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China's net gold imports via Hong Kong dropped 16.5% in November from the previous month, Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department data showed on Tuesday, although analysts expect demand to pick up ahead of the Lunar New Year.

Net imports stood at 45.321 tonnes in November compared with 54.262 tonnes in October, the data showed. Total gold imports via Hong Kong fell 12.3% to 50.672 tonnes from 57.804 tonnes the previous month.

"As China clamped down speculators and increased scrutiny of companies listed overseas, the demand for gold stayed on the verge. The premium diminished from $10/12 to $1/2 and persists in a padlocked range," Bernard Sin, regional director for Greater China at MKS said.

"I expect imports to remain low in December but would reckon physical demand will pick up in January prior to Chinese New Year," Sin added.

Gold restrained as improved risk appetite offsets Omicron concerns

Premiums in the range of $1-$5 per ounce over global benchmark prices were charged in China last month, on lacklustre demand for the yellow metal.

China's import volumes are still strong against monthly average, according to ANZ analyst Soni Kumari.

"Physical demand is looking pretty strong in China and India, this is largely compensating for weaker investment demand. Accumulated savings and wedding jewellery demand are boding well for physical offtake in Q1 2022."

China is the world's top gold consumer. The Hong Kong data may not provide a complete picture of Chinese purchases because gold is also imported via Shanghai and Beijing.

Chinese authorities have stepped up efforts to stabilise the economy as a property downturn deepens, supply bottlenecks persist and strict COVID-19 curbs hit consumer spending.

The government and even the People's Bank of China (PBOC) are concerned about the real estate sector and reviving confidence in the economy and the focus is not on gold or silver, said Jigar Trivedi, a commodities analyst at Mumbai-based broker Anand Rathi Shares.

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