A rise in Chinese gold imports suggests that investors seeking a safe haven from the turbulence in stock markets may be parking their cash in the precious metal.
China's gold imports via Hong Kong rose 36 percent month-on-month and 35 percent year-on-year to the highest level since January, Capital Economics said in a note on Friday, citing data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department. Net gold imports from gold dipped to 52.204 tonnes in April from 66.363 tonnes in March.
"We think investors are becoming increasingly worried about a more pronounced correction in China's stock market and will return to gold to diversify their portfolios," Simona Gambarini, commodities economist at Capital Economics said in a note.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite stock index on Friday suffered its biggest one-day percentage fall in five months, closing down more than 7.4 percent, as markets digested new supply and amid jitters that a bull run may be petering out.
If the gold imports data is anything to go by, the latest sell-off in Chinese stocks could suggest that Chinese demand for gold continued into June.
"The sharp rise in the local equity market in China is likely to have weighed on gold demand in the past few months. However, investors might be seeking once again the safety of gold, as recent gains in the stock market are deemed unsustainable" Gambarini said.
While the Shanghai Composite is up just over 100 percent from where it traded a year ago – it has ceded ground in recent weeks sliding 13 percent last week and a further 6.4 percent this week.
Capital Economics said it expected gold demand from China and India to remain strong this year, rising by 8 percent and 11 percent year-on-year respectively. India was the world's biggest importer of gold last year, followed by China, according to the World Gold Council.
The demand from China and India should help gold prices reach $1,400 per ounce by the year end – implying a gain of about 19 percent from current levels around $1,173.
Analysts said jitters over Greece should also help underpin support for safe-haven gold.
"The shining metal is gaining its shine back and in the process of obliterating its biggest weekly decline since March," Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at AvaTrade, said in a note Friday. "That's' thanks to Greece uncertainty, which is throwing a lifeline for the safe haven."
Greece and its international creditors failed to reach a successful conclusion on Thursday, with further talks set to take place on Saturday. The deadlock in talks has raised the risk of default in Greece and the country's possible exit from the single-currency club.