(Adds analyst comments and details)
Dec 30 (Reuters) - China’s net gold imports via Hong Kong in November plunged 72% from the previous month to their lowest in nearly nine years, data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department showed on Monday, mainly due to subdued demand.
Net imports via Hong Kong to China, the world’s top consumer of gold, fell to 3.052 tonnes in November -- the lowest since February 2011 -- from 10.846 tonnes in October, the data showed.
Total gold imports via Hong Kong slumped 58% to 5.563 tonnes last month, also the lowest since February 2011, from 13.353 tonnes in October.
“No great surprise. Demand has been weak in China, with no real urgency to build inventory ahead of the Chinese New Year period,” said Cameron Alexander, an analyst with Refinitiv-owned metals consultancy GFMS.
The Chinese New Year, a key gold buying occasion in the region, starts on Jan. 25 next year.
China’s imports via Hong Kong has steadily decreased this year in the wake of anti-government protests in the former British colony, and China has boosted gold imports from Shanghai instead this year.
“When demand does pick up again, I would not be surprised to see flows through Hong Kong increase again as the fabricators rebuild inventory. At the moment it’s not just Hong Kong flows to China that have declined. Flows across the board are down,” Alexander said.
China does not provide trade data on gold and the Hong Kong data may not provide a complete picture of Chinese purchases as gold is also imported via Shanghai and Beijing.
International benchmark spot gold prices fell about 3.3% in November, with bullion being sold at a premium of $2 to $5 an ounce in China, over the benchmark prices last month. (Reporting by Sumita Layek in Bengaluru; editing by Jason Neely and Louise Heavens)
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