China’s gold-buying boom faces test at start of year, WGC says

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The boom in China’s gold demand may take a knock at the start of this year on the back of virus lockdowns and slower economic growth, according to the World Gold Council.

While demand rebounded more than 50% last year on a stronger economy and easing Covid-19 measures, consumption early this year could be challenged by an increase in virus-related restrictions and weaker growth, the WGC said in a quarterly report. A trend of fewer weddings may also threaten jewelry purchases, a key source of demand in the world’s top gold buyer, it said.

“There is a lot of talk about the decline in Chinese economic growth — that’s a key risk factor as growth and income are a key driver of demand,” said Louise Street, a senior markets analyst at the WGC in London.

Still, steady or lower gold prices could support purchases, the council said. Bullion slipped for the first time in three years in 2021 as investors prepared for tighter monetary policy to rein in high inflation. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell this week endorsed an interest-rate hike in March and opened the door to more frequent and potentially larger increases than expected. 

In contrast, China is turning to stimulus to shield its economy from the China Evergrande Group property slump, lockdowns and higher global borrowing costs. The country’s bar and coin investment will fare well in 2022 on rate cuts, persistent inflation and a possible currency devaluation, the WGC said.

(By Ranjeetha Pakiam and Eddie Spence)

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