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imageLONDON: Switzerland's gold exports to China surged to their highest on record in December at 158 tonnes, data from the Swiss customs bureau showed on Thursday, nearly triple the level of the same month a year earlier.

They fed into a surge in total Swiss gold exports to their highest since May 2013 in December, at 287.6 tonnes.

Shipments to India however dropped to their lowest since July last month, at 20.6 tonnes, while exports to Hong Kong were at a three-month low of 38 tonnes.

Last month accounted for more than a third of Switzerland's total gold exports to China in 2016. The annual total reached 442.2 tonnes, the highest of any year since Switzerland started publishing data in 2012.

Indian imports from Switzerland last year fell to their lowest on record, however, at 326 tonnes, down from 515.7 tonnes in 2015.

However, the biggest destination for Swiss gold exports last year was Britain, where heavy inflows were seen into gold-backed exchange-traded funds early in the year. The UK shipped in 488.6 tonnes of gold from Switzerland last year.

Both ETF inflows and imports from Switzerland dried up towards the end of the year, however. Britain became the biggest exporter of gold to Switzerland last month, shipping back 148 tonnes, the most since December 2015.

Copyright Reuters, 2017