(Adds trader comments, details on demand)
SINGAPORE Dec 29 China's gold imports from Hong
Kong in November rose to their highest level since February,
indicating strong demand in the world's top bullion consumer
ahead of the Lunar New Year.
"Consumer demand is strong because of lower prices," said a
trader with one of the 15 importing banks in China. "There is
also some year-end investment demand, and demand for gold
Gold tumbled to a 4-1/2-year low of $1,131.85 an
ounce in November, partly due to the strength of the dollar.
Although it has recovered slightly, it is still below the $1,200
level, attracting physical buying interest.
The strong imports could also be for stocking-up of
inventories ahead of the Chinese New Year in early 2015, when
gold is bought for good fortune and to be given as gifts.
Net gold imports from Hong Kong to the mainland rose to
99.111 tonnes in November from 77.628 tonnes in October,
according to data emailed to Reuters by the Hong Kong Census and
Total imports to the mainland, including stocks that are
re-exported to Hong Kong, rose to 149.235 tonnes last month from
111.409 tonnes in October.
China does not provide trade data on gold and the Hong Kong
figures serve as a proxy for gold flows to the mainland. The
Hong Kong data, however, might not provide a full picture of
Chinese purchases as direct imports through Shanghai and Beijing
- for which no data is available - have gathered pace this year.
Sustained strong buying from China could boost the price of
gold, which is heading for its second annual decline in a row.
Demand in the mainland slid by more than a fifth in the
first nine months of the year, according to the China Gold
Association. That compares to record purchases last year when
gold prices slid after a 12-year rise.
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Alan Raybould)