* Over 80 pct of Swiss gold exports Asia-bound in January
* Swiss gold exports jump 77 pct, imports by 35 pct in 2013
* Flows likely represent bullion heading east - analysts
By Jan Harvey
LONDON, Feb 20 The top five recipients of Swiss
gold exports in January were in Asia, with Hong Kong the top
destination for shipments out of Europe's leading refining
centre, data from the Swiss customs office showed on Thursday.
Hong Kong received 3.073 billion Swiss francs' ($3.5
billion) worth of gold last month, or 44.3 percent of total
exports by value, the data showed. India, Singapore, the United
Arab Emirates and China made up the rest of the top five
The main source of Swiss gold imports was the United
Kingdom, which accounted for 60 percent of gold imports by
value. London is a major vaulting centre for investment-grade
bullion, which was sold heavily last year.
Separate Swiss customs data showed gold flows into and out
of Switzerland jumped last year, in what analysts say is likely
to be the latest evidence of metal moving from U.S. and European
investment funds to Asian consumers.
Exports of the metal from Switzerland jumped 77 percent to
2,777.14 tonnes last year, the data showed, while imports
climbed by more than a third to 3,060.66 tonnes.
Investors last year liquidated 881 tonnes of gold from
exchange-traded funds, which issue securities backed by physical
metal, according to World Gold Council and Thomson Reuters GFMS
data released earlier this week.
Holdings of the largest gold-backed ETF, New York-listed
SPDR Gold Shares, fell more than 550 tonnes.
Meanwhile, demand soared to record levels in China and rose
sharply in Turkey, Egypt, Japan and India, despite tough import
restrictions in the latter, historically the world's biggest
While the statistics office does not provide data on the
source or destination of its gold shipments by volume, analysts
say outflows from ETFs are likely to have fed this demand via
"A lot of metal was migrating (last year) from Europe and
North America, not least from the SPDR and similar funds, to the
Middle East, the Far East, and to some extent South Asia," said
Rhona O'Connell, head of metals research at consultancy Thomson
"Metal coming out of the ETFs and to some extent the
over-the-counter market would have been large 400-ounce bars.
They would have been going through refineries, predominantly in
Switzerland, for conversion into kilobars or smaller."
Gold held to back the SPDR ETF is stored in 400-ounce bars
in HSBC's vaults in London, according to the fund's prospectus.
In a note earlier this week, Australian bank Macquarie,
citing trade data from EU statistics agency Eurostat, said the
UK exported 1,739 tonnes of gold in 2013, with the vast majority
sent to Switzerland.
This is more than 10 times higher than in 2012, it said. "We
believe this largely reflects investor liquidation, and that
much of it eventually found its way to China," Macquarie said.