Tag Archives: Shanghai International Gold Exchange

Spectacular Chinese Gold Demand 2015 Fully Denied By GFMS And Mainstream Media

Debunking the Thomson Reuters GFMS Gold Survey 2016 report. New information provides a more detailed perspective on the Chinese domestic gold market. 

In the Gold Survey 2016 report by GFMS that covers the global gold market for calendar year 2015 Chinese gold consumption was assessed at 867 tonnes. As Chinese wholesale demand, measured by withdrawals from Shanghai Gold Exchange designated vaults, accounted for 2,596 tonnes in 2015 the difference reached an extraordinary peak for the year. In an attempt to explain the 1,729 tonne gap GFMS presents three brand new (misleading) arguments in the Gold Survey 2016 and reused one old argument, while it abandoned five arguments previously put forward in Gold Survey reports and by GFMS employees at forums. Very few of all these arguments have ever proven to be valid, illustrated by the fact that GFMS perpetually keeps making up new ones, and thus gold investors around the world continue to be fooled about Chinese gold demand. For some reason GFMS is restrained in disclosing that any individual or institution in China can directly buy and withdraw gold at the Shanghai Gold Exchange, which is the most significant reason for the discrepancy in question.

According to my estimates true Chinese gold demand in 2015 must have been north of 2,250 tonnes.

The reason I keep writing about this subject (the discrepancy in question) is that it eventually will enable me to show that global physical gold supply and demand as presented by GFMS is just the tip of the iceberg. And, as stated in my previous post true physical supply and demand is far more relevant to the gold price than the numbers by GFMS.

New Information has enabled me to shine a fresh light on the Chinese domestic gold market, so we’ll zoom in once again to get the best assessment of the mechanics of this market. This post is part two of an overview of the Chinese gold market for 2015. In the first part we focused on the (paper) volumes traded on the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) and Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI). In this post we’ll focus on the size and mechanics of the Chinese physical gold market, while at the same time addressing the fallacious information in the Gold Survey 2016 (GS2016).

The Gold Surplus In China According to GFMS

First, let’s have a look at an overview of the key supply and demand data points for 2013, 2014 and 2015, as disclosed in Gold Survey reports by GFMS.

GFMS SD 2013-14-15
Exhibit 1.

Without GFMS mentioning the volume of SGE withdrawals for 2015 (2,596 tonnes) in the GS2016 they disclose apparent supply in the Chinese domestic gold market at 2,293 tonnes. Mine output accounted for 458 tonnes (page 22), scrap supply for 225 tonnes (page 36) and net import was 1,610 tonnes (page 54). The latter is incorrect because GFMS has double counted 63 tonnes Australia exported to China, as demonstrated in my post Australia Customs Department Confirms BullionStar’s Analysis On Gold Export To China, but the let’s not nitpick.

On other pages in the GS2016 we read total (consumer) demand for 2015 was 867 tonnes (page 52), consisting of retail bar demand at 199 tonnes (page 52) and gold fabrication at 668 tonnes (page 41). According to their own data there was a surplus of 1,426 tonnes (2,293 – 867) in the Chinese gold market. Whilst, in 2013 the surplus accounted for 826 tonnes and in 2014 for 917 tonnes, according to data disclosed in previous Gold Survey reports. Meaning, in the past three years GFMS has observed 3,169 tonnes (826 + 917 + 1,426) that were supplied to China not to meet demand, but for reasons that are constantly changing - wait till we get to the plea.

Remarkably, in the GS2016 report GFMS writes:

Hong Kong remained the primary conduit of Chinese gold imports, though its share has been contracting since 2013 … Gold import from this conduit was traditionally regarded as a simple proxy to estimate Chinese consumption … The declining dominance of Hong Kong and the increasing proportion directly routed into Beijing and Shanghai therefore points to the necessity of changes on methodology to calculate Chinese gold demand.

Exhibit 2.

GFMS states that when all Chinese imports came in through Hong Kong this inflow was “regarded as a simple proxy to estimate Chinese consumption”, but now gold is also being imported directly from countries like Australia, the UK and Switzerland, such inflow “points to the necessity of changes on methodology to calculate Chinese gold demand”. How can it be that a couple of years ago Chinese gold import from Hong Kong reflected demand, but a few years later direct massive additional import from the UK and Australia does not reflect demand?

As you probably know (otherwise you can read it here) most of the gold supply in China flows through the SGE. Consequently wholesale demand can be measured by the amount of gold withdrawn from SGE designated vaults. Comparable to the difference between apparent supply and consumer demand shown in exhibit 1, is the difference between SGE withdrawals and consumer demand – the latter being even wider.

Chinese domestic gold market S&D 2015
Exhibit 3.

In the GS2016 GFMS has written a chapter fully dedicated to the humongous difference between SGE withdrawals and their assessment of demand. The chapter is titled “A Review And Explanation Of How China’s SGE’s Withdraw Numbers Are Impacted By Other Trading Activities”. In this post we’ll only briefly discuss whether the arguments are valid, as one of them has to do with China’s highly complex VAT system and I like to expand on this subject in detail in a separated post. However, we’ll expose more of the mechanics of the Chinese domestic gold market in this post, which conveniently demonstrates why nearly all the arguments by GFMS that will be discussed later on are bogus.

This might surprise you, but I actually had fruitful correspondence in the past months with a Senior Precious Metals Analyst at GFMS and a Senior Analyst at Metals Focus (MF). Both gentlemen have been very helpful in sharing their methodology for computing (Chinese) physical supply and demand data. I have to say both of them have answered all my questions. This service is seldom provided by the the World Gold Council, the Bank Of England or the London Bullion Market Association. Based on the information shared by GFMS and MF I’ve refined my view on our on-going disagreement with respect to the Chinese gold demand.

The Mechanics Of The Chinese Domestic Gold Market And Estimating True Chinese gold demand.

Let us refresh our memory regarding the structure of this market. In the Chinese domestic gold market nearly all physical gold supply and demand flows through the SGE because all bullion import1 into the domestic market is required to be sold first through the SGE and there are rules and tax incentives that funnel nearly all domestic mine output and scrap supply through the central bourse. As gold in the Chinese domestic market is not allowed to be exported1, the amount of gold withdrawn from SGE designated vaults therefore serves as a decent indicator for wholesale demand.

However, there are a few possibilities through which SGE withdrawals can be distorted for measuring demand.

  • If metal is in some manner recycled2 through the central bourse. When gold is bought and withdrawn from the SGE vaults and promptly sold and deposited into SGE vaults (for example though process scrap), these flows would inflate SGE withdrawals while not having a net effect on the price of gold, hence the related supply and demand volumes would be deceiving. Although article 23 from the Detailed Rules for Physical Delivery Of the Shanghai Gold Exchange states that bars withdrawn from SGE designated vaults are not allowed to re-enter these vaults, this rule does not fully prevent gold from being recycled through the exchange. If bars withdrawn are re-melted and assayed by an SGE approved refinery they are allowed back into the vaults. And thus, some recycled gold can inflate SGE withdrawals as a measure for true demand.
  • Another example that could distort SGE withdrawals is when international members would withdraw gold from vaults of the SGEI in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone2 (SFTZ), these withdrawals are included in the total SGE withdrawal figure, to store elsewhere in the SFTZ or export abroad1.

For ease of reference we’ll label the amount of gold recycled through the SGE that has no net effect on the price, and gold withdrawn from SGEI vaults that is not imported into the Chinese domestic market as distortion2.

Therefor, in order for us to make the best estimate of true Chinese gold demand we should subtract the amount of distortion from SGE withdrawals. The crux of true Chinese gold demand is establishing the amount of distortion, that’s it.

Previously I assumed the scrap numbers by GFMS mainly reflected gold that was making it’s way back to the SGE and these flows included disinvestment. Both assumptions appeared to be false.

  1. Scrap numbers from GFMS and MF, although they’re certainly not equal, are collected from refiners that are not all SGE members. Implying not all refineries scrap is making its way to the SGE, but is sold through other channels.
  2. Scrap numbers from GFMS and MF include jewelry and industrial products sold back from consumers, they do not include disinvestment that flows directly through refineries to the SGE. GFMS does measure disinvestment at retail level, for example, when people sell bars back to banks these will get netted out to compute net retail bar demand. But if an affluent investor or institution wants to sell (disinvest) 500 Kg they’re likely to approach a refinery directly.

In my nomenclature “distortion2” is the part that inflates SGE withdrawals as a measure for demand, “scrap” is supply from sold fabricated products like old jewelry, and “disinvestment” is supply coming from investment bars sold directly to refineries making its way to the SGE.

As a consequence, these new insights regarding scrap and disinvestment supply have changed my perspective on the Chinese supply and demand balance.

To reach a more clear understanding of what was just described, I’ve conceived an exemplar graph to visually interpret the Chinese physical gold supply and demand balance. Have a look.

Example Chinese domestic gold market S&D
Exhibit 4.

As you can see in the graph above total supply and total demand are exactly equal, this is because one cannot sell gold without a buyer or buy gold without a seller. Consequently we can gauge demand by measuring supply. Please note, in the supply and demand balance shown above, and in our further investigation, two elements are left out. On the supply side I left out stock carry over in SGE vaults from previous years, as this information is not publicly available. On the demand side I left out gold bought at the SGE that was not withdrawn from the vaults, as this information is also unknown.

In all its simplicity the example chart shows that the difference between consumer demand and true Chinese gold demand is caused by direct purchases from individual and institutional clients at the SGE. While GFMS merely counts demand at retail level, by jewelry and bar sales at shops and banks, the real action is at wholesale level, at the SGE.

GFMS fully neglects direct purchases at the SGE (demand) and any corresponding disinvestment to the SGE (supply). Hence our disagreement.

Estimate of SGE withdrawals distribution
Exhibit 5. According to my analysis the PBOC does not buy its gold through the SGE. For more information read my post PBOC Gold Purchases: Separating Facts from Speculation.

At the moment the SGE has almost 10,000 institutional and over 8.3 million individual clients that are able to buy gold directly at the SGE. There is even an SGE smartphone application called “Yijintong” that allows anyone with an internet connection to open an SGE account and trade directly on the SGE wholesale platform enjoying the lowest spreads in China. Furthermore, the SGE counts 183 domestic members and 63 international members.

Exhibit 6. Screenshot Yijintong.

From the SGE (December 2015):

Yijintong is the first professional mobile terminal of state-level gold market jointly researched and developed by the Gold Exchange and all its members …

Yijintong has comprehensive functions and advanced systems, which are compatible with various Android and iOS operating systems. Right now, it possesses market, transaction, search and information functions, so investors can conduct transactions via mobile phones … In early 2016, Yijintong will support mobile phone online account opening. After that, new users will be able to establish Shanghai Gold Exchange’s “Gold Account” business on their mobile phones directly, and avoid the step of visiting stores. It has brought convenience for personal investors to participate in gold and silver transactions.

Investors can log into Yijintong through mobile phones to conduct daily and nightly market transactions and search, utilizing all-day mobile phone services for gold and silver transactions, allowing Yijintong to become a mobile phone gold and silver investment edge tool that integrates functions and practicability, which also helps investors to do well in both work and financial management.

