Gold pauses as China’s central bank baulks at record prices

THE recent slump in the gold price – down about 2.8% in the last 30 days – may be due to a hiatus in central bank purchases in China.

Bloomberg News reported last week that China didn’t buy any gold last month, ending a massive buying spree that ran for 18 months and helped push the precious metal to a record high in May.

The People’s Bank of China had been stocking up its reserves since November 2022, leading a flurry of purchases by the world’s central banks amid rising geopolitical tensions.

“My initial thought is that China, a major driver of the gold rally in the past year, is nowhere near done buying gold,” Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank AS, said in a note. The pause shows that they are balking at the prospect of paying record-high prices.

Gold soared to an all-time high above $2,450 an ounce in May, supported by strong central bank buying. The PBOC’s demand for bullion has come as the world’s second-biggest economy seeks to diversify its reserves and guard against currency depreciation, said Bloomberg News.

First-quarter purchases by the world’s public institutions were at record levels, with China the biggest buyer, according to the World Gold Council. The PBOC held its gold holdings at 72.80 million ounces in May, which was up from 62.64 million ounces before the long stretch of purchases.

There had been signs that China’s demand was cooling as higher prices took their toll.

In April, the PBOC bought only 60,000 ounces, down from 160,000 ounces in March, and 390,000 ounces in February. The country’s imports in April, meanwhile, slipped 30% from the previous month, the newswire said.