July 28, 2020 / 3:01 AM / 18 days ago

China gold consumption plunges in first half, but shows signs of recovery in second quarter

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s gold consumption fell 38% year-on-year in the first half of 2020, hurt by the coronavirus and a slowing economy, although demand started to recover in the second quarter, the China Gold Association said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A sales assistant places gold ornaments at Caibai Jewelry store, in Beijing, China, August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Consumption in China, the world’s biggest gold user, came in at 323.29 tonnes in January-June, the association said on its website.

Consumption nearly halved in the first quarter from a year earlier as strict pandemic containment measures and rising prices hit demand.

Spot gold XAU= climbed about 17% over the first six months of 2020 as panicked investors piled into the safe-haven precious metal. Gold hit a record $1,980.57 an ounce on Tuesday.

Chinese dealers have been selling physical gold at discounts to global spot prices since late February in a bid to revive sluggish demand, with the discount XAU-CN-PREM widening to over $30 an ounce recently.

Second-quarter consumption was up 17.5% from the first quarter at 174.66 tonnes, according to Reuters calculations. That was still down 26.2% year-on-year.

The slowing of the decline came as China brought the spread of the coronavirus under control in the second quarter, the association said, helped by stimulus policies and “innovative” new ways of tempting consumers.

“Retail companies continue to carry out multiple forms of online marketing,” it said, with manufacturers developing new lightweight gold jewellery to attract younger buyers.

While overall gold consumption in the first half was “unsatisfactory,” gold bullion coin sales were “remarkable” and down only slightly in the second quarter, the association said, without providing further details.

China’s gold output slid 7.3% year-on-year to 217.8 tonnes in the first half, although the association said domestic production had returned to normal in the second quarter, rising 5.8% from the first quarter.

Reporting by Tom Daly; additonal reporting by Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Pullin

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