Gold investment remains resilient, WGC report shows

1st August 2023

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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Despite some softness in some areas of the market, the World Gold Council’s (WGC’s) ‘Gold Demand Trends’ report for the second quarter, released on August 1, shows that investment demand has shown resilience, while fabrication demand faces challenges owing to high prices and affordability concerns among consumers.

The WGC's projections for investment in the current financial year remain unchanged, thanks to robust over-the-counter (OTC) demand compensating for sluggish performances in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and bar and coin investments, the council notes.

As the year unfolds, the WGC expects global gold ETFs and OTC demand to take precedence over traditional bar and coin demand.

Several factors contribute to this shift. Interest rates are expected to peak at levels that do not pose restrictions for gold investors, making the yellow metal an attractive option.

Meanwhile, slower economic growth is expected to rein in lofty equity valuations, prompting investors to seek safer havens such as gold. Negative sentiment and under-allocation in certain portfolios are also fuelling higher institutional involvement in gold.

Finally, lower inflation means that retail investors are finding gold's allure diminished compared to other periods, the WGC report outlines.

Fabrication demand, however, has faced a minor downward revision owing to high gold prices and affordability concerns among consumers. The rising prices have prompted some consumers to reassess their purchases, impacting fabrication demand.

Nevertheless, the jewellery and technology sectors have maintained steady interest in gold, which partly offsets the overall softness in fabrication demand.

The positive trend of central banks adding to their gold reserves is expected to continue, bolstering the demand for the precious metal. However, the WGC has made a slight downward adjustment to its central bank estimate for the current financial year, taking into account a weak second-quarter performance.

On the supply front, the WGC report indicates that mine production is gearing up for a record high, contributing to the overall supply increase.

Additionally, recycling is projected to rise as households, facing financial constraints, are expected to turn to gold recycling as a means of accessing additional income.

While there was a slight dip in gold demand, excluding OTC, by 2% year-on-year to 921 t, the total demand, inclusive of OTC and stock flows, showed strength with a 7% year-on-year increase, reaching 1 255 t.

Net central bank buying experienced a marked deceleration compared with the above-average purchases observed in the second quarter of 2022. The net official sector purchasing in the second quarter stood at 103 t, in line with the ongoing positive trend towards gold among central banks. Despite specific local market conditions in Turkey prompting some sales, overall central bank demand remained encouraging.

Jewellery consumption managed a modest 3% year-on-year improvement, with 476 t of gold being used. However, the high gold price environment impacted inventories, which increased by about 15 t in the second quarter. This was partly attributed to Chinese jewellery consumption falling short of optimistic expectations within the trade.

Bar and coin investment increased by 6% year-on-year, reaching 277 t in the second quarter, with Turkey being a major driver of this growth. On the other hand, ETFs witnessed net outflows of 21 t, primarily concentrated in June. Notably, these outflows were significantly smaller than the 47 t outflow observed in the second quarter of the previous year.

OTC investment emerged as a notable bright spot in the second quarter, with demand reaching 335 t. Although somewhat opaque, the demand from this sector of the market became evident as the gold price found firm support, even amidst ETF outflows and a reduction in COMEX net longs.

Demand for gold used in technology remained soft, with just 70 t used for a second consecutive quarter. Continued weakness in consumer electronics contributed to the lacklustre performance in this segment.

Total gold supply experienced a 7% year-on-year increase, reaching 1 255 t, with growth observed across all segments. Mine production, in particular, surged to an estimated record of 1 781 t for the first half of 2023. The robust supply growth indicates the resilience of the gold mining industry and its ability to meet increasing demand.

The record-high LBMA gold price averaged an unprecedented $1 976/oz during the second quarter, surging 6% year-on-year and surpassing the previous record high set in the third quarter of 2020 by 4%. Currency fluctuations further bolstered local gold prices in several countries, with China and Turkey standing out as notable beneficiaries.

The first half gold demand, excluding OTC, experienced a 6% decline, totalling 2 062 t. The year-on-year decrease was primarily attributed to modest outflows from gold ETFs in 2023 compared to the substantial surge of inflows observed in early 2022.

However, when inclusive of OTC and stock flows, total demand in the first half rose by 5% to 2 460 t, reflecting the dynamic nature of the global gold market.

Central bank gold buying reached a new first-half record of 387 t. Although a slowdown in the second quarter was evident, the strong start in the first quarter established a record-breaking the first half for central bank purchases.

Central banks' buying activity remained widespread, involving both emerging and developed countries, further affirming the enduring allure of gold as a strategic asset for central banks worldwide.

Local market conditions played a pivotal role in driving exceptional gold demand in Turkey during recent quarters. The combined The first half demand for jewellery, bars, and coins reached an impressive 118 t, marking the highest first-half year since 2007 when Turkish lira gold prices were a mere fraction of their current record levels. Factors such as presidential elections, rising inflation, and currency weakness significantly contributed to this surge in demand.

Gold recycling in the first half demonstrated a notable 9% year-on-year increase, with China and India leading the way. Base effects played a role in both markets, with recycling activity relatively weak in the second quarter of 2022. H

owever, recycling has yet to see significant upticks in Western markets, despite high gold prices and mounting cost-of-living pressures.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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