Gold-selling binge defies oil, Middle East uncertainties

by Asako Sawanishi

gold

News photo
Hidekazu Yamada, a gold adviser at jewelry dealer Tanaka Kikinzoku Jewelry K.K., shows three gold ingots to a customer recently at its head office in Ginza, Tokyo. KYODO PHOTO
Gold attracts buyers as a safe asset in times of financial uncertainty, but now, people are selling gold as the economy recovers and as collapses of financial institutions drastically decrease, analysts said.At dealer Tanaka Kikinzoku Jewelry K.K., the number of people selling not only gold bars but also coins, accessories and cups began increasing last September."In December, the number of customers selling gold became equal to that of purchasers, and this year, eight out of 10 people are selling their – possessions,” said Hidekazu Yamada, a gold adviser at the firm’s head office in Tokyo’s Ginza.

An official in charge of precious metal sales at Mitsubishi Materials Corp. said sales have been increasing conspicuously since October.

Most people are selling gold they bought in 2002, when the blanket refund guarantee on bank deposits was removed.

According to Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K., the average standard buying price of a 500-gram gold bar four years ago was about 618,000 yen, excluding tax, but the price jumped about twofold to 1.19 million yen last May. Since then, there has been no major slump in price, the company said.

Gold prices began rising around last fall. Worried about soaring crude oil prices and inflation in Europe and the United States, oil money and funds in the Middle East, and European and U.S. pension funds have paid attention to gold.

In addition, demand for jewelry in the powerhouse economies of India and China has grown.

In May, as the Iran nuclear standoff grew in seriousness, gold was bought up by speculative funds, and the futures price of an ounce (about 31 grams) on the New York market topped the $700 mark, its highest level in about 26 years.

Individual sales of gold accelerated in May. Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo said its purchases of gold bullion from January to May increased nearly 3.6 times over the year before. Its sales of gold bullion meanwhile remained sluggish.