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Gold demand lifted by central banks, ETFs

Global demand grew to 1,053.3 t in the first quarter of 2019, up 7% on the same period last year, according to the World Gold Council’s latest Gold Demand Trends report.

This year-on-year increase was largely due to continued growth in central bank buying, as well as growth in gold-backed exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Central banks bought 145.5 t in Q1, up 68% on the same period in 2018 and representing the strongest start to a year since 2013.

Diversification and a desire for safe, liquid assets were again the main drivers of the purchases.

On a rolling four-quarter basis buying reached a record high for series of 715.7 t.

Q1 jewellery demand rose 1% compared with the same period last year, at 530.3 t, boosted by India.

A lower local rupee gold price in late February and early March coincided with the traditional gold buying wedding season, lifting jewellery demand in India to 125.4 t, a 5% increase on the same period last year and the highest Q1 since 2015.

ETFs and similar products added 40.3 t in Q1, up 49% on last year. Funds listed in the US and Europe benefited from the largest inflows, although the former were more erratic while the latter were underpinned by continued geopolitical instability.

Bar and coin investment softened slightly, down 1% to 257.8 t. This was purely due to a fall in demand for gold bars, as official gold coin buying grew 12% to 56.1t.

China and Japan were the main contributors to the decline: in Japan, net investment turned negative on profit-taking following a surge in the local price in February.

Gold used in applications such as electronics, wireless and LED lighting fell 3% to 79.3 t. Trade frictions, sluggish sales of consumer electronics and global economic headwinds hit the technology sector.

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