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China’s net gold imports via Hong Kong in December jumped by about 150% from the previous month to a four-month high, Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department data showed on Thursday.

Net imports into the world’s top gold consumer stood at 42.160 tonnes in December, compared with 16.849 tonnes in November, the data showed, marking the first increase in net imports since August and the biggest month-on-month percentage gain since June.

Total gold imports into China via Hong Kong, which include re-exports, were up about 109% to 43.622 tonnes month on month.

“The release of covid restrictions would have had an effect as public retail purchasing will have picked up again,” StoneX analyst Rhona O’Connell said.

China scrapped its strict zero-COVID measures last month, lifting lockdowns, easing travel restrictions and halting regular testing.

The Hong Kong data may not provide a complete picture of Chinese purchases, as gold is also imported via Shanghai and Beijing. China usually imports most of its bullion from Australia, South Africa and Switzerland.

China’s net gold imports via Hong Kong nearly halve in October

“(China) reported a combined increase in reported reserves of just over 62 tonnes in November-December and these numbers… suggest that the accumulation process has continued,” O’Connell said.

Customs data showed that Switzerland exported 524 tonnes of gold worth around $33 billion at current prices to mainland China and Hong Kong last year, up from 354 tonnes in 2021 and the most since 2018.

China’s central bank controls how much gold enters the country through a system of quotas given to commercial banks.

Through December, Chinese dealers sold gold at premiums of anywhere between $2 and $25 an ounce over global benchmark spot prices.

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