Exhibit 7.

SGE app qr code

Exhibit 8. Download methods: iOS and Android mobile phone users can scan the QR code and open it in the browser to download and install directly.

The China Gold Association (CGA) makes yearly estimates of direct purchases at the SGE. In their Gold Yearbook 2013 direct purchases (net investment) were assessed at 1,022 tonnes, computed as SGE withdrawals minus consumer demand. The CGA neglects any distortion flowing through the SGE hence I stopped using their methodology. Have a look at the screenshot below.

CGA Gold Yearbook 2013 demand
Exhibit 9. CGA Yearbook 2013: framed in black is total demand 2013 in tonnes (Red = jewelry manufacturing, blue = small bar production (sold at ie banks) , purple = industrial material, turquoise = coin manufacturing, yellow = other, green = net investment)

Unfortunately me personally can’t exactly compute true Chinese gold demand, as I don’t have business relationships with all Chinese refineries to gauge disinvestment supply flowing to the SGE. In any case, these are the formulas:

True Chinese demand = net import into the Chinese domestic market1 + scrap + disinvestment + domestic mine output

Although a tad complex, the exact formula including SGE withdrawals is:

SGE withdrawals = net import into the Chinese domestic market1 + (domestic mine output – domestic mine output that not flows to the SGE) + (scrap – scrap that not flows to the SGE) + disinvestment + distortion + (an amount equal to “domestic mine output that not flows to the SGE + scrap that not flows to the SGE” being disinvestment or distortion)

Although not all scrap as disclosed by GFMS ends up at the SGE, it’s definitely all genuine supply and therefore useful in the first formula above. Same goes for domestic mine output.

The part of scrap and domestic mine output that doesn’t travel to the SGE (although being genuine supply) must be replaced by either disinvestment or distortion at the SGE (exhibit 4). Note, in the knowledge direct purchases from the SGE are immense in China (exhibit 9) we can safely assume that disinvestment flows to the SGE are sizable as well.

My new insights unfortunately do not imply that we can make a more precise estimate of true Chinese gold demand. However, I think the best approach is to set the lower bound of true Chinese gold demand at net import1 + mine output + scrap. While I think true demand is likely higher because disinvestment to the SGE can be significant.

Sadly because disinvestment is unknown, distortion is also unknown (exhibit 4)

Let’s return to our discussion with GFMS. The big question is of course, how can total Chinese gold demand by GFMS be 867 tonnes, in a market where mining output accounted for 450 tonnes (source), net imports by my calculations accounted for 1,575 tonnes1, and there is also scrap and disinvestment supply, but export is prohibited and the premium on gold in China was positive throughout the whole year?! This cannot be.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE gold premium 2015
Exhibit 10.

I would like to show a real life example to illustrate what’s going on the Chinese gold market: In 2015 the Chinese stock market (the Shanghai Composite Index) declined by 40 % from June till August. Seeking for a safe haven the Chinese bought physical gold en masse directly at the SGE; some weekly withdrawals in July, August and September transcended 70 tonnes. The gold was of course sourced by imports (look at the premium in exhibit 10), yet GFMS doesn’t consider this to be demand.

SCI vs SGE withdrawals
Exhibit 11. 

The Arguments

Although true Chinese demand cannot be less than SGE withdrawals minus distortion, GFMS pretends their arguments can explain the gigantic gap between SGE withdrawals and consumer demand. Illustrated in the chart below.

Chinese domestic gold market S&D 2013 - 2015
Exhibit 12.

All arguments presented can only explain the size of distortion (exhibit 4), not the difference between SGE withdrawals and consumer demand! Actually, I should stop writing here, but I won’t. Let’s briefly go through these arguments to see if they make any sense.

The chapter in question, “A Review And Explanation Of How China’s SGE’s Withdraw Numbers Are Impacted By Other Trading Activities” (Gold Survey 2016), surprisingly lists three new arguments…

  • Tax avoidance (page 56).
  • Financial statement window dressing (page 58).
  • Retailers selling unsold inventories directly to refiners (page 58)

…and one old argument:

  • Gold leasing activities and arbitrage opportunities (in China gold is money at lower cost) (Gold Survey 2016, page 57, Gold Survey 2015, page 78)

Given the fact GFMS has gone all out in this chapter one would assume it to be complete. But strangely, arguments presented in prior Gold Survey reports and at forums have been abandoned. The following arguments were presented by GFMS in recent years:

  • Wholesale stock inventory growth (Augustus 2013) (Gold Survey 2014, page 88)
  • Arbitrage refining (Gold Survey 2014, page 88) (Reuters Global Gold Forum 2015)
  • Round tripping (Gold Survey 2014, page 88) (Gold Survey 2015, page 78, 82)
  • Chinese commercial bank assets to back investment products. “The higher levels of imports, and withdrawals, are boosted by a number of factors, but notably by gold’s use as an asset class and the requirement for commercial banks to hold physical gold to support investment products.” (Gold Survey 2015, page 78).
  • Defaulting gold enterprises sent inventory directly to refiners and SGE (Gold Survey 2015 Q2, page 7)

What happened to arbitrage refining as described by GFMS Senior Precious Metals Analyst Samson Li at the Reuters Gold Forum in 2015? Has this arbitrage opportunity ever existed or did the market change and now the opportunity is closed? I never thought this argument was very compelling. Maybe GFMS changed its mind on arbitrage refining.

What happened to the round tripping of gold between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, put forward in the Gold Survey 2014 and 2015 as a reason that inflated SGE withdrawals? Did criminals stop using this scheme, or did GFMS find out it never inflated withdrawals because gold flows through Free Trade Zones are separated from the Chinese domestic gold market and the SGE system1? In several posts I’ve extensively shown round tripping does not inflate SGE withdrawals, for more information click here.

What happened to the argument Chinese commercial banks buy and withdraw gold at the SGE to back investment products they offer to customers, a practice which boosts import and withdrawals but was not considered demand by GFMS? Or is it demand now, as GFMS dropped this argument from the list? Ok, gotcha.

Now briefly about the new arguments listed by GFMS in the GS2016:

  • Tax avoidance.

The definition of tax avoidance is that it’s a legal way to pay as little tax as possible. However, the scheme GFMS describes in the GS2016 report is tax evasion, which is highly illegal, and worst case the perpetrator can suffer life imprisonment. This is not some legal loophole as GFMS purports (page 56).

We initially became aware of the scheme in 2013 when it first emerged, but based on information gathered from our contacts, the number of industry participants mushroomed in 2014 and 2015 as other traders became aware of the potential loophole.

By writing the scheme is a way of tax avoidance and a loophole GFSM is misleading their readers. In addition, this illegal scheme did not emerge in 2013. The tax rules are now the same as when the SGE was erected in 2002. In fact, if you click here, you can read an article about the same crimes in 2009. But as mentioned before, we’ll save the details for a forthcoming post, when we’ll also address “financial statement window dressing” and “retailers selling unsold inventories directly to refiners”.

About gold leasing that would inflate SGE withdrawals, I’ve written numerous blog posts about this in the past. Best you can read my post Chinese Commodity Financing Deals Explained. In all the posts I’ve written over the years on the subject I’ve stated that the gold leased is not likely to leave the SGE vaults except when the gold will be used for jewelry manufacturing (which is genuine demand). Effectively, all the gold leasing by enterprises, investors and speculators to acquire cheap funding happens within the SGE system and do not inflate withdrawals. Ironically, in the latest World Gold Council (WGC) report it’s written [brackets added by me]:

Over recent years we have observed a rising number of commercial banks participating in the gold leasing market. … It’s estimated that around 10% of the leased gold leaves the SGE’s vaults. The majority is for financing purposes and is sold at the SGE [and stays within the SGE vaults] for cash settlement.

So, I hope to have clarified why according to my estimates true Chinese gold demand in 2015 must have been north of 2,250 tonnes (import 1,575 tonnes, mine output 450 tonnes, scrap supply 225 tonnes). More details in the next post when we will discuss the tax scheme.


1. Estimating China’s net gold import is difficult. For one, because China’s customs department doesn’t publicly disclose its cross-border trade statistics for gold so we depend on bullion export data (HS code 7108) from the rest of the world. Data from Hong Kong, the UK, Switzerland, the US, Canada and Australia is publicly available, but for example data from South Africa is not. Therefor provisional data on China’s net import is not always fully accurate. Only when the CGA publishes the import amount in their Gold Yearbook can we know for sure. My estimate is 1,575 tonnes for 2015.

Net bullion exports to China in 2015: Hong Kong 861 tonnes, Switzerland 292 tonnes, the UK 285 tonnes, the US 6 tonnes, Japan 5 tonnes, Australia 124 tonnes, Canada 3 tonnes.

In China gold is not allowed to be exported from the domestic market (SGE Main Board). However, gold is allowed to be imported into / exported from China through processing trade, usually done in Free Trade Zones. This is the only way gold can be exported from China. Note, processing trade flows are completely separated from the Chinese domestic gold market. For detailed information read my post Chinese Cross-Border Gold Trade Rules.

In order to track how much gold China is net importing, it’s necessary to net out bullion export to China by foreign countries, with import from China by foreign countries (HS code 7108). Although, it’s also possible that bullion is imported into China through processing trade and exported as jewelry (China has a vast jewelry manufacturing industry), which falls under a separated trade category (HS code 7113). Suppose, a jewelry manufacturer in Shenzhen import 2 tonnes of gold from Hong Kong under HS code 7108 through processing trade, processes the gold into jewelry to subsequently export the finished products back to Hong Kong under HS code 7113. This would blur our view on net bullion import by China, however I neglect this phenomenon in my calculations.

The fine gold content in jewelry exported from China (HS code 7113) is very difficult to measure as the total value of the products shipped also contain other precious metals, gems and includes the fabrication costs. Hence, the value and weight of jewelry exported from China does not reveal the fine gold content. The reason why I do not adjust net bullion inflows into China by jewelry outflow is because the gold content in jewelry exported from China is roughly offset by imports of gold doré or gold as a by product in ores and concentrates.

For example, the most recent CGA Yearbook in my possession, covering calendar year 2014 (exhibit 13), states “Chinese domestic and overseas gold mining output” was 512.775 tonnes. In the same report it’s mentioned “domestic mining output” accounted for 451.799 tonnes, implying overseas mine supply accounted for 60.976 tonnes. And thus, I net out overseas mining imported into China (60.976 tonnes) against jewelry exported from China. If I find more information on Chinese cross-border gold trade flows I will adjust my methodology accordingly.

Exhibit 13. Screenshot taken from my hard copy of the CGA Yearbook 2014. We can see framed in blue is “domestic and overseas mine supply”, framed in red is “gold import” and framed in green is “total supply”. Total supply, as disclosed by the CGA, equals SGE withdrawals for 2014, likewise it did for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. 

Last but not least, gold can be imported through processing trade into the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ) where the Shanghai International God Exchange (SGEI) vaults are located. Potentially, this gold in SGEI vaults, once sold to foreigners is withdrawn and exported abroad (inflating SGE withdrawals). However, a source at ICBC has indicated to me that regarding physical flows the SGEI is mainly used by Chinese domestic banks to import gold into the Chinese domestic market, at least this was the case until December 2015. So I don’t see a possibility there were exorbitant large volumes of gold in SGEI vaults in 2015, or have been withdrawn and exported.

