Gold bar sales balloon as inflation hedge

Bloomberg

Gold sales by Japan’s biggest bullion retailer surged 63 percent to a five-year high as prices slumped and investors sought refuge from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s campaign to stoke inflation and weaken the yen.

Sales of bars to local investors by Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K. soared to 37.3 metric tons in 2013, from 22.9 tons a year earlier, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement Wednesday. Sales exceeded purchases for the first time since 2004.

Gold in London slid 28 percent last year, the most since 1981, spurring demand in Asia while many investors in the U.S. and Europe lost faith in the metal as a store of value. The yen’s 18 percent drop against the dollar since Abe became leader in December 2012 and a looming two-stage increase in the sales tax help maintain bullion’s appeal as a haven in Japan.

“Gold has been very attractive to individual investors as a hedge against inflation,” said Kazuhiko Saito, chief analyst at commodities broker Fujitomi Co. in Tokyo. “Investors became concerned as ‘Abenomics’ weakened the yen.”

Abe’s plans to raise the sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent in April to address the nation’s swelling public debt also encouraged gold purchases by local investors in 2013, said Kate Harada, general manager of the precious metals department at Tanaka Kikinzoku.