(Reuters) – Demand in China for physical gold and gold-related investments is growing at an “explosive” pace and its appetite for the yellow metal is poised to remain robust amid inflation concerns, said an Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) executive.
ICBC (1398.HK)(601398.SS), the world’s largest bank by market value, sold about 7 tonnes of physical gold in January this year, nearly half the 15 tonnes of bullion sold in the whole of 2010, said Zhou Ming, deputy head of the bank’s precious metals department on Wednesday.
“We are seeing explosive demand for gold. As Chinese get wealthy, they look to diversify their investments and gold stands out as a good hedge against inflation,” Zhou told Reuters.
“There is also frantic demand for non-physical gold investments. We issued 1 billion yuan worth of gold-price-linked term deposits in 2010, but we managed to sell the same amount over just a few days in January this year,” Zhou said, adding that such deposits would easily exceed 5 billion yuan ($759 million) this year.
Gold imports into China soared in 2010, turning the country, already the largest bullion miner, into a major overseas buyer for the first time.
The surge, which comes as Chinese investors look for insurance against rising inflation and currency appreciation, puts the country on track to overtake India as the world’s top gold consumer and a significant force in global gold prices.
Gold prices jumped 30 percent in 2010 and struck an all-time high of $1430.95. Spot silver surged 83 percent last year and is currently hovering at around $30 per ounce.
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