U.S. gold jewelry imports reach seven-year high in October

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. imports of gold jewelry rose to a seven-year high in October while platinum jewelry imports surged by more than 60 percent after precious metal prices fell to multiyear lows, Thomson Reuters GFMS calculations showed.

“The United States continued to import large volumes of gold jewelry in October,” Erica Rannestad, senior analyst of precious metals demand at GFMS, said in an email late on Wednesday.

“Gold prices averaged 25 percent lower that month than a year earlier, buoying demand for jewelry made with gold amid a strong United States dollar.”

U.S. imports of gold jewelry reached 7,082 kg (227,691 oz) in October, up 9 percent from a year earlier and the highest level since November 2008. For the first 10 months of 2015, imports were up 13 percent from year-ago levels, Rannestad said.

Annual growth was steady with September at 13 percent and down from 21 percent in August, she said.

“Gold prices rose in much of October, only to fall toward lower lows in November compared to July’s low prices,” Rannestad said.

“This fall in gold prices may have brought forward some gold jewelry import demand that month.”

Spot gold ended 2015 down more than 10 percent after a steady decline took bullion prices to the lowest level in nearly six years in December at $1,045.85 per ounce, with the market under pressure by expectations for the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly 10 years.

The Fed finally raised rates in mid-December, a move deemed bearish for gold prices as it lifts the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

Platinum jewelry imports jumped to 169 kg in October, up 63 percent from October 2014. For the first 10 months of 2015, U.S. platinum jewelry imports rose 46 percent from year-ago levels as the average price for the metal was down 24 percent.

“While the falling platinum price has been a major contributor to higher platinum jewelry imports, it should also be noted that lower platinum jewelry retail prices, a stronger United States dollar, a falling platinum-gold price ratio, and higher disposable incomes per capita have pushed imports and demand higher,” Rannestad said.

Imports of silver jewelry steadied in October at 185,663 kg, though year-to-date imports were up 8 percent, GFMS data showed.

Editing by Matthew Lewis