The World Gold Council spares no praise for the imminent surge in demand in China.
"The World Gold Council (WGC) believes that gold consumption in China will continue to catch up with the rest of the world following the deregulation of the Chinese gold market in 2001. Demand from China’s two largest sectors (jewellery and investment) reached a combined total of 423 tonnes in 2009 but domestic mine supply contributed only 314 tonnes during the same year. This Shortfall creates a “snowball” effect as China’s gold industry may not be able to keep pace with the annual leap in domestic consumption despite rising to be the world’s largest gold producer since 2007. Although the country’s appetite for gold has grown, making China the second largest consumer in the world, demand in China per capita has a lot of catching up to do to equal that of Western economies. In jewellery, the Chinese per capita consumption is one of the lowest at 0.26gm when compared to countries with similar gold cultures. If gold were consumed at the same rate per capita as in India, Hong Kong or Saudi Arabia, annual Chinese demand could increase by at least 100 tonnes to as much as 4,000 tonnes in this sector alone. Nearterm inflationary expectations and rising income levels are likely to support the investment case for gold as an asset class, especially given that Chinese consumers are high savers and are looking to gold to protect their wealth.
Keep an eye out on what the PBoC will do if and when it finally decides to readjust its gold holdings.
The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) is also playing an increasingly supportive role for gold on the demand side. PBoC’s gold holdings are currently at 1.6% of its US$2.4tn total reserves – a fraction by international standards. If PBoC decides to rebalance its books to its recent peak gold holding as a proportion of reserves of 2.2% in Q4 2002, WGC estimates it could account for a total incremental demand of 400 tonnes at the current gold price.
Will supply meet demand at current prices? Negatory ghost rider. Existing gold mines are expected to be exhausted in six years. Oops.
WGC analysis shows that, structurally, supply growth in China could be challenging unless there is more funding directed to exploration. Assuming the US Geological Survey’s figures are correct, China may exhaust existing gold mines in just six years. Despite the strong Yuan, total production costs have also risen by more than 30% in the last six years due to higher input costs (such as energy and labour) and lower ore grades. The outlook for gold in China remains positive and WGC believes that the balance between demand and supply in the Chinese gold market will continue to be in disequilibrium. In the longer term, if China continues to grow at near to the current rate in economic and wealth terms, gold consumption in China will continue to expand and has the potential to double during the next decade.