Is People’s Bank of China really buying one out of every eight ounces of gold?

Adrian Ash at BullionVault picks up the story in the FT that looks at massive gold buying in China over the last quarter of 2011, and the possibility that the People's Bank of China may be behind the buying.

Financial Times, story is behind a paywall, reported that overseas buying in Hong Kong in the three months before Christmas was up 227 tonnes. You add on China's own gold production at 100 tonnes in the quarter less jewellery and coin demand at 191 tonnes, and you get a shortfall of 136 tonnes that must be going somewhere in the Middle Kingdom.

Ash has his doubts that the bank is buying all this gold:

Somehow, we doubt that China’s central bank snapped up 1 ounce in every 8 sold worldwide between October and Christmas. Most especially because, if Beijing’s policymakers were the “mystery” buyer, why would they then go and make importing gold a little bit harder for China’s bullion brokers?

Starting this month, China’s wholesalers now need to seek permission, reports our friend Bruce Ikemizu at Standard Bank in Tokyo, for each inbound shipment of gold from not only the People’s Bank of China, but also from the bureaucrats of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE). “So it takes longer to import gold,” notes Bruce.

Read the full story here.