A month ago we were delighted to counterpoint Charlie Munger's prior remarks about the level of "civilization" of a given consumer based on their sentiment vis-a-vis gold, by demonstrating that Chinese purchases of gold from Hong Kong rose to a record. To wit: "Imports from Hong Kong were 135,529 kilograms (135.53 metric tons) between January and March, from 19,729 kilograms in the year-earlier period, according to data from the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong government. Shipments in March rose 59 percent from February, yesterday's data showed." We have just gotten the April update, and, lo and behold, the country which is now the biggest buyer of gold, having surpassed India, just set a new record: "Gold imports by mainland China from Hong Kong climbed 65 percent to a record in April, advancing for a third straight month as investors sought a hedge against financial-market turmoil and an economic slowdown. Shipments totaled 103,644.5 kilograms (103.6 metric tons) in the month from 62,913 kilograms in March, according to export data from the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong government today. In the first four months, imports were 239,174 kilograms from 27,114 kilograms a year earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations. China doesn’t publish such figures." In other words: in the first four months of 2012 Chinese purchases have increased by an unprecedented 782% over 2011.
And this is only from Hong Kong! Said otherwise: "Is the PBOC, which officially has just 1,054 tons of the yellow metal, quietly and relentlessly stockpiling gold?" Oh yes.
Expect a formal announcement from the Chinese central bank in the months ahead, indicating the country's gold hoard has increased by at least 100%. What happens then to the price of gold is rather self-explanatory.
Increased imports by the second-largest consumer after India may help extend a rebound in the precious metal that’s been driven by speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve may add to stimulus this month to safeguard the recovery. Spot gold rallied 4.1 percent on June 1 after U.S. jobs data missed expectations.
China’s central bank may also be boosting holdings, according to Wang Xinyou, a senior analyst at Agricultural Bank of China Ltd.
“The fundamentals are intact for a bull market in gold,”
Liang Ruian, head of commodities at Pinpoint Investment Advisory Co. “With so much economic uncertainty out there, the money-printing practice won’t stop. Central-bank buying is another bullish factor that shouldn’t be discounted.”
Immediate-delivery gold, which traded at $1,617.80 an ounce at 8:50 p.m. in Beijing, is 3.6 percent higher this year as investors and central banks bought the metal as a store of value.
Holdings in the SPDR Gold Trust, the biggest bullion-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 1.5 percent in 2012, and central banks from Turkey to Kazakhstan added gold to their reserves.
And the kicker:
"We can’t rule out the possibility that the central bank is buying gold,” said Wang at Agricultural Bank of China, referring to the People’s Bank of China. The PBOC 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.
Rule out? You can bet on it. And when the press release is finally issued hold on to your gold hats folks...