Gold prices plunge to near a nine-month low

Retailers are snapping up more of the metal to cater to buyers who had been holding off their purchases for the past year

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Gold prices plunge to near a nine-month low www.financialstand.com

Gold price’s slump to near a nine-month low is drawing jewelry shoppers in Asia to hunt for bargains.

After a year of demand being in the doldrums, retailers are buying more of the precious metal to cater to people like Seema B, a 35-year-old housewife who ventured to Mumbai’s Zaveri Bazaar to get new bangles after months of putting it off. “The prices have come down a bit and the general worries about the virus have also eased,” she said.

Seema joins others in India and Malaysia who are stocking up for weddings and investment. Retail investors in South Korea are amassing bullion while Chinese demand drove sales higher over the Lunar New Year. The demand for physical gold may stem the slide in prices that have been pummeled by rising bond yields and outflows from bullion-backed exchange-traded funds.

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When financial investors aren’t buying, “the physical market becomes increasingly important in setting the floor for prices,” said Suki Cooper, a precious metals analyst at Standard Chartered Bank. “The gold price floor is starting to look well cushioned.”

In China, gold jewelry consumption is set to grow 28% in 2021, with most of the bump in the first quarter as the post-Covid recovery runs out of steam and prices rally later in the year, Metals Focus said in a report earlier this month.

Jewelry sales at big urban retailers more than doubled during the Lunar New Year holiday compared with last year, according to Zhang Yongtao, secretary-general at the China Gold Association. That has pushed the local market to largely trading at a premium since mid-January, which hasn’t happened since February 2020, said StanChart’s Cooper.

Bullion dealers say premiums on kilobars have also been increasing in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand since February.

That is likely due to the scrap market coming to a standstill after gold prices dropped, which meant refiners are struggling to get material to make enough gold bars, said Joshua Rotbart, founder and managing partner at J. Rotbart & Co. “Having said that there is no real stress in the market and definitely premiums are not at all-time highs.”

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