The only noteworthy imports from China (the SGEI) I have observed are by India, which has taken in 370 Kg during 2015 (source Zauba), and by Thailand that presumably bought 7 tonnes (source COMTRADE).

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 11.20.26 am Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 11.21.56 am Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 11.22.20 am Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 12.11.32 pmExhibit 14.

iAu9999 & iAu9999 OTC SGE
Exhibit 15. Weekly trading volume of the most popular SGEI contract iAu99.99, traded on-exchange and in the OTC market.

For more information on the SGEI read my posts, Workings Of The Shanghai International Gold Exchange and What Happened To The Shanghai International Gold Exchange?

2. For the sake of simplicity I have categorized under “distortion” everything that is not true demand, namely: process scrap, stock inventory change, arbitrage refining (if it exists), the VAT scheme, smuggling and SGEI withdrawals.

SGE Gold Trading Volume 2015 Up 84 % Y/Y Due To International Board

In two parts I will present an overview of the Chinese gold market for calendar year 2015. In this part we’ll focus on Shanghai Gold Exchange trading volumes. In the next post we’ll focus on physical supply and demand flows in Chinese gold market in 2015.

First, let us quickly assess the core volume data of the largest precious metals exchanges in China and the US. Physical and derivative gold trading at the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) in 2015 reached 17,033 tonnes, up by 84 % from 9,243 tonnes in 2014. Gold futures trading at the Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) in 2015 accounted for 25,421 tonnes, up 7 % from 23,750 tonnes in 2014. Consequently, total wholesale trading volume in China (SGE + SHFE) was 42,454 in 2015, up 29 % year on year. In New York at the COMEX total gold futures volume reached 128,844 tonnes for the year 2015, up 3 % from a year earlier. COMEX trading volume was three times as large as the total volume in China.

COMEX vs SGE & SHFE gold volume 2015 pie chart

It’s unknown how much gold is traded in the Over-The-Counter London Bullion Market. However, a survey conducted by the LBMA in 2011 pointed out approximately 680,783 tonnes of gold per year change hands through the London based market.

All tonnages mentioned in this post are counted single-sided.

The Shanghai Gold Exchange

There are a few more interesting data points to be found in SGE trading for 2015 when examining the developments of the specific contracts.

At the SGE two types of gold products (/contracts) can be traded: physical products and deferred products. The physical contracts traded on the Main Board (SGE / domestic market) are:

  • Au50g (50 gram gold bar, 9999 fine)
  • Au100g (100 gram gold bar, 9999 fine)
  • Au99.99 (1 Kg gold ingot, 9999 fine)
  • Au99.95 (3 Kg gold ingot, 9995 fine)
  • Au99.5 (12.5 Kg gold ingot, 995 fine)

The physical contracts traded on the International Board (SGEI / international market) are:

  • iAu100g (100 gram gold bar, 9999 fine)
  • iAu99.99 (1 Kg gold ingot, 9999 fine)
  • iAu99.5 (12.5 Kg gold ingot, 995 fine)

The contracts above cannot be traded on margin and are settled (/delivered inside SGE(I) designated vaults) immediately (T+0), therefor they embody pure physical trading.

The deferred contracts (only traded on the Main Board) are:

  • Au(T+D) (1 Kg per lot, delivery in 3 Kg or 1 Kg ingots)
  • Au(T+N1) (100 gram per lot, delivery in 1 Kg ingots)
  • Au(T+N2) (100 gram per lot, delivery in 1 Kg ingots)
  • mAu(T+D) (100 gram per lot, delivery in 1 Kg ingots)

Because the deferred contracts are traded on margin and there is no fixed delivery date, these derivative products embody paper trading.

All SGE contracts can be traded competitively over the Exchange, but the physical contracts can also be negotiated bilaterally in the Over-The-Counter (OTC) market and then settled through the SGE system. The SGE publishes the volume of these OTC trades.

The most traded contract on the Exchange in 2015 was the deferred product Au(T+D). In total Au(T+D) volume accounted for 5,648 tonnes, up 30 % from the previous year. The second most traded contract was the physical product Au99.99, of which 3,465 tonnes changed hands, up 65 % from 2014 - although, if we include OTC trading total Au99.99 volume for 2015 reached 6,998 tonnes, which would make it the number one contract.

Shanghai Gold Exchange Trading Volume 2015
The contracts Au99.5 and iA99.5 are not included in the chart, as the products have not been traded. This underlines the PBOC, that would prefer to buy 12.5 Kg bars, is not buying gold through the SGE.

Shanghai Gold Exchange Yearly Trading Volume 2002 - 2015

Physical trading (including OTC activity) at the SGE in 2015 accounted for 9,745 tonnes (57%), versus 7,288 tonnes in paper trading (43 %).

The growth in total gold trading at the SGE in 2015 was the strongest since the financial crisis erupted in 2008. According to my analysis one reason for this has been the opening of the Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI) in September 2014.

The SGE system services gold trading for the domestic Chinese gold market. This gold traded over the SGE system is prohibited from being exported. The SGEI is a subsidiary of the SGE located in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, where international members of the Exchange can import, trade and export gold. In terms of physical gold flows the SGE and SGEI are separated venues. For more information please read my previous post, “Workings Of The Shanghai International Gold Exchange”.

On the surface it looks as if the SGEI has been a failure. The most traded contract at the International Board is iAu99.99. At the start of 2015 iAu99.99 trading was weak and after a short peak in April, volume came down to practically nil throughout the middle and the end of the year. Hence, most analysts stated the SGEI was dead. There are two important points that undermine this statement.

The first point is that iAu99.99 can be traded in the OTC market. When it appeared that trading of iAu99.99 was dying out at the Exchange, in the OTC market activity continued. There is no constant trading in iAu99.99 in the OTC market, but the volumes are significantly higher than iAu99.99 trading over the Exchange (see the chart below).

iAu99.99 SGEI volume

Tellingly, the iAu99.99 trades in the OTC market are all performed in giant batches of 100 or 1000 Kg. Have a look at the data labels in the chart below. We can see that all weekly OTC iAu99.99 volumes are in sizes one hundred (blue bars) or one thousand (red bars) 1 Kg bars. For example, look at the week that ended 3 July 2015, when exactly 73,000 Kg’s were traded. In theory 20,855 Kg’s were traded on Monday and 52,145 Kg’s on Thursday, aggregating to 73,000 Kg’s in total for the week. Though, this coincidence cannot have occurred each and every week. More likely the iAu99.99 traders in the OTC market always buy and sell per 100 or 1000 Kg’s. No other SGE or SGEI contract shows this bulky trading pattern.

Weekly iAu9999 OTC Trading Volume

The second point is that international members of the Exchange are not only allowed to trade the contracts on the International Board, they’re also allowed to trade the domestic contracts, they’re just not allowed to withdraw the metal from domestic vaults. The international members that focus on arbitraging any price differentials between the US and China will prefer the most liquid contracts on the Exchange. So, for this purpose the international members would trade Au99.99 and Au(T+D). Sources at the SGE confirmed to me that indeed international members are trading Main Board contracts.

If we look at the next chart, we can see that since the inception of the SGEI in September 2014 total SGE volume (including domestic, international, physical and deferred contracts) increased significantly. My conclusion is that the gateway of the SGEI has increased liquidity at the Exchange in Shanghai and enhanced the connection between the Chinese and Western gold markets.

Total Weekly SGE Trading Volume

I realize the system of the SGE and SGEI, how trading and physical gold flows are divided, is not easy to understand. The best I can do to clarify this is to present the diagram furnished by the SGE showing how trading in all contracts by all customers is organized (see below). In the next post we’ll examine the physical gold flows going through China and the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 5.31.17 pm
Courtesy SGE.

Note, domestic members/customers are allowed to use onshore renminbi to trade all products on the Main Board, but are also allowed to use onshore renminbi to trade all products on the International Board (although load-in and load-out metal from the vaults is prohibited). In turn, international members are allowed to use offshore renminbi to trade all contracts on the International Board, but are also allowed to use offshore renminbi to trade most contracts on the Main Board (although load-in and load-out metal from the vaults is prohibited).

Kazakhstan & China Join Forces In Gold Market

Silk Road Gold Trading Kicks Off

The other day I bumped into a small but potentially important news item on the website of the Shanghai Gold Exchange. The article was published in Mandarin, of course, as the Chinese (authorities) hardly ever publish valuable information in English – most articles published in English have been intentionally written to communicate what the State Council wants the West to hear. In the article it’s described a financial delegation from Kazakhstan visited the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) to discuss cooperation in gold trading along One Belt One Road (OBOR), also referred to as the new Silk Road, that reaches over the whole Eurasian continent. From the SGE (exclusively translated by BullionStar):

A group led by Kairat Kelimbetov, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Kazakhstan International Financial Center, visited the Exchange

At noon on 26 February 2016 a group led by Kairat Kelimbetov, President of the Astana International Financial Center and former President of the National Bank of Kazakhstan, visited the Shanghai Gold Exchange and held talks with President Jiao Jinpu. Both parties reached consensus on strengthening cooperation and seeking development in the gold market under the “One Belt One Road” project. Zuo Qihan, Kazakhstan consulate general in Shanghai, Shen Gang, Vice General Manager of the Exchange and Zhuang Xiao, CTO, attended the meeting.

Although the article lacks any detail, we can discover its potential impact if we study the financial and political backdrop.

Kelimbetov has an impressive track record. Previously he served as the Minister of the National Economy, Deputy Prime Minister and Governor of the National Bank of Kazakhstan. Currently, he’s the head of the brand new Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) that was officially launched in January 2016, aimed to become one of the top 10 financial centers in Asia and one of the top 30 financial centers in the world by 2020. The government of Kazakhstan contributes full support to the AIFC .

Kairat Kelimbetov and Jiao Jinpu at the SGE
26 February 2016, on the left SGE President Jiao Jinpu, in the middle AIFC President Kairat Kelimbetov. Courtesy SGE.

The main language spoken at the AIFC is English and the center includes an independent court for financial and investment disputes using English law. Kenneth Rogoff, Professor at Harvard University and former chief economist at the IMF, has said with English law at the basis the AIFC will be a game changer.

The AIFC decree signed in May 2015 at the Astana Economic Forum (AEF) by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, commands the National Bank of Kazakhstan and the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange to relocate from the city of Almaty to Astana. The AIFC will be installed on the premises of the EXPO 2017 starting from 1 January 2018.

At the AEF Nazarbayev stated the financial crisis that broke out in 2008 is systemic and will only end when the key cause is eliminated: the profound accumulated imbalances in the currency markets. He added that these hidden, latent roots of the crisis have spawned currency wars and economic wars in the form of sanctions hurting many countries. Nazarbayev said, “This is what generates an increase in confrontation between East and West, the U.S. and NATO against Russia and China, … deep reforms are needed for sustained economic growth.”

Nazarbayev may 2015 AEF
Nazarbayev speaking at the AEF 22 May 2015.

