China's gold imports from Hong Kong surged to a record as consumers bought the metal before the Lunar New Year this month and investors sought to hedge against financial turmoil.
Mainland China bought 102,779 kilograms from Hong Kong in November, up from 86,299 kilograms in October, according to the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong government. China doesn't publish gold trade data.
Demand for gold is climbing in China as investors seek to protect their wealth against slumping property prices and equity markets. The nation overtook India in the third quarter as the largest gold jewellery market, according to the World Gold Council. Bullion rose as much as 0.9 per cent to $1,647.45 (Dh6,049) an ounce today, the highest since December 13.
"China's appetite for gold is very strong and growing," Tao Jinfeng, chief investment consultant at Haitong Futures Co., China's largest brokerage by registered capital, said. "The few months before the Lunar New Year is typically the peak demand period for Chinese people."
"There is always the possibility that some purchases were made by the central bank," Tao said. The People's Bank of China last made known its gold reserves more than two years ago, announcing that it held 33.89 million ounces, or 1,054 tons, as of June 30, 2009.
China's holdings are the world's fifth-largest by country, according to World Gold Council data. Central banks and government institutions bought 142 tons in 2010, International Monetary Fund data show.
As incomes rise, Chinese investors are looking for alternative investments as the Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 33 per cent since 2009, while home prices fell for a fourth month in December after curbs that included higher down-payment and mortgage requirements.
Per-capita disposable income for households in towns and cities rose 14 per cent to 16,301 yuan (Dh9482) in the first three quarters of 2011.