Gold shipments from Japan are at the highest level since at least 1985, as individuals who purchased jewelry more than 20 years ago sell it amid record prices.
Shipments of bullion in the 10 months that ended in October totaled 95.6 metric tons, according to Takahiro Morita, the Japan director of the World Gold Council, who cited Finance Ministry customs data. The previous high was 95.5 tons in 2008.
Gold is set for an 11th year of gains as central banks join investors in purchasing bullion to diversify their assets. Japan’s largest bullion retailer, Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K., said it bought 40 percent more gold bars and jewelry from individuals in the nine-month period ending in September. Gold investment jumped 33 percent to 468.1 tons in the third quarter from a year earlier as bar and coin demand in Europe more than doubled to the most since the fourth quarter of 2008, the London-based WGC said.
“Japan’s gold exports will reach 100 tons this year,” Morita said in an interview Wednesday.
Gold exports to Thailand tripled and those to Singapore doubled in the 10 months to October from a year earlier, Finance Ministry statistics show.
“More and more people who bought gold and jewelry in the 1980s and 1990s are selling back what they purchased,” said Kotaro Horita at Mitsubishi Materials Corp. in Tokyo. Exports have been increasing to Southeast Asia and China in particular, Horita said.
Purchases by central banks, which are adding to reserves for the first time in a generation, may reach 450 tons this year, Marcus Grubb at the WGC said Nov. 25. Central banks and government institutions bought 142 tons last year, IMF data show.
“Japan is the only country that exports gold without being a major producer,” said Bruce Ikemizu, manager of Standard Bank PLC’s Tokyo branch.
Sumitomo Corp. spends “several billion yen a day” at peak times to buy recyclable gold products for shipment to foreign smelters, Koichi Iwanaga at the commodity business department said.
Gold prices reached a record $1,921.15 an ounce Sept. 6 and have made exporting profitable because of “the capacities and cost-competitiveness of overseas smelters,” said Iwanaga.
“Countries that are buying up gold are places where real interest rates are negative,” said Itsuo Toshima, an analyst who has researched global markets for about 30 years and was formerly the Japan director of the WGC.
“Central banks are continuing to buy gold exchange-traded funds after concerns arose about the creditworthiness of eurozone nations,” Koichiro Kamei, managing director at independent research company Market Strategy Institute, said in an interview.
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