China’s February net gold imports via Hong Kong nearly halved m/m

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China’s net gold imports via Hong Kong slumped about 48% in February to the lowest level since November, data showed on Tuesday.

Net imports stood at 39.826 metric tons in February and were down from 76.248 tons in January, according to data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.

Total gold imports via Hong Kong, which include re-exports, were down about 45% at 45.297 tons.

“It sounds as if international bank import quotas have been delayed as the government defended the currency and that is probably the key issue here,” said StoneX analyst Rhona O’Connell.

Local residents are still worried about the property sector and there has been an increased reluctance to commit to any “discretionary” spending, but there is growing interest in buying gold as a risk hedge, she added.

Markets in top consumer China were closed for a week starting from Feb. 10 for the Lunar New Year holidays.

The People’s Bank of China controls the amount of gold entering the country via quotas to commercial banks.

Last month, Chinese dealers sold gold at premiums of anywhere between $36-$55 an ounce over global benchmark spot prices, compared with the $37-$57 range seen in January.

The Hong Kong data may not provide a complete picture of Chinese purchases, as gold is also imported via Shanghai and Beijing.

Showing a similar trend, Switzerland- the world’s biggest bullion refining and transit hub exported 54,625 kilograms (kgs) of gold to China in February, down from 77,807 kgs in January.

Elsewhere, India this month allowed its central bank to import gold without paying import levies.

(By Harshit Verma; Editing by Sharon Singleton)

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