Nazarbayev has always been a vocal critic of US supremacy and an advocate of gold. Under his guidance, in 2011 the National Bank of Kazakhstan has taken the pre-emptive right to buy all domestic gold mine output to strengthen its international reserves and develop the local gold industry. In 2012 a (third) large gold refinery, Tau-Ken Altyn, was erected as one of the key projects of the Astana Industrial Park, to ensure all domestic mine output can be refined in Kazakhstan.

President Nazarbayev paid a visit to the Tau-Ken Altyn refinery in December 2013, as can be seen in the video below starting at 1:13. Tau-Ken Altyn can produce 12.5 Kg investment bars for the central bank, as well as 100 gram and 1 Kg bars for personal investment.

Although official documentation is lacking, from the news item at the SGE website I assume the AIFC has included the Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI) for servicing gold trading in renminbi – supporting the internationalization of the renminbi.

It’s unclear if the AIFC has exclusively attracted the SGEI platform for gold trading. On 11 March 2016 Kelimbetov visited London where he held a meeting with the heads of UK government institutions, large investment banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS) and international financial organizations to discuss the AIFC’s progress. Though, Kazakhstan is likely to prefer cooperating with its Chinese partner in gold business, as both nations share a common interests of making a fist against US dollar domination.

The central banks of Kazakhstan and China are among the most aggressive gold buyers in the world. Since 2010 the official gold reserves of Kazakhstan have grown from 67 metric to 222 tonnes. In turn, over the same time horizon China has increased its official gold reserves from 1,054 tonnes to 1,762 tonnes, according to official statistics – it’s thought China’s central bank has significantly more gold than it publicly discloses.

Kazakhstan & China Gold Reserves 2011 2015

The central banks of numerous other countries in (central) Asia are buying gold as well, in example Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, sharing an objective to diversify foreign exchange reserves and unwind the US dollar hegemony.

But increasing their official gold reserves is not all these countries do, it’s part of something bigger. In recent years a vast movement of economic collaborations between countries in Eurasia has unfolded. One of these collaborations is the Silk Road economic project (/OBOR) that was launched in 2013. Partially funded by China’s foreign exchange reserves the project focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. Aside from its independent activities OBOR also provides the structure to connect other collaborations, of which the most relevant ones are:

  • The Shanghai Corporation Organization (SCO). The SCO is a political, economic and military alliance, comprising the member states Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, that was launched in 1996.
  • The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Launched in 2014 the EEU members Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan now form a space that is modeled on the European Economic Community.
  • The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The AIIB is an international financial institution, erected to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, launched in 2015 counting 57 prospective founding members. Most Asian (except Japan) and European countries participate in the AIIB.

If we look closely we can observe that China is slowly pushing for more integration of the clubs mentioned above with OBOR. For example, in May 2015 Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin signed a decree on cooperation in tying the development of the EEU with OBOR and in December 2015 the first discussions were held to integrate the SCO with OBOR. (Chinese state press agency Xinhua has a dedicated Silk Road web page that covers developments regarding OBOR and the SCO, EEU and AIIB.)

Kazakhstan recently opened a logistics terminal in Lianyungang, China, and completed the construction of its Zhezkazgan-Beineu railway to create a better connection for China through Kazakhstan to the Caspian seaports. “All these projects are aimed at increasing the transit potential of both our country and the whole of the Eurasian Economic Union,” said Nazarbayev at the AEF on 22 May 2015. “This is the new Silk Road. Forty countries have showed an interest in free trade with the Eurasian Economic Union. But we must not stop there. I propose to create a new … Eurasian transcontinental corridor.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 11.23.11 pm
Kazakhstan has a strategic position in Eurasia.

Coincidentally, also on 22 May 2015 the Silk Road Gold Fund was launched at a conference in Xi’an, China, with the subject of “Serve the New Strategy of the Silk Road, Lead the New Development of Gold”. From iFeng we can read (exclusively translated by BullionStar):

Representatives from gold and financial institutions talked freely about bringing gold’s superiority into full play, seizing the historic and strategic opportunity of One Belt One Road [OBOR], strengthening bank-enterprise cooperation and financial-industrial combination, and leading the transformation and upgrading of the gold industry under the economic background of the new normal.

Time will tell to what extent the cooperation between the SGEI and the AIFC will execute what this quote describes. Namely, increasing gold business in the economies along the Silk Road.

A few days later in May 2015 China unveiled the Silk Road Gold Fund to the English-speaking world. From Xinhua:

The fund, led by Shanghai Gold Exchange, is expected to raise an estimated 100 billion yuan in three phases.

…Among the 65 countries along the routes of the Silk Road economic belt … there are numerous Asian countries identified as important reserve bases and consumers of gold.

…About 60 countries have invested in the fund, which will in turn facilitate gold purchase for the central banks of member states to increase their holdings of the precious metal, …

I’m not sure if the National Bank of Kazakhstan will buy its gold through the SGEI anytime soon, more likely some of Kazakhstan’s gold production will be sold through the Chinese exchange.

From all information presented above the intensions of China and numerous Asian countries with respect to gold and the Silk Road are clear. Through OBOR China will not only use its foreign exchange reserves for infrastructure in Eurasia to boost growth and strengthen economic ties and in the region, additionally, gold business is developed and gold is promoted as a key reserve currency.

The Chinese Gold Market Essentials Guide

Everything there is to know about the Chinese gold market and the true size of Chinese private and official gold demand. Start here.

This post will guide you through all relevant articles that have been published on BullionStar Blogs over the years that elucidate the mechanics of the Chinese (domestic) gold market and genuine Chinese gold demand. If you are new to the Chinese gold market or like to refresh your memory, this post provides a staring point from where to navigate through all segments of the Chinese gold market you like to study. For example, Chinese gold demand metrics, the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) system, Chinese cross-border gold trade rules, the Chinese gold lease market and official gold reserves held by China’s central bank the People’s Bank Of China (PBOC).

The BullionStar blog posts that collectively clarify all facets of the Chinese gold market are titled Chinese Gold Market Essentials. Whenever the mechanics of the Chinese gold market develop all Chinese Gold Market Essentials will be updated or new ones will be published, as to remain a comprehensive knowledge base on the largest physical gold market in the world at all times. All Chinese Gold Market Essentials have been recently rewritten and the post on PBOC gold purchases contains many very important new insights. 

Topical data such as monthly Chinese gold import numbers will not be updated in the Chinese Gold Market Essentials, however, this data will be published in new blog posts appearing on my BullionStar Blogs homepage, accompanied with a link to this webpage to be complete.

If there is anything unclear, if you have additional information or if you have a suggestion to improve the Chinese Gold Market Essentials, please send me an email at koos.jansen@bullionstar.com.

Understanding The Chinese Gold Market Step By Step

The unique structure of the Chinese domestic gold market, the SGE system, and why the amount of physical gold withdrawn from the vaults of the SGE (published on a weekly basis) can be used as a measure for Chinese wholesale gold demand is explained in part one: The Mechanics Of The Chinese Domestic Gold Market. It also provides a basic understanding of contrasting metrics applied to measure Chinese gold demand, and the difference between SGE withdrawals and Chinese consumer gold demand as disclosed by the World Gold Council, which has aggregated to at least 2,500 tonnes from 2007 until 2015. For whatever reason, the World Gold Council and its affiliates continuously present feeble arguments that should explain the difference. The Chinese Gold Market Essentials debunk these arguments where necessary, back up by facts, and reveal genuine Chinese gold demand.

More detailed rules regarding cross-border gold trade in and out of the Chinese domestic gold market and Free Trade Zones in China are discussed in part two: Chinese Cross-Border Gold Trade Rules.

When fully comprehending the mechanics of the Chinese domestic gold market and Chinese cross-border gold trade rules you can continue reading Workings Of The Shanghai International Gold Exchange about the international subsidiary exchange of the SGE set up to become the major gold trading hub in Asia. Related is SGE Withdrawals In Perspective that discusses how trading activity on the Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI) can potentially blur our view on Chinese wholesale gold demand when measured by SGE withdrawals.

Congratz! At this point you have a thorough understanding of the Chinese gold market. To Study more about the difference please continue with Chinese Commodity Financing Deals Explained, which is mainly about the Chinese gold lease market. The post also includes many links to additional posts about the Chinese gold lease market, among others, a paper written by the PBOC in 2011 exclusively translated by BullionStar. For a detailed study on the difference, and thus genuine Chinese gold demand, please read Why SGE Withdrawals Equal Chinese Gold Demand And Why Not (The Argument List).

Finally, please read PBOC Gold Purchases: Separating Facts from Speculation for studying the amount of gold accumulated by China’s central bank in recent years in addition to private reserves. At the end of the post you can find an overview of the estimated amounts of above ground gold in China (privately owned gold and official holdings). This post has collected many new contributions in recent months, a must read!

China’s Gold Army

As part of the wide analysis of the Chinese domestic gold market I would like to share that since the seventies there is a special army in China dedicated to gold. It’s called The Gold Armed Police – if you can read Chinese have a look at this Wikipedia page.

It’s no coincidence this army came into existence in 1979, eight year after the US left the gold standard and when China started opening up under the guidance of Deng Xiaoping. As, this was the moment the Chinese slowly started to reform their economy and made the first preparations in their gold market. They knew, among others, the global dollar standard wouldn’t last forever.

On 29 October 1976 representatives of the Chinese central bank and the Federal Reserve (US, Arthur Burns) met in China and discussed international economics. From Wikileaks:


In the quote from Wikileaks we can clearly read the Chinese were interested in gold. However, the Chinese economy was completely centrally planned at the time and they were not a member of the World Trade Organization or the giant exporter of goods they are now. Therefor, I suspect China had little resources to acquire gold – in the seventies China’s foreign exchange reserves were very small – while they urgently needed to increase their reserves.

Initially the Gold Armed Police was established to develop China’s domestic mining industry. China’s domestic mining output grew by an incredible 2,964 % from 1976 until 2014, according to data from the China Gold Association, and this was partially due to gold exploration by the Gold Armed Police.

Chinese mining 1949-2014 x

Remember that before 2002 the PBOC had the monopoly on all gold trade in China. Mining output (and potential import) was transferred to the PBOC that set the domestic gold price and distributed the gold to a limited amount of designated jewelry shops or kept the metal for its official reserves. The Gold Armed Police and the PBOC must be closely associated.

Next to exploration the Gold Armed Police was also assigned to guard the mines and to do other tasks. And here is where it becomes interesting. Gold market insider James Rickards has written in The Death Of Money (2014):

A senior manager of G4S, one of the world’s leading secure logistics firms, recently revealed to a gold industry executive that he had personally transported gold into China by land through central Asian mountain passes at the head of a column of People’s Liberation Army tanks and armored transport vehicles. This gold was in the form of the 400- ounce “good delivery” bars favored by central banks rather than the smaller one- kilo bars imported through regular channels and favored by retail investors.

Although Rickards notes the convoy was lead by the People’s Liberation Army I think it’s very likely the Gold Armed Police was involved in this transport that contained monetary gold directed to PBOC vaults. We can speculate the Gold Armed Police is active in distributing the PBOC’s monetary gold into the mainland.

The Gold Armed Police in April 2011, about 100 soldiers from the 7th detachment in Xinjiang.

