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UPDATE 1-China Dec gold imports through Hong Kong highest since 2013
January 26, 2016 / 10:43 AM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-China Dec gold imports through Hong Kong highest since 2013

* Chinese trooped to gold amid falling stocks, yuan

* Gold imports rebound in 2015 to nearly 862 tonnes

* Imports this year may be close to 2013 record (Adds comments, details)

By Manolo Serapio Jr

MANILA, Jan 26 (Reuters) - China’s net gold imports for December via main conduit Hong Kong surged to the highest in more than two years, data showed on Tuesday, as investors lost faith in collapsing stock markets and a weakening currency and snapped up bullion.

Net gold imports by China, the world’s top consumer, jumped to 129.266 tonnes last month from 79.003 tonnes in November, according to data emailed to Reuters by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.

That was the highest monthly number since October 2013 when imports stood at 131.190 tonnes.

As China’s equities slumped and its yuan currency finished 2015 with a record yearly loss, “people looked at other investment alternatives that’s why there was huge demand for gold,” said Brian Lan, managing director at gold dealer GoldSilver Central in Singapore.

China’s gross gold imports via Hong Kong reached 152.158 tonnes in December, the highest since March 2013.

For all of 2015, China’s net gold imports rose to 861.7 tonnes from 813.1 tonnes in 2014.

China’s gold imports this year might approach the all-time high of 1,158.16 tonnes hit in 2013, said Lan, but are unlikely to top that.

“We expect to see a pickup in the China market especially in the first quarter. (This year) will be better than the past two years but is unlikely to beat 2013 when there was a big crash in prices,” said Lan.

Spot gold ended a 12-year rally in 2013, with prices tumbling 28 percent, and the values have fallen further in the two following years to their lowest levels since 2010.

Gold touched a 12-week high on Tuesday of $1,117.60 an ounce, benefiting from safe-haven bids as stocks and oil tumbled again.

China does not provide trade data on gold, and the Hong Kong figures serve as a proxy for flows to the mainland.

The Hong Kong data might not provide a full picture of Chinese purchases as imports through Shanghai and Beijing, for which no data is available, gathered pace last year. (Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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