The Chinese Gold Market Essentials - Torgny Persson
A series of eight articles covering the Chinese Gold Market has recently been added to BullionStar’s Gold University portal. This series is titled “Chinese Gold Market Essentials”. Links to all 8 articles can be found on the left-hand frame of the Gold University pages under Research on the BullionStar desktop site, and under the “Chinese Gold Essentials” section of the Gold University, under Research on the BullionStar mobile site.
These new Gold University articles draw on both information from BullionStar analyst Koos Jansen’s Chinese gold market blogs as well as new material. The eight articles in the series follow the style and format of all other articles within the BullionStar Gold University pages. i.e. to be a reference resource for all who are interested in the global gold markets, be they industry participants, reporters and journalists, precious metals investors, or indeed general readers.
The framework for the “Chinese Gold Market Essentials” series centres around the Supply – Demand equation of the Chinese Gold Market and the infrastructure of this market.
The article “Mechanics of the Chinese Domestic Gold Market” explains the core concepts of the Chinese gold market and the central function that the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) plays as the market allocation mechanism within the Chinese gold market. By design, nearly all gold in China flows through the SGE trading and vaulting network, and gold withdrawals from the SGE are therefore a suitable proxy for Chinese wholesale gold demand. This wholesale gold demand includes consumer gold demand and direct purchases of gold on the SGE (institutional gold demand). Wholesale gold demand is therefore a far broader measure of gold demand than just the consumer demand which precious metals consultancies such as GFMS and the World Gold Council report on.
There is therefore a simple and elegant gold supply-demand equation at the heart of the Chinese gold market.
Two other articles in the series address the supply side of the Chinese gold market, each of which focuses on one of the two large components of gold supply in China, namely gold imports and gold mining production.
In 2016, China net imported about 1300 tonnes of gold, making gold imports the largest single source of supply to the Chinese gold market. The article “Chinese Cross-Border Trade Rules on Gold” discusses these gold imports, and the rules around importing gold into and exporting gold from China.
Although Chinese cross-border trade rules on gold apply to both gold imports and gold exports, gold flows mostly into China, and not out again, due to the general prohibition on gold exports. Rules on gold imports are also strict and are administered by the People’s Bank of China, which issues gold import licences to the small number of authorised domestic and foreign banks. Some Chinese mining companies now also import their own gold directly into China.
As regards mining, China is also the world’s top gold producing country, with Chinese mines producing over 450 tonnes of gold output during 2016. Gold mining output is therefore the second largest source of gold flowing into the Chinese gold market. The article “Chinese Gold Mining as a Source of Gold Supply” provides an overview of the Chinese gold mining industry, and profiles some of the larger domestic gold mining companies in this sector.
The gold mining supply article also looks at the fact that China now claims to have over 12,100 tonnes of in-ground identified gold reserves that can be mined in future, and that there are even regiments of the Chinese army which specialise in surveying and exploring for gold across China.
“Gold Demand within the Chinese Gold Market” expands on the idea that Chinese gold demand is not just consumer gold demand (jewellery demand, coin and bar demand, and industrial demand) but includes substantial direct purchases of gold at the Shanghai Gold Exchange. Chinese commercial banks also hold gold on their balance sheets to cover a number of activities such as gold accumulation plans, gold leasing etc.
The article “Infrastructure of the Shanghai Gold Exchange” looks at the trading mechanisms and contracts of the Shanghai Gold Exchange. The SGE is the world’s largest physical gold exchange, an exchange in which real physical gold stored in the exchange’s vaults changes hands between trading participants via exchange traded contracts. All trading is conducted on an electronic trading platform, and counterparties are required to have the full amount of gold and cash before trading. Gold contracts traded and cleared on the SGE are known as the SGE’s ‘Price matching’ market.
Gold contracts traded bilaterally off Exchange (i.e. traded Over-the-Counter between counterparties) can also be entered into the SGE trading platform and then cleared through the SGE’s clearing and vaulting system. This is known as the SGE’s “Price Inquiry” market. Additionally, a twice daily gold price auction, known as the Shanghai Gold Price Benchmark auction, is a distinct third spoke of trading on the SGE.
There are 8 physical gold product contracts traded on the SGE representing gold bars and gold ingots ranging in weight from 50 grams through 1 kg and up to 12.5 kgs. Five of these products trade on the Main Board of the Exchange (domestic), and a further 3 trade on the Shanghai International Gold Exchange ( International Board).
A specific article in the series covers the “Shanghai International Gold Exchange“. Sometimes known as the SGE International Board or SGEI, this international board is an internationally focused physical gold trading platform launched by the SGE in September 2014. This platform offers 3 Renminbi-denominated physical gold contracts, one of which, the iAu99.99, sees significant trading volume. The aims of the International Board include boosting internationalization of the Chinese Yuan, introduction of offshore Yuan to SGE trading, and internationalizing the membership of the SGE.
The SGEI also has a designated gold vault in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. Gold imported to this vault remains outside the domestic Chinese gold market. Both domestic and international members of the SGE can trade the International Board contracts in either onshore or offshore Yuan, which as a stated aim of the Chinese authorities, supports the internationalization of the Chinese currency.
The official gold reserves of the Chinese State (monetary gold) are held by China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China. Currently, these gold reserves are claimed (by the Chinese State) to be in the region of 1840 tonnes. However, the real level of Chinese State gold holdings may be significantly higher than official published figures suggest. The article “PBoC Gold Purchases: Secretive Accumulation on the International Market” presents evidence that the Chinese State purchases monetary gold on the international market including in the London gold market, and ships this gold back to Beijing. It also looks at the possibility that the Chinese central bank may be buying up to 500 tonnes of gold per year and that it may have in the region of 4000 tonnes to 5000 tonnes of gold in its ‘real’ gold reserves.
The Value Added Tax (VAT) system in the Chinese gold market exerts an important influence on both gold imports and the types of gold that flow to and through the Shanghai Gold Exchange. The article “Value Added Tax (VAT) in the Chinese Gold Market” looks at the general VAT system in China and on gold specifically, and the types of VAT receipts generated on gold transactions. It also explains when imported gold is exempt from VAT and how ‘Standard’ gold sold on the SGE is VAT exempt. Standard gold is gold bars or gold ingots of 50 gram, 100 gram, 1 kilogram, 3 kilogram or 12.5 kilogram form, with a fineness (gold purity) of 9999, 9995, 999 or 995.