India and China to lead gold demand: WGC

MUMBAI, Aug 18, 2011 (AFP) - Gold, at record-breaking levels as global economic worries mount, will see sustained demand from key markets India and China this year despite high prices, the World Gold Council said on Thursday.

Global demand for the second quarter to June was 919.8 tonnes, down 17 percent year-on-year, from 1,107 tonnes in the same period last year, as the "remarkably" high European investment seen earlier levelled off.

The World Gold Council, an industry body, said demand for gold was still "healthy", particularly for jewellery, despite the decline in demand, which steadied after the heavy investment in the last 12 months in gold exchange traded funds.

The 2011 June-end quarter was the second-highest quarterly value ever at $44.5 billion, the WGC said in a report.

The highest-ever quarterly demand for gold was valued at $44.7 billion in the three months ended last December, the council said.

WGC expects demand for gold to remain strong for the rest of the calendar year, driven by demand from India and China.

The impact of Eurozone and US debt crises, inflationary pressures and buying from global central banks will also boost investment demand for gold, it said.

"The strength of demand in India and China, coupled with an overall drop in recycling activity this quarter, demonstrates that consumers have adjusted to the current price environment," said Marcus Grubb, WGC investment managing director, said in the emailed report.

"In addition, ongoing macro economic uncertainty, the continued sovereign debt crisis and widespread inflationary pressures, will result in gold demand remaining strong," Grubb said.

India and China are battling high inflation, alongside other Asian economies like Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand (VIST).

"High inflation has become a positive driving force for gold (amongst the VIST countries), the report said.

India is the world's biggest importer and consumer of gold. It constituted over a third of global gold demand, while China's share is also expanding rapidly.

Indians bought 540 tonnes of gold in the first-half of 2011, up 21 percent from the same period last year.

"This growth is likely to continue, due to increasing levels of economic prosperity and high levels of inflation," research analyst Louise Street said in the report, describing demand for gold from India and China.

Year-on-year demand for gold grew 38 percent in India in the second quarter ended June and China by 25 percent, the report said.

Gold jumped to a record $1,814.95 per ounce this week after global equities markets slumped and investors were spooked after the US sovereign debt downgrade and growing concerns about the Eurozone crisis.

The precious metal, whose key drivers are investment and jewellery, is widely seen as a safe haven in times of economic uncertainty and high inflation.

WGC said the "still-fragile outlook" for economic growth will continue to drive people to buy gold as a form of investment.

Demand for gold is likely to increase in India in the coming weeks, as key religious festivals get under way, where the metal is often bought or gifted.

Demand traditionally leaps in India during its main wedding season from October to December and also during religious festivals when India's nearly 900 million Hindus believe it is lucky to purchase gold jewellery, coins and bars.

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