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OpinionsChina emerges as engine and enigma for precious metal

China emerges as engine and enigma for precious metal


No India role in current blip as imports are down

By K Raveendran

Gold has been hogging headlines with a certain monotonous regularity. In April alone, the precious metal clocked up 4 percent increase in price, despite lower imports by India, a key player in determining gold's behaviour. One of the leading causes of the latest blip, however, is of Chinese origin.

China's economic rise has been nothing short of meteoric. It has been transformed from a regional player to the 's second-largest , a manufacturing powerhouse, and a crucial driver of global trade. China's massive production capacity has kept consumer goods affordable for people around the world. It's also a hungry importer, creating and growth in exporting nations. But on the other hand, China's dominance in manufacturing has raised concerns about job displacement in developed economies. Additionally, its breakneck growth has been fuelled by a state-controlled economic model, raising questions about fair competition and intellectual property rights.

The role of gold in a world grappling with geopolitical tensions, inflation, and economic uncertainty cannot be over-emphasised. But the latest blip is the result of a confluence of two key factors: a ravenous appetite for gold from China and a strategic shift by central banks to bolster their reserves.

China's fascination with gold is well-documented, deeply rooted in its cultural reverence for the metal and its role as a symbol of wealth and stability. This fascination has translated into action. In recent years, China has been on a gold-buying spree, surpassing all other central banks in its purchases. The People's Bank of China (PBC) has been adding tons to its reserves every month, and Chinese consumers have ramped up their own gold purchases, particularly in the form of jewellery and investment products.

The surge in Chinese demand stems from several factors. The ongoing trade war with the US has fuelled a desire for assets seen as safe havens, and gold perfectly fits that bill. As the global financial system navigates choppy waters, gold offers a sense of security, a hedge against inflation that erodes the value of paper currencies, and a potential diversifier for investment portfolios.

Beyond the immediate economic concerns, China's gold hunger also reflects its long-term strategic ambitions. As the country seeks to establish itself as a dominant economic and political power, a robust gold reserve is seen as a pillar of strength. A strong gold holding signifies financial stability and independence, allowing China to weather economic storms and potentially influence the global financial system.

China's actions aren't happening in isolation. Central banks around the world are also quietly accumulating gold at an unprecedented pace. This renewed interest is a stark contrast to the past few decades, when gold fell out of favour with many central banks. However, the current economic climate has reignited the appeal of the yellow metal.

Central banks are facing a precarious situation. The low-interest-rate environment that followed the 2008 financial crisis has limited their ability to manage inflation and economic fluctuations. In this context, gold offers a reliable and liquid asset that can be used to intervene in markets and support their currencies. Additionally, some central banks, particularly those in emerging economies, see gold as a way to reduce their dependence on the US dollar, the current global reserve currency.

The combined buying power of China and central banks has had a profound impact on the gold market. Increased demand has outstripped supply, pushing prices to record levels. This price surge has further fuelled the buying frenzy, creating a classic feedback loop. Investors, seeing the rising prices, are even more incentivized to buy, further propelling the price upwards.

However, the future trajectory of gold prices is not without uncertainties. The global economic outlook remains murky, with factors like inflation, interest rate hikes, and geopolitical tensions all playing a role. If economic conditions stabilize and investor confidence returns, the demand for safe-haven assets like gold could wane, leading to a price correction. Further, a significant slowdown in the Chinese economy could dampen demand for gold, potentially leading to a price drop. (IPA Service)

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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