The other day I spoke to a gold market insider, that likes to remain anonymous, who told me “some central banks send their own airplanes to London to pick up monetary gold” when we were discussing purchases from China’s central bank in the UK. I’m quite sure the PBOC has bought a substantial amount of gold in London in recent years and I suspect the Gold Armed Police is distributing the monetary metal.

So how does the PBOC buy gold in London? Through which proxy do they do they purchase the metal? Well, that’s hard to say. But, if I may freely speculate the Bank Of China is part of this. If we read the Chinese Wikipedia page about the Foreign Exchange Reserves of the People’s Republic of China (not the English page) it states:


The FX reserves of the Chinese mainland are State-owned assets and managed by SAFE and the PBOC, the actual business operations are carried out by the Bank of China.

SAFE (State Administration Of Foreign Exchange) is the largest Chinese sovereign wealth fund that manages the PBOC’s foreign exchange reserves.

The Bank Of China is a commercial state-owned bank and LBMA member that can be one of the proxies for the PBOC’s monetary gold purchases around the globe. So, possibly the Bank Of China buys gold in the London OTC market, which is then transported by the Gold Armed Police to PBOC vaults in Beijing.

Below is an article I found on The China Times about the Gold Armed Police:

Source The China Times, Global Edition

China has a military unit dedicated to gold exploration, this unit is the only one of its kind in the world.

The gold exploration unit was established in the beginning of China’s reform and opening up, when the country urgently needed to increase its gold reserves. The unit has found more than 1800 tons of gold so far, helping China become the world’s largest gold-producing country.

China’s annual gold production was merely 4 tons when PRC was founded. After the gold exploration unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army was established in 1979, 12 detachments were sent to all over China. The picture shows soldiers from the 7th detachment of the gold exploration unit singing songs on their way in March 2006.

Gold reserves are usually located in remote and inaccessible areas. The picture shows soldiers from the 8th detachment of the gold exploration unit fighting sandstorm in Lop Nur in August 2002.

In 1995, China’s gold production for the first time exceeded one hundred tons, taking the 8th place in the world. More than half of the gold reserves were found by the gold exploration unit. Eight years later, China’s annual gold production exceeded 200 tons. The picture shows a soldiers from the 8th detachment of the gold exploration unit carrying out explosion works in August 2002.

July 2000, soldiers from the 8th detachment panning alluvial gold in Xinjiang. In 30 years, the gold exploration unit has found many large-scale gold deposits, in total found more than 1800 tons of proven gold reserves.

Lop Nur, August 2002, soldiers from the 8th detachment cooking meals in tent, two days later, the tent was swept away by flood.

Lop Nur, August 2002, soldiers from the 8th detachment having lunch together.

April 2011, about 100 soldiers from the 7th detachment carrying out geology and resources survey tasks in Xinjiang.

May 2011, soldiers from the 6th detachment taking a break after long-hours hard work in Qilian Mountain, Qinghai.

Natural gold nugget found by the gold exploration unit in 1983, it contains 1114 grams of pure gold.

Renminbi Internationalization And China’s Gold Strategy

Here we go!

A seminar about gold supporting the internationalization of the renminbi and China’s financial strength was held in Beijing on 18 September 2015. One of the keynote speakers was Song Xin, President of the China Gold Association (CGA), Chairman of the Board of China International Resources Corporation, President of China National Gold Group Corporation and Party Secretary, who believes China’s economic power must be serviced by appropriate gold reserves to support the renminbi. An article written by Song published on Sina Finance in 2014 stated (translation by BullionStar):

For China the strategic mission of gold lies in the support of renminbi internationalization. Gold … forms the base for a currency moving up in the international arena.

If the renminbi wants to achieve international status, it must have popular acceptance and a stable value. To this end… it is very important to have enough gold as the foundation and raising the ‘gold content’ of the renminbi. Therefore, to China, the meaning and mission of gold is to support the renminbi to become an internationally accepted currency and make China an economic powerhouse.

That’s why, in order for gold to fulfill its destined mission, we must raise our gold holdings a great deal, and do so with a solid plan. Step one should take us to the 4,000 tonnes mark, more than Germany and become number two in the world, next, we should increase step by step towards 8,500 tonnes, more than the US.

President of the CGA before Song was Sun Zhaoxue, who shared many of the viewpoints of his successor. In 2012 a famous article from Sun was published in Qiushi magazine, the main academic journal of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, wherein he plead for stimulating the Chinese citizenry to buy gold next to increasing China’s official gold reserves (translation by BullionStar):

Currently, there are more and more people recognizing that the ‘gold is useless’ story contains too many lies. Gold now suffers from a ‘smokescreen’ designed by the US, which stores 74% of global official gold reserves, to put down other currencies and maintain the US Dollar hegemony. Effectively, the rise of the US dollar … and later the euro currency, from a single country currency to a global or regional currency was supported by their huge gold reserves.  

Individual investment demand is an important component of China’s gold reserve system, we should encourage individual investment demand for gold. Practice shows that gold possession by citizens is an effective supplement to national reserves and is very important to national financial security.

Regular readers of this blog will know what Sun wrote in 2012 regarding ‘individual gold investment’ is exactly what has unfolded; through the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) we could see thousands of tonnes of gold moving into the mainland in recent years. According to my estimates Chinese privates gold holdings have reached 12,000 tonnes – next to the People’s Bank Of China’s (PBOC) gold buying program.

Since my last extensive blog post (20 May 2015) on PBOC gold purchases I’ve been able to collect more clues related to the amount of gold China’s central bank has harvested in exchange for its lopsided US dollar holdings. Last week I spoke to an insider with connections at Western bullion banks. This gentleman confirmed proxies of the PBOC purchase gold directly in the London OTC gold market that is shipped to Beijing. Implying much of the 1,750 tonnes that have mysteriously vanished from the London Bullion Market (left London without being disclosed in UK customs statistics) in between 2011 and early 2015 went to China. This supports the analysis the PBOC is buying at a pace of 500 tonnes a year in the international OTC market (not through the SGE) and owns approximately 4,000 tonnes by now.

Furthermore, it seems the writings from Song and Sun correspond with China’s real undertakings in the gold market, which influences our valuation of their words. There are no transcripts from the seminar in September, but I found an article (in Chinese) that summarizes what Song and others have said. Please read the gripping translation below.


Note, Song is the President of China National Gold Group Corporation, which started an alliance with Russian gold miner Polyus Gold to deepen ties in gold exploration. China and Russia aim to trade (newly mined) gold over the Shanghai International Gold Exchange in renminbi for international institutions and central banks as part of the Silk Road Gold Fund to attract the center of the international gold market towards the East.

Renminbi Internationalization and China’s Gold Strategy Seminar

Date: September 22, 2015. Source 

On 18 September 2015 the “Renminbi Internationalization and China’s Gold Strategy Seminar” was smoothly held in Beijing. The seminar was guided by the China Gold Association and jointly held by the Chinese Gold Research Center of Capital University of Economics and Business and Beijing Gold Economic Development Research Center. It was supported by Zhao Jin Futures, Shandong Zhaojin Investment Co., Ltd., Shenzhen Jinmingzhu Jewelry Co., Ltd. and Chifeng Jilong Mining Industry Co., Ltd.

Over 130 representatives from the governments, banks, gold mining industry, gold investment organizations, jewelry companies and educational institutions attended the seminar. Wang Wenju, Vice President of Capital University of Economics and Business announced to rename the Chinese Gold Market Research Center of Capital University of Economics and Business on the seminar site.

Wang Jiaqiong, President of Capital University of Economics and Business, Song Xin, President of Chinese Gold Association & General Manager and Secretary of the Party Committee of China National Gold Group Corporation, Wang Xiaomei, Deputy Party Secretary of China National Gold Group Corporation, Wei Benhua, Former Director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and Former General Representative of Chinese International Monetary Fund, and other leaders and representatives attended the seminar. 13 experts from China Gold Association, Shanghai Gold Exchange, Renmin University of China, Chinese Social Science, Capital University of Economics and Business, China Center for International Economic Exchanges, China Forex Investment Research Institute, Gold Economic Research Center, ICBC, China Construction Bank, Shandong Gold Group and Shandong Zhao Jin Group delivered splendid speeches.

Wang Jia Qiong
Wang Jiaqiong

President Wang Jiaqiong delivered a speech. In his speech, Wang Jiaqiong pointed out, RMB internationalization is a struggling process in need of strategic research. In the seminar, many experts, scholars and entrepreneurs were discussing renminbi internationalization and Chinese gold strategies. They would propose wise ideas and good policy suggestions after brainstorming, playing as a think tank in the development of China. The research team led by Professor Zhu Heliang from our university spent years studying Chinese gold strategy problems and some research results obtained the central affirmation and recognition. All of your arrival can better support our in-depth research on relevant topics and construction of related disciplines.

In the opening ceremony, Wang Wenju announced the renaming of the Chinese Gold Market Research Center of Capital University of Economics and Business, which focuses on the current gold market, to Chinese Gold Research Center of Capital University of Economics and Business with the purposes of better studying gold problems comprehensively, displaying the function of gold in national economy and society, boosting renminbi internationalization and keeping pace with the times. The school would offer vigorous support and hope that the new research center can strengthen team building and display think tank functions.

Song Xin rmb au
Song Xin

In his speech, Song Xin mentioned that the Chinese gold industry has achieved a great-leap-forward development since the new century. In 2014, Chinese gold yield had turned China into the biggest gold producing country in the world for eight consecutive years and the biggest gold consumption country again. Whether in the past, present or future, gold plays a crucial role in the development of human society. Renminbi internationalization has boosted China’s march towards an economic power from an economic giant. The new age has endowed gold with more important missions. Gold has shouldered a heavy responsibility of “increasing credit” for renminbi internationalization and increased the “gold content” for renminbi internationalization. 

Recently, the Central Bank announced to increase gold reserves to the public many times in succession. In fact, it’s the strategic layout and major move for laying the renminbi’s international credit foundation. We always suggest formulating and boosting national gold strategies in pace with national financial strategies positively, further improving the quantity and proportion of gold in national foreign exchange reserves, developing occupancy volume of gold production and increased gold resources. We further suggest perfecting the gold market, promoting foreign currency in individuals, boosting Chinese and western wealth flowing, improving our control power of global gold wealth flowing, accelerating renminbi internationalization, helping the renminbi enter special drawing rights currency basket, rebuilding international currency system, balancing American hegemony process, and positively displaying the due function of gold and the gold industry. Leaders from Capital University of Economics and Business have supported the research on gold problems for a long time. The team led by Professor Zhu Heliang has persistently pursued basic research on gold with outstanding viewpoints. They have obtained relevant departments’ high attention for long. I hope that Capital University of Economics and Business can further display its gathering advantages of majors and talents, and strengthen the cooperation with Chinese Gold Research Center, China National Gold Group Corporation and its subordinate companies.

In the seminar, experts thoroughly analyzed the essence and inherent laws of renminbi internationalization, new positioning and functions of gold in the non-gold standard currency system. They discussed the strategic significance of gold in renminbi internationalization from historical and actual perspectives and Chinese gold strategies in the new age. Experts unanimously regarded gold as playing an irreplaceable role in currency internationalization progress. The important element of gold shouldn’t be ignored during renminbi internationalization. The country should attach great importance to the development of the gold industry and market and increase gold reserve from a strategic height.

