By Peter Hobson
LONDON (Reuters) – Swiss exports of gold to countries including China, Turkey, Singapore and Thailand surged to multi-year highs in 2022, Swiss customs data showed on Tuesday, as low prices boosted demand from consumers in Asia and the Middle East.
Rising interest rates caused many financial investors in Europe and North America to sell gold last year, releasing large amounts of metal from storage and pushing down prices.
This allowed bullion to flow to Asian markets, which are more focused on retail of jewellery and small gold bars to consumers who typically buy more when prices drop.
Economic instability also spurred demand for gold, which many see as a safe investment, particularly in Turkey, where inflation has rocketed.
Switzerland is the world’s biggest gold refining and transit hub. It imports bullion from mines and storage centres around the world for processing and re-export.
Last year, it exported 524 tonnes of gold worth around $33 billion at current prices to mainland China and Hong Kong, up from 354 tonnes in 2021 and the most since 2018, Swiss customs data showed.
Switzerland shipped 69 tonnes of gold to Singapore, up from 33 tonnes in 2021 and the most since 2017, and 92 tonnes to Thailand, up from 56 tonnes in 2021 and the most since 2013.
It sent a whopping 188 tonnes to Turkey, up from 11 tonnes in 2021 and by far the most in records stretching back to 2012, and 47 tonnes to Saudi Arabia, up from 7 tonnes in 2021 and the most since 2015.
The weak spot was India, the biggest bullion market after China. Switzerland sent 224 tonnes of gold to India last year, down from 507 tonnes in 2021.
Shipments to India slowed sharply in December as gold prices began to rally. From as low as $1,615.59 an ounce in November, gold prices have risen above $1,940 as Western investors anticipating the end of interest rate-hike cycle started to buy.
Demand from China may remain solid as the abandonment of COVID-19 restrictions revives economic growth, said independent analyst Ross Norman.
But if prices remain high, India’s appetite for gold will likely remain weak, he said: “They are real bargain hunters. I don’t see demand recovering there for some months.”
Below are numbers and comparisons.
SWISS GOLD EXPORTS, ANNUAL (KG)
Total To China To Hong To India To Turkey To To
Kong Singapore Thailand
2022 1,565,722 478,175 45,482 224,464 188,299 69,387 91,942
2020 1,179,564 30,500 26,710 147,760 77,312 26,187 21,195
2021 1,353,006 274,809 79,066 507,224 11,395 33,411 56,416
SWISS GOLD EXPORTS, MONTHLY (KG)
Total To China To Hong To India To Turkey
Dec-22 150,072 62,658 13,189 4,812 31,132
Nov-22 129,017 34,857 62 23,068 25,059
Dec-21 97,299 14,500 5,761 28,307 125
* Source: Swiss customs. Data subject to revision by source.
(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)