April 20, 2024

Investor Gold Demand Hits All Time Record – China and India Grab 61% Of Total Gold Mine Production

Investor demand for gold during 2011 hit an all time high, fueled by soaring demand in China and India.  Total gold demand by China and India during 2011 amounted to a staggering 61% of all gold mine production last year.

The 2011 Gold Demand Trends report issued by the World Gold Council show a huge increase in gold demand and a small increase in global gold mine production.  This continues a trend that has been in place since 2001.  Despite an almost 600% increase in the price of gold since 2001, global gold mine production has increased by only 7.7%.

Typically, a large increase in price will bring forth additional supplies as producers rush to take advantage of higher prices.   This has not happened with gold due to the depletion of existing gold reserves and the inability of miners to discover and develop new gold deposits.  The continuing increase in gold demand and the lack of new supply will eventually result in gold prices higher than most people can imagine today.

Highlights of the Gold Demand Trends report are summarized below.

  1. For the first time ever, on a dollar basis, gold demand hit all time record highs at $205.5 billion, representing 4,067.1 tonnes of gold.
  2. Investor demand for gold hit all time record of 1,640.7 tonnes, up 5% from the previous year.
  3. Demand for gold by China soared 20% last year to 769.8 tonnes and demand by India, despite currency weakness, was 933.4 tonnes.  It is expected that China will become the largest gold market in the world during 2012 based on continued record setting demand.
  4. Global gold production increased by only 4% last year to 2,809.5 tonnes.  The combined gold demand of 1,703.2 tonnes by China and India consumed 60.6% of all new gold mine production.  It is projected that the supply of new gold will remained “restrained” for the foreseeable future.
  5. The desire to protect wealth accounted for surging gold demand in Europe as the European Central Bank engages in a massive money printing campaign to prop up the insolvent banking system.
  6. Central banks continued to buy gold during 2011, increasing total purchases to 440 tonnes, up by 77 tonnes from last year.
  7. The amount of gold available to meet demand is being restrained not only by low mine production but also by reduced supplies of gold from recycling.   Despite a 28% increase in gold prices last year, the supply of recycled gold declined by 2% to 1,611.9 tonnes.  According to the Gold Council, this implies that “market supplies are drying up and that consumers may be holding on to their gold in the expectation of higher prices.”
  8. Investors are showing a strong preference for physical gold as seen by the investment flows into bar and coin compared to ETF demand.   Demand for gold bar and coin during 2011 totaled 1,486.7 tonnes compared to ETF demand of only 154.0 tonnes.
  9. Gold demand by ETFs increased in the 2011 fourth quarter over the comparable period last year, but total demand during 2011 of 154.0 tonnes was far below ETF gold demand of 367.7 tonnes during 2010.

The Gold Council bullishly notes that the gold market is unique in that it is driven by a “diverse set of factors” and multiple sources of demand.

Should I Buy Gold Bullion or Gold Trust Shares?

Gold trusts have probably been a decisive factor in promoting the ownership of gold and expanding the market to investors who would otherwise not participate in the market. Prior to the establishment of the gold trusts, investors had two primary options for investing in gold, both of which had drawbacks. Gold investors could purchase the shares of gold mining companies or physically purchase gold coins or bars.

The problem with investing in gold stocks or gold mutual funds is that the investment returns may under perform the appreciation in gold bullion. Many gold stocks have vastly underperformed the price appreciation of gold bullion due to company specific issues such as ore depletion, foreign expropriation, environmental problems or financial difficulties relating to the huge cost of mine exploration, development and production. Picking the right gold stock was often difficult.

Physically purchasing gold coins or bullion presents another wide array of problems and costs. Finding a conveniently located and reputable gold bullion dealer takes time and usually entails a trip to the dealer for every transaction consummated. Liquidity is an issue as well since the physical gold would have to be physically transported or shipped to a dealer prior to receiving sales proceeds. Transactions costs on each side of the trade can easily exceed 5%.  Physically holding gold is expensive due to security, storage, transportation and insurance costs.   Gold coins or bullion can also be lost or stolen, the ultimate nightmare for an investor.

Investment in gold share trusts eliminates all of the problems associated with stock selection and physically holding gold. Shares representing an interest in gold can be sold at any time throughout the trading day at market prices.   Investor ownership of gold trust shares represents an undivided, fractional interest in physical gold held by the trust.

Gold share trusts have become extremely popular with investors due to the advantages of owning gold via gold trust shares.  Investors have poured over $57 billion into two of the largest gold share trusts, the SPDR Gold Shares Trust (GLD) and the Sprott Physical Gold Trust (PHYS).

As gold prices continue to increase, the gold share trusts are likely to be the investment of choice for many investors seeking to establish or increase an investment in gold.