The seminar is the “prelude” of the first renminbi internationalization and Chinese Gold Strategy Research Project jointly carried out by Chinese Gold Research Center of Capital University of Economics and Business and Beijing Gold Economic Development Research Center. After the seminar, key viewpoints were to be collected and submitted to related departments. Chinese Gold News will set up a special column and publish solicited articles about “renminbi Internationalization and Chinese Gold Strategies”. Meanwhile, two organizations will organize special research teams, focus on the topic research of “renminbi internationalization and Chinese Gold Strategies”, and open the research results for publication. With national major strategy research as their own duty, the two organizations have formed a strategic alliance in terms of promoting renminbi internationalization and adjusted research directions of Chinese gold strategies in order to make effort and contribution to the prosperous cause of China.

What Happened To The Shanghai International Gold Exchange?

Withdrawals from the vaults of the largest physical gold bourse globally, the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE), accounted for 54 tonnes (in week 45 / 16 until 20 November), up 10 % from last week. Year to date SGE withdrawals have reached 2,313 tonnes, which is an all time record.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE withdrawals delivery 2015 week 45

Please make sure you’ve read The Mechanics Of The Chinese Domestic Gold MarketChinese Gold Trade Rules And Financing Deals Explained, Workings Of The Shanghai International Gold Exchange, and SGE Withdrawals In Perspective.

Given elevated SGE withdrawals and continued weakness in the gold price it looks like the Chinese population is buying the dips. The Chinese central bank (PBOC) is likely doing the same, but not through the SGE. The PBOC does its monetary gold purchases in the international OTC gold market – for example, in London or Hong Kong.

According to Reuters China has imported 72 tonnes of (non-monetary) gold from Hong Kong in October – this gold is required to be sold first through the SGE, it’s not directed to the PBOC. Data from the Hong Kong Census & Statistics Department has not been released, but Reuters has a contract with the Department in order to obtain data a few days before the public release.

Known gold exports to China year to date: From January until October Hong Kong has exported 653 tonnes to China mainland, which is 784 tonnes annualized. Switzerland has exported 217 tonnes to China from January until October, annualized 260 tonnes. The UK shipped 210 tonnes to China in the first nine months of this year, annualized 280 tonnes. Australia net exported 49 tonnes in seven months, which is 84 tonnes annualized. So, without counting shipments from exporters such as South Africa and Singapore, China has imported 1,129 tonnes of gold year to date and is on track to import 1,408 tonnes of (non-monetary) gold in total this year. In addition, Chinese domestic mining output is set to reach 476 tonnes. Chinese apparent gold supply – without counting scrap – in 2015 will be 1,884 tonnes.


Using SGE withdrawals as a measure for Chinese gold demand can be slightly deceiving for a number of reasons. For example, Chinese citizens can buy gold on the SGE but prefer not to withdraw this metal from the vault, or chose to withdraw next month/year. This way, wholesale demand would actually be higher than the amount of gold being withdrawn. On the other hand, since the inception of the Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI) gold can be withdrawn from SGEI (IB) Certified Vaults in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ) and exported abroad. According to the accounting rules from the SGE, any SGEI withdrawal is included in SGE withdrawals. An export from the SFTZ would be included in SGE withdrawals. I’m always occupied with the details regarding SGE withdrawals, why we can use it as a measure for Chinese wholesale gold demand and why not. I think SGEI withdrawals can have been a cause for inflated SGE withdrawals this year. 

Late 2014 and early 2015 I’ve written SGE withdrawals could have been distorted by withdrawals from the SGEI. For a while I corrected SGE withdrawals by SGEI trading volume to be conservative about Chinese wholesale gold demand. We simply didn’t know what happened to the SGEI gold that was traded – was it withdrawn from the vaults or not withdrawn. Then, in February 2015 SGE chairman Xu Luode published some figures in an article for Bullion Bulletin that pointed out most of the SGEI trades that were withdrawn from the vault was imported into the Chinese domestic mainland. Meaning, SGEI trading volume could only have slightly distorted our measure of Chinese wholesale gold demand (SGE withdrawals).

After a run up in SGEI trading volume this year, from January until March, it appeared trading of iAu9999 (the most commonly traded SGEI contract – 1 Kg 9999) severely declined in recent months and I stopped subtracting SGEI trading volume from SGE withdrawals to measure Chinese wholesale gold demand. But, the other day I studied the Chinese SGE weekly reports. What I failed to see in recent months was that iAu9999 has been trading in the Chinese OTC market. Mea culpa. In the Chinese OTC market SGE contracts can be negotiated off-SGE, while settlement is done on-SGE.

In the Chinese weekly SGE reports we can see OTC trades on the first page. Below is a screen shot of the report, the OTC settlements are framed in red. Framed in blue is ‘this weeks’ trading, which was in week 45 (framed in green).

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 1.46.15 pm
Courtesy SGE.

Some analysts, including myself, thought the SGEI was dead. But it isn’t.

SGEI contracts bullionstar
In June OTC iAu9999 volume transcended a whopping 170 tonnes a week.

First of all, the iAu9999 contract is traded increasingly in the OTC market. In the chart above the black line resembles OTC iAu9999 trading volume. In the OTC market volume has declined from a peak in May, but I wouldn’t say trading has ceased.

It certainly is possible the gold of these OTC iAu9999 trades can have been withdrawn from the vaults in the SFTZ and exported abroad and thus inflated SGE withdrawals. When a contract (iAu9999) at the SGEI is exchanged, four things can happen (in the context of this investigation):

  1. The gold stays in the vault.
  2. The gold is withdrawn and stored elsewhere in the SFTZ.
  3. The gold is withdrawn and imported into the Chinese domestic gold market.
  4. The gold is withdrawn and exported to, for example, India.

Option 2 and 4 would increase SGE withdrawals without increasing Chinese wholesale gold demand.

When looking at the numbers from the OTC iAu9999 trading we can see an interesting pattern.

iAu9999 OTC

Have a look at the data labels in the chart above. We can see that all weekly OTC iAu9999 volumes end on two zeros (blue bars) or three zeros (red bars). These volumes are the sum of all trades executed during the week. It’s safe to conclude these volumes are exchanged by large traders, as iAu9999 is changing hands in batches of one hundred (blue bars) or in some weeks one thousand (red bars) 1 Kg 9999 bars. For example, in the week that ended 3 July 2015 exactly 73,000 Kg’s were traded. In theory, 20,855 Kg’s were traded on Monday and 52,145 Kg’s on Thursday, aggregating at 73,000 Kg’s in total for the week. Though, this coincidence cannot have occurred each and every week. More likely the OTC iAu9999 traders buy and sell per 100 or 1000 Kg’s. No other SGE or SGEI contracts show this bulky trading pattern.

Did any foreign nations buy gold through the SGEI OTC market and export it from the SFTZ? Hard to say. The most obvious gold trading partner for China is India. Early this year the SGE chairman wrote about the SGEI [brackets added by me]:

… Using the International Board [SGEI] as a launch pad, China’s gold market will embrace greater openness and foster stronger ties with its neighbours and, together, elevate the trading and pricing influence of Asia in the world’s gold market.

As a perennial major consumer of gold and a close neighbor of China, India will undoubtedly become one of SGE’s most important partners in the coming years. SGE looks forward to forming close partnerships with the Indian market.

Imaginably, the iAu9999 purchases were withdrawn from the SGEI vaults in the SFTZ and exported to India. Though, India’s trade statistics can be tracked very precisely and only a small amount of gold has been exported from China to India since the SGEI was erected in September 2014.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.22.52 am
Courtesy Zauba.

In the table above we can see India imported 1.205 tonnes from China Since September last year. These imports into India can be processing trade from any Free Trade Zone in China (no SGEI involvement required), but can also be from purchases at the SGEI in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. In the latter scenario these exports would have been captured in SGE withdrawals (the metal is bought at the SGEI, withdrawn from the IB Certified Vault and exported).

In any case India imported very little gold from China in the past year. The only other gold importer from China I could find was Thailand at 1.488 tonnes, which makes me think foreigners have not yet been very active on the SGEI. More likely, at this stage, is that SGEI withdrawals are imported into the Chinese domestic gold market. Another option, given the large round number volumes, is that OTC iAu9999 is trading in China’s foreign exchange market.

I should add, the customs departments from Switzerland and Hong Kong confirmed that when gold is exported from local soil to the Shanghai Free Trade Zone it’s disclosed in their data as an ‘export to China’. It is irrelevant if that gold is ever imported into the Chinese domestic gold market. No matter what happens to the gold in the SFTZ  it is initially disclosed as an export to China.

In short, trading at the SGEI can have blurred SGE withdrawals this year. More research should point to what extent. 

Russia’s VTB Bank Joins As SGE Member. Chinese Direct Gold Imports Increase

Another strong week for gold demand at the Shanghai Gold Exchange – China’s main physical gold bourse. From 19 until 23 October 57 tonnes have been withdrawn from the vaults of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE), according to data released on Friday by the SGE. Year to date 2,119 tonnes have been withdrawn. With a little over two months left in 2015 SGE withdrawals, which capture the amount of Chinese wholesale gold demand, are set to reach more than 2,500 tonnes in 2015, breaking the record of 2013 at 2,197 tonnes.

SGE withdrawals have made a spectacular run up this year since the Chinese stock market came crumbling down in June. In between June and October SGE withdrawals have been 1,138 tonnes, up 37 % year on year.

The People’s Republic of China does not publish the amount of gold imported, however, from foreign trade statistics provided by other nations and physical turnover at the SGE we can estimate China will net import at least 1,300 tonnes of gold in 2015 – transcending net import in 2014, which was an estimated 1,250 tonnes. 

Whilst the SGE releases withdrawal data every week, foreign trade statistics are released on a monthly basis. Wholesale gold demand in China mainland was elevated in recent months, but it always remains to be seen exactly how much gold was net imported in order to supply the SGE.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE withdrawals delivery 2015 week 41

Let’s have a look at what gold trade data has already been released for the past months: Switzerland has net exported 21.69 tonnes of gold to China in September – up 28 % month on month – according to the most recent data from the Swiss Customs department. This is the largest amount of gold export to China from Switzerland in six months.

Switzerland China gold trade 2012 - sep 2015

Trade data from the Hong Kong Census And Statistics Department has not yet officially been released, but Reuters gave us a sneak preview. Net export from Hong Kong to China mainland in September was 97 tonnes, up 63 % month on month and the largest amount of gold export to China in ten months.

Foreign Trade statistics from the UK and other major gold trading hubs has not yet been published. Although not all gold trade data can be collected, we can see in the chart below, that displays currently known Chinese physical gold supply, gold import into China is steadily rising along side strong SGE withdrawals.

SGE withdrawals vs gold import China monthly september 2015
In this chart foreign trade statistics from Australia are not included for July, August and September, and foreign trade statistics from the UK are not included for September.  

