crisis which brought down, not only commodities, but global stocks of any kind.  Are we set for a repeat?  Food for thought.