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The Chinese Gold Market Essentials

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.

Buy and Sell Gold and Silver with Bitcoin

Given the very strong price appreciation of leading cryptocurrency Bitcoin recently, Bitcoin holders who are thinking of diversifying or taking some profits on their Bitcoin positions may be interested to know that in addition to transacting in US Dollars, Singapore Dollars, and Euros, BullionStar also accepts Bitcoin as a payment option for its precious metals products, and has done so since May 2014.

2017 Year-to-Date: Bitcoin Price in US Dollars
2017 Year-to-Date: Bitcoin Price in US Dollars

Using the BullionStar website, customers can quickly and efficiently purchase gold bars and gold coins, as well as silver bars and silver coins using Bitcoin. Customers can also sell gold and sell silver to BullionStar and receive settlement proceeds in Bitcoin.

The maximum transaction size for a purchase order using Bitcoin is currently set by BullionStar at BTC 200 per transaction. There is no minimum transaction size for a purchase order using Bitcoin. For sell orders that settle in Bitcoin, the standard maximum transaction size is currently 30 BTC per transaction, but this can be higher upon discussion with BullionStar.

Bitcoin as a currency is also fully integrated into the BullionStar website. Once you select Bitcoin as the default currency from the Currency drop-down menu at the top right hand side of the BullionStar website homepage, Bitcoin becomes the default transactional currency within the website, and furthermore, all spot prices and associated charts and all product prices on the website will be displayed in terms of BTC.

If logged into your Account, your ‘My Vault Balance’ and ‘Cash Balance’ will also be displayed in BTC. Account history and “My Vault Portfolio” are also displayed in BTC once Bitcoin is selected as the default currency option.

Buying Gold and Silver using Bitcoin

To purchase precious metals on the BullionStar website using Bitcoin:

1, Select Bitcoin in the currency drop-down menu at the upper right hand side of the BullionStar homepage. This will display all product prices in Bitcoin, and will also automatically populate Bitcoin as the default payment method in the online Checkout tool.

Bitcoin currency
Select Bitcoin in the Currency Dropdown menu

2. From the ‘Buy Gold and Silver’ menu option, select the precious metal products you wish to buy. Product prices will be displayed in Bitcoin (BTC).

For example, if you are interested in purchasing a PAMP minted 1 ounce gold bar, select ‘Gold Bars’ from the drop-down menu and the price in Bitcoin of a 1 ounce PAMP gold bar will be displayed in BTC, which, at the time of writing was BTC 0.675530.

BullionStar Product Prices displayed in BTC
BullionStar Product Prices displayed in BTC

3. Fill in the quantity of the product you wish to buy. Then click the green “Add to Cart” button to add the selected product to your Shopping Cart.

4. Repeat Step 3 to add other products to your Shopping Cart, or if finished shopping, select the green ‘Checkout’ button towards the top right hand side of the screen.

5. In the subsequent Checkout screen, Bitcoin will appear as the default payment method. Select your preferred ‘Delivery Method’ of either ‘Vault Storage’, ‘Shipping by Courier’, or ‘Personal Collection (Pick-up)’.

Checkout Screen with BTC as the default payment option
Checkout Screen with BTC as the default payment option

Ensure that the order total is less than or equal the maximum transaction size for a purchase order of BTC 200 per transaction.

Fill in your customer information, click the check boxes to indicate that you agree with the Terms and Conditions, and that you agree that the order is binding, then click the “Confirm” button to place your order.

6. After clicking “Confirm”, an order confirmation will appear on the screen. This order confirmation details your order number, the products ordered, the order date, your customer information, and the Bitcoin payment information, i.e. the payment amount in BTC and the unique Bitcoin address to which to send your payment to. An example of a Bitcoin payment amount and a Bitcoin address is shown in the screen below.

Bitcoin payment
Example of Bitcoin payment information on an order Confirmation

Your order confirmation is also sent to your email address.

Upon placing an order and hitting ‘Confirm’, you have 20 minutes in which to send your Bitcoin payment to the unique Bitcoin address that specified on your order confirmation.

7. As soon as BullionStar has received 6 block confirmations of your Bitcoin payment, which can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours, you will automatically receive a payment confirmation update to your email address. BullionStar will thereafter process your order.

For those unfamiliar with the Bitcoin transfer confirmation process, block confirmation is Bitcoin’s way of verifying transactions.

When a Bitcoin transaction is made, it is then verified by Bitcoin miners and is grouped with other transactions into a new block on the blockchain, upon which it is confirmed. Then when subsequent blocks are added to the block chain, all previous blocks are reconfirmed, a process which generates additional block confirmations.

Generally, merchants and retailers who accept Bitcoin require 6 confirmations to ensure that a transaction has been fully validated.

Upon receipt for 6 confirmations, BullionStar will proceed to process your order.

Selling Gold and Silver using Bitcoin

To sell gold or sell silver on the BullionStar website and receive the proceeds in the form of Bitcoin:

1. Select Bitcoin in the currency drop-down menu at the upper right hand side of the BullionStar homepage.

2. Select the “Sell Gold & Silver to us” option from the main menu.

Select the product(s) and quantity you wish to sell.

Ensure that the total value of the sell order in BTC is less than or equal to BullionStar's current online maximum transaction size for a sell order of BTC 30 per transaction.

(Note: If you would like to place a sell order for an amount larger than BTC 30, please send an e-mail to support@bullionstar.com or call +65 6284 4653  to enquire whether we can settle your sell order in Bitcoins.)

Enter your customer information. The Payment Instructions box will be defaulted to Bitcoin. In the Bitcoin Address box, enter the Bitcoin address where you want to receive your Bitcoin payment to. Then submit your order by clicking “Confirm”.

Bitcoin Sell screen
Bitcoin Sell screen. Payment Instructions defaults to Bitcoin and Bitcoin Address box

For more information, see BullionStar's help page "Bitcoin as Payment Option and Currency".

To convert Bitcoins to traditional fiat currency, one straightforward option is to use a Bitcoin exchange such as Bitstamp in the USA or FYB-SG in Singapore. The steps to follow would be to open an account with a Bitcoin exchange, transfer your Bitcoins to your account wallet on the Exchange, sell the Bitcoins on the exchange, and then withdraw the proceeds of the sale in a currency such as US Dollars.

Those who currently do not hold Bitcoin but who might want to can also open and fund a Bitcoin account with one of the Bitcoin Exchanges, and then buy Bitcoin to hold in their Exchange account. This Bitcoin could then be subsequently used in a transaction on the BullionStar website to buy gold or buy silver.

BullionStar Charts: View and Create Bitcoin Charts

Note that historic Bitcoin prices are also available on the BullionStar Charts page, where Bitcoin is listed under the Currencies category along with 18 major currencies. The BullionStar charting tool allows you to chart the price of Bitcoin in terms of other currencies and in terms of precious metals, commodities, major stocks, popular stock indices, and in terms of the prices of BullionStar’s product range.

With a Bitcoin price history that goes back to January 2011, you can now use BullionStar charting tools to check and view the price action of Bitcoin for the last 6 and a half years.