As usual, apparent physical gold supply in China is much more than what the mainstream media would like you to believe. Most notably, since 2013 gold supply in China has been thousands of tonnes more than what consultancy firms like the World Gold Council and GFMS disclose as Chinese gold demand. On the LBMA conference in Vienna (18 – 20 October) it was discussed, again, that Chinese Commodity Financing Deals are the sole reason for the missing gold in China.

This is not true. Chinese Commodity Financing Deals (CCFDs) with respect to gold can be either conducted through round tripping or gold leasing. Round tripping has got nothing to do with the Chinese domestic gold market and gold leasing can never have ‘swallowed’ a few thousand tonnes of gold from reaching genuine demand. Because the myths about CCFDs keep being repeated I will write a new extensive post on CCFDs.

VTB Bank Has Been Granted SGE Member Status

On the website of VTB Bank it was announced it has been granted SGE member status, with the right to participate in trading on the Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI). VTB is the first Russian bank to enjoy member status of the Chinese exchange.

Russia has hardly been exporting non-monetary gold directly to China in recent years. Now VTB is an SGE member this will change, as Russian banks are often the exporters of mined gold of Russian mining companies. I will closely watch the foreign trade statistics provided by Russia’s customs department.

“Access to trading on China’s domestic precious metals market will give VTB Bank, which also trades on Western exchanges, more opportunities to sign gold deals in Shanghai. As an important element of our Chinese strategy, we continue working to develop the bank’s business and that of our clients in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.…” said Herbert Moos, Chairman of VTB Bank’s Management Board.

The biggest part of Russia’s mining output is sold to VTB and Sberbank, who sell it to the Russian central bank and foreign buyers – according to newswire EM Goldex

Russia’s largest gold mining company Polyus Group, that mined 53 tonnes in 2014, announced in early May it would start cooperating with China’s largest mining company China National Gold Group Corporation in resource exploration, technical exchanges and materials supply. Shortly after, we learned this cooperation is part of the Silk Road economic project that was initiated by China.

Polyus sells the lion share of its mine output through Russian banks. If we look at the 2014 Polyus Annual Report we can see it sold most if its gold (38 %) through VTB Bank.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 3.18.22 pm
Courtesy Polyus Group.

In 2014 Polyus sold gold valued at 841 million US dollars through VTB Bank. In the past this gold has probably not been sold directly to China or through the SGEI. This is about to change since VTB is now SGE member.

VTB Bank’s SGE membership is significant, as it can be seen as more cooperation in the gold industry on the Eurasian continent along the Silk Road between Russia and China. 

Will The Shanghai International Gold Exchange Facilitate Gold Inclusion Into The SDR?

The Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI) was launched in September 2014, to internationalize the Chinese gold market and the renminbi. The timing of the launch is quite remarkable though, in the context of changes in the international monetary system (IMS).

2015 is likely to force a major shift in the IMS. Two developments are worth watching, the SDR basket will be reviewed, the renminbi will probably be adopted later this year, and the rise of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), an international financial institution proposed by China with many Western members; currently France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Switzerland, New Zealand and the UK. Both developments are severe blows to the US dollar hegemony.

Last week I reported on, (i) the IMF terms for the renminbi to be adopted into the SDR, (ii) if these terms can be met this year, and (iii) what the role of gold will be in the process (read China, Gold, SDRs And The Future Of The International Monetary System). Since then there has been more confirmation of renminbi adoption in the media.

From Reuters:

China’s yuan at some point would be incorporated in the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Right (SDR) currency basket, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said, …”It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,”

From Xinhua:

China and Germany conducted their first high-level financial dialogue here on Tuesday and agreed to strengthen macro-economic policy coordination

…confronted with a complex and fragile global economic situation, China and Germany as important economies should strengthen policy coordination, coordinate strategic cooperation, deepen financial and fiscal cooperation…

Representing Germany at the dialogue, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Deutsche Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said that Germany and China have been working together very well both bilaterally and multilaterally in financial and fiscal areas…

According to a joint statement after the dialogue, the German side will actively support … China’s goal to add the RMB to the special drawing rights (SDR) currency basket based on existing criteria.

…During the dialogue, both sides reached consensus on issues such as investment cooperation between China and Europe, China and Germany and in third countries.

Kindly note, Germany officially has the second largest gold reserves in the world and are currently repatriating gold from the US. Thereby expressing their affinity with gold and their lack of trust in the US as their custodian. This Germany would like the renminbi to be included into the SDR.

The most important condition for the adoption of the renminbi is that it must be freely usable. From Criteria for Broadening the SDR Currency Basket, an IMF paper published in 2011, “that discusses a number of reform options for the eligibility criteria for the SDR currency basket”:

The freely usable concept and its two key elements—currencies should be “widely used” and “widely traded” —are set out in the Articles and serve important operational purposes.

The renminbi is currently “widely used” and “widely traded”.

Will Gold Be Included In The SDR Basket? 

China gold x

The reason the current IMS is up for revision is because the global fiat experiment has failed miserably. Having exclusively fiat currencies circulating within countries, without any anchor to a non-fiat reserve currency, is simply not sustainable. In shaping a new IMS the designers would be mistaken to create a system based on a basket of solely fiat currencies, which have just proven to be ineffectual. Gold could provide credibility and strength to the SDR.

In addition, we could read some clues (in my prior post) that the Chinese would like gold in the SDR along side the national fiat currencies. This would explain China’s aggressive gold purchases in recent years.

On March 9, 2015, Albert Cheng, managing director of the World Gold Council Far East, was interviewed by ShanghaiDaily.com:

Q: The council has signed an understanding agreement with the Shanghai Gold Exchange to work more closely via the International Board set up in the city’s pilot Free Trade Zone last September. Could you tell us how that will work?

A: The memorandum of understanding involves objectives to improve operation of the Shanghai Gold Exchange, such as attracting more international players. Gold is a hard currency, so if it is freely traded in China, it will have an impact on the yuan. The design of the International Board, allowing international and domestic investors to participate in the onshore gold market, has a symbolic meaning of some kind of convertibility. By signing the memorandum, we can help the Board marketing this concept to the international trading community.

In general the renminbi is not yet fully convertible, but in terms of gold it is; through the Shanghai International Gold Exchange. Logically all currencies in the SDR basket must be freely usable, and allowed to be freely exchanged for one another. If the renminbi and gold were to be added to the SDR basket it would help if there is an exchange for both, which is currently operating in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

Will the Shanghai International Gold Exchange facilitate gold inclusion into the SDR?

Total SGE Withdrawals 255t In January, Up 4 % y/y

In the last trading week of January another huge quantity of gold left the vaults of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE). According to the latest SGE data nearly 54 tonnes were withdrawn in week 4 (January 26 – 30), down 24 % w/w. Year to date a staggering 255 tonnes has been withdrawn, up 4 % from the strongest January ever in 2014.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 11.44.19 AM
Blue (本周交割量) is weekly gold withdrawn from the vaults in Kg, green (累计交割量) is the total YTD.

Corrected by the volume traded on the Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI), withdrawals in week 4 were at least 42 tonnes (read this post for a comprehensive explanation of the relationship between SGEI trading volume and withdrawals). Year to date withdrawals corrected by SGEI volume were at least 230 tonnes.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE withdrawals delivery 2015 week 4, dips

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE withdrawals delivery only 2014 - 2015 week 4, dips

A quick calculation suggests China has imported somewhere in between 175 and 200 tonnes of gold in January. Happy New Year!

In a recent blog post Thomson Reuters noted banks that enjoy a PBOC gold trade license are obliged to import a minimum amount of gold each year. Supposedly this is why Chinese gold import (and SGE withdrawals?) ramped up in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Licensed importers need to import a minimum amount of gold bullion per year to demonstrate to government authorities that they have put their import license to good use. Therefore, after a series of relatively weak import numbers in the second and third quarters, importers had some catching-up to do by the fourth quarter.

So China imports gold, which is being sold through the SGE and withdrawn from the vaults, though this is not related to any demand? If there would be no demand for the imported gold in China, (i) there would be significant discounts on the SGE relative to London, (ii) Importing/consignment banks would suffer enormous losses. Doesn’t make sense to me.

On January 26 the SGE announced to allow its international members and customers to trade the deferred silver contract Ag(T+D), a domestic precious metals contract, starting February 2. Though, foreign traders will only be able to open long or short positions, receive/pay the deferred compensation fee and close long or short positions. Delivery let alone withdrawals will not be allowed. Herein we can clearly see the closed characteristics of the Chinese precious metals market; not only gold is prohibited from being exported, through VAT rules the State Council effectively blocks silver from being exported as well (in general trade). The possibility for foreigners to open Ag(T+D) positions are pure paper trades. From the SGE:

All members,

For the purpose of diversifying trading products for international members and customers, the Shanghai Gold Exchange (“The Exchange”) is going to open the trading access of Ag(T+D) contracts to international members and customers. From February 2nd, 2015, all international members and customers are allowed to participate in the Ag(T+D) trading, including opening long or short positions and closing out long or short positions; and yet delivery tendering, delivery equalizer tendering, or load-in and load-out of physical silver bullions are not allowed.

The trading margins and transaction fees for international members are consistent with domestic members and customers. The position limits of Ag (T+D) for international members and customers are also in line with domestic members and customers. International members and customers may apply to SGEI for adjustment of position limits as per their business needs.

Likely not many foreign traders have jumped in as of yet, total weekly silver volume in week 5 (January 2 – 6) was 9,704 tonnes, down 11 % w/w.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE weekly silver volume

Hard to say what will happen down the line, the internationalization of the SGE since September 2014 hasn’t been successful up until now. This would presumably change if China liberalizes its precious metals export policy, but does it want to? Not in the near future if you’re asking me.

Let’s see what happens next in the global realm of precious metals when Chinese banks will participate in the new London gold fix scheduled in March.

SGE Withdrawals A Whopping 61t In Week 51, YTD 2016t

Withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) came in very strong in week 51 at 61 tonnes, year to date the counter has reached 2016 tonnes.

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 12.18.55 PM
Blue (本周交割量) is weekly gold withdrawn from the vaults in Kg, green (累计交割量) is the total YTD.

Some SGE data lags one week, some not; in this post all data is up to week 51 (December 19).

Withdrawals from the vaults of the SGE captures Chinese wholesale demand, however, to get a more precise view on demand we have to add SGEI volume to the equation (read this post for a comprehensive explanation on the relationship between SGE withdrawals and volume on the Shanghai International Gold Exchange – SGEI). If we subtract SGEI volume from SGE withdrawals, at least 51 tonnes was withdrawn in week 51, at most 61 tonnes; year to date, at least 1,963 tonnes was withdrawn, at most 2,016 tonnes.

I could speculate on why Chinese wholesale gold demand is likely to be more in the area of the upper limit or bottom limit, fact is I have little evidence to back it up; all I know at this stage is that it’s somewhere in between.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE withdrawals delivery 2014 week 51, dips

Last week I wrote I expected withdrawals to be strong in the coming weeks, as December and January are seasonally the strongest months, but the Chinese are often aiming to buy their physical on the dips. In week 49 and 50 withdrawals were a bit held back because of the rising price of gold in renminbi. In week 51 the price was declining, so withdrawals were up.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE withdrawals delivery only 2014 week 51, dips

Year to date SGE withdrawals – 1963 tonnes, the bottom limit – were supplied by (my best estimates):

  • 442 tonnes mine production
  • 1,172 tonnes import
  • 349 tonnes recycled gold

If we use the upper limit – 2016 tonnes, import and/or recycled gold had to be more.

