China is preparing to launch direct interbank gold trading – a banned activity at present – at the end of August as part of a broader set of banking reforms.
China represents about a quarter of global demand for the precious metal and allowing the country's banks to trade gold should boost investment demand further.
FT.com (sub required) reports "the new trading channel for banks is likely to increase trading volumes, but it is too soon to tell how big its impact will be on overall bullion demand".
Hong Kong customs data showed gold imports into China from Hong Kong were 76 tonnes for the month of May, a whopping six-fold increase on last year. In November imports were running at over 100 tonnes.
China's renewed appetite for gold is in contrast to India, historically the number one global importer of the metal. The number one reason for the drop-off in demand is a rapidly weakening currency.
China is also the world's number one producer of the yellow metal. China produced 380 tonnes of gold during 2011, over a 100 tonnes more than its nearest rival, but quarterly data suggest output from the country's highly fragmented gold industry could fall by 40 tonnes this year.