SGE premiums have been hovering in between 0.51 and 0.76 % above London spot throughout week 51.

Total SGE (gold) trading volume was down 14 % from the previous week at 410 tonnes. The uptrend is still intact as we can clearly see from the next chart.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE weekly gold volume

On the Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) volume traded in Au futures accounted for 786 tonnes in week 51 (1,196 tonnes SGE + SHFE volume), on the COMEX 2,527 tonnes changed hands.

COMEX vs SGE + SHFE gold volume

Insatiable Chinese Gold Demand Continues Unabated

Friday the latest update was published on withdrawals of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) and Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI). As I’ve written last week this number does not exactly equal Chinese gold demand anymore, but for the time being it’s a very accurate benchmark.

SGE withdrawals 2014 week 42
Blue (本周交割量) is weekly gold withdrawn from the vaults in Kg, green (累计交割量) is the total YTD.

Total withdrawals in week 43 (October 20 – 24) accounted for 60 tonnes and year to date the counter has reached 1607 tonnes. How is this gold supplied? The SGE is supplied by imported gold, domestically mined gold and recycled (or scrap) gold. The amount withdrawn from the vaults equals total demand equals total supply equals import + mine + scrap, because once bars leave SGE vaults they are not allowed to return before being remelted and re-assayed again and counted as recycled.

SGE withdrawals = import + mine + scrap = total demand 

Import = SGE withdrawals – mine – scrap

Let’s fill in the blanks. SGE withdrawals are weekly disclosed by the SGE and domestic mining will be 451 tonnes in total this year. How much is recycled gold? In the China Gold Yearbook 2014 (that covers the financial year 2013), it was disclosed recycled gold was 247 tonnes in 2013, and 232 tonnes in 2012.

Supply Chinese gold market 2013, China Gold Yearbook 2014
Blue is recycled gold in tonnes, green is total supply. (1506.50 is tonnes imported ex gold from Chinese overseas mines)

Based on these numbers let’s estimate scrap will be 239 tonnes in 2014. Now we can calculate import.

Chinese supply content 2014 week 43

As we can see in the table, China has net imported 46.7 tonnes in week 43 and 1036 tonnes year to date (until October 24). Note, these are estimates, but have proven to be very precise.

I’ve been reporting on these numbers for a while now and sometimes I don’t realize anymore how much gold we’re actually talking about. While 99 % of the financial industry has no idea how much gold is being soaked up by China – because they rely on numbers from the World Gold Council – we (me and regular readers) are almost habituated to these immense numbers. 46.7 tonnes of gold are 3,736 London Good Delivery bars, more than 46 thousand 1 Kg bars and about the same amount as the official reserves of Finland, imported in one week! Additionally, this excludes PBOC purchases, which is not being bought through the SGE, according to an SGE official. Though a CGA official confirmed the PBOC is buying continuously.

12.5 Kg London Good delivery bar.
12.5 Kg London Good delivery bar.
1 Kg gold bar
1 Kg gold bar

Taking a step back and rethink what’s currently going on in the Chinese gold market will be quite an intriguing chapter in history books. “China bought all that gold at those prices while the whole world was watching?”, readers will wonder, “and this wasn’t noticed by any journalists? While clearly the fiat international monetary system came to an end?”, as I imagine.

The pattern is as clear as can be; the lower the price of gold the more the Chinese buy. As of October 31 (week 44) the price of gold fell to $1,172 an ounce. Did the Chinese bought some more?

SGE withdrawals 2014 week 43, dips, Chinese gold demand

I expect they did. Notice that demand in December and January is always elevated in China, there will be strong demand in the coming months.

In 2013 and in H1 of 2014, the gold sold through the SGE could be clearly traced back to its source by official customs data. Most of the gold came from London (home of the London Bullion Market and GLD), which was shipped to Switzerland to be refined in 1 Kg bars and then sent on to China via Hong Kong. The numbers made perfect sense, in 2013 China net imported 1,500 tonnes from the West, they mined about 450 tonnes and recycled gold was 250 tonnes, hence SGE withdrawals accounted for 2,200 tonnes.

In recent months the trade numbers make less sense with regard to the amount of gold sold through the SGE, which leaves the question; who is selling these huge amounts of physical gold – under the radar – for bottom prices to China? I will spent a future post speculating on this question.

SGE withdrawals vs COMEX delivery monthly, Chinese gold demand
Latest monthly SGE withdrawal numbers. Note, “withdrawals” and “delivery” are something different.

I noticed the gold premium on the SGEI jumped from the SGE on Thursday, meaning gold in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SGEI) is more expensive than in the mainland (SGE).

Shanghai Gold Exchange gold premium

Foreigners trading on the SGE can not export the gold from the mainland, this is prohibited by the PBOC. Chinese banks (the ones blessed with a PBOC import license) that trade on the SGEI can import gold into the mainland. Effectively the arbitrage opportunity can only be closed one way; if SGEI gold in the FTZ is cheaper than SGE gold in the mainland, the Chinese banks can buy and import gold from the FTZ until the difference is nullified. Of course when SGEI gold is more expensive than SGE gold, the Chinese banks in the mainland have no interest to import SGEI gold.

The fact that trading volume on the SGEI dropped 1.7 tonnes from 4 tonnes in week 43 to 2.3 tonnes in week 44 hints at much of the volume traded on the SGEI is done by domestic banks. Hence SGEI volume drops if it’s price rises relative to SGE prices.

Click here to read a comprehensive analysis of the workings of the SGEI. 


The discount of silver in China compared to London is still hovering below 4 % (measured until October 31).

Shanghai Gold Exchange silver premium 2013

The decline in the discount of silver can be explained by high demand in the mainland, but it can also been caused by high demand from abroad. As we learned last week (click for a detailed analysis) Chinese traders found a way to export silver circumventing a 17 % VAT on silver bullion export – I don’t know the amount of silver involved in the scheme.

Some of the silver that was depleted from the SHFE inventories can have been used for this export scheme. Even more silver can have been exported as the SHFE inventories are not the only stocks in the mainland.

SHFE silver inventory, October 31, 2014

Silver on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) is trading in backwardation, since August 6. This also could have been caused by the export scheme. I will try to figure out how much silver was exported through the scheme, as this will provide us more information on the implications it has caused in the Chinese silver market.

SHFE silver backwardation October 31, 2014

One thing is for sure, the declining silver discount in the mainland and concurrent backwardation were caused by high demand, wether from abroad or the mainland.

Chinese Gold Demand 1541t YTD

First things first, Chinese gold demand is still very strong and it’s in a uptrend since July.

Apologies for my late reporting on the latest SGE withdrawals numbers – which are the best benchmark for Chinese gold demand. I was trying to figure out some details on gold trade rules between the mainland and the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. I still haven’t got confirmation, so will get back to it.

Chinese wholesale gold demand is at least 1541 metric tonnes year to date (inc. week 42 – until  October 17). Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) withdrawals, as disclosed by the Chinese SGE reports, were 52 tonnes in week 42 and according to my estimates China has approximately net imported 991 tonnes year to date.

Shanghai Gold Exchange withdrawals 2014 week 42
In this chart the numbers displayed are as disclosed by the SGE.

Perhaps the ones with a sharp eye noticed the title of this post claims Chinese gold demand is 1541 tonnes year to date, but in the chart above we read total SGE withdrawals stand at 1547 tonnes year to date. Do SGE withdrawals still equal Chinese wholesale gold demand? Not anymore, sadly.

SGE withdrawals week 42 2014 gold
Blue (本周交割量) is weekly gold withdrawn from the vaults in Kg, green (累计交割量) is the total YTD.

What Has Changed?

Since September 2013  I’ve reported every week on Chinese gold demand measured by withdrawals from the SGE vaults, as my research has pointed out this was the best benchmark to use. The game is changing, though, now the Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI) has launched in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ). In terms of trade the FTZ must be considered as a separate country from China mainland.

The new subsidiary of the SGE has not completely opened up the Chinese gold market to the world, gold bullion is still prohibited to be exported from China. Technically speaking the SGEI serves two functions; it’s a satellite exchange for the rest of the world to trade gold in renminbi, additionally the SGEI can be used by Chinese banks, that have a PBOC gold import license, to buy gold and subsequently import the bullion into the mainland (click here for a comprehensive analysis of the SGEI). Since the launch of the SGEI, the withdrawal numbers from the SGE and SGEI are disclosed enumerated, which distorts our view on Chinese gold demand in the mainland.

To be as conservative as possible on Chinese gold demand I applied the following math to SGE withdrawals numbers in the past weeks. I subtracted the weekly volume traded on the SGEI from withdrawal numbers just in case all buyers on the SGEI opted to withdrawal their gold from the vaults in the FTZ and re-exported it anywhere but the mainland.

Chinese law dictates all gold bullion imported into the mainland (in general trade) by commercial banks is required to be sold first through the SGE. If gold is imported into the FTZ it’s officially not imported into the mainland. The thing I’m not sure about at this stage is, if Chinese banks buy gold on the SGEI, withdrawal this from the vaults in the FTZ and import it into the mainland, is this required to be sold through the SGE again (?). My common sense would say no, but I need to have it confirmed by the SGE.

From Detailed Rules for Physical Delivery of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (the International Board is the SGEI):

Article 36

Each Domestic Member and Domestic Customer may withdraw physical bullions deliverable on the Main Board from an MB Certified Vault, but is not permitted to withdraw physical bullions deliverable on the International Board from an MB Certified Vault. Except for those members and customers qualified to import and export gold, no Domestic Member or Domestic Customer is permitted to withdraw bullions from an IB Certified Vault. Any Domestic Member or Domestic Customer that has gold import and export qualifications may withdraw physical bullions deliverable on the International Board from an IB Certified Vault.

Recently the Bank of Shanghai (BoS) has imported 500 Kg from the SGEI vaults (IB Certified Vaults) into the mainland. As we could read on Antaike, I’m not a member of Antaike but I could see this headline on October 23:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 6.00.52 PM

Let’s assume the BoS imported this gold on October 15. And let’s assume the imported gold was not required to be sold through the SGE again.  If we remain as conservative as possible we can make the following calculation:

In week 42 (October 13 – 17) 51.5 tonnes were withdrawn from the SGE and SGEI vaults combined. SGEI trading volume that week was 3.8 tonnes and of this 0.5 tonnes was imported into the mainland. My conclusion would be Chinese wholesale demand was at least, based on the data we have, 48.2 tonnes (51.5 – 3.8 + 0.5). In this fashion I also calculated Chinese wholesale gold demand year to date; it was at least 1541 tonnes.

SGEI trading volumes are still tiny at this stage, thereby, my SGE contact told me SGEI withdrawals are small. So for now total withdrawal numbers are quite accurate for Chinese gold demand, however, this will change. I expect for this year (2014) we can still make good estimates of Chinese gold demand, for next year the numbers might get more blurred. Unless new numbers will be disclosed by China which we can use as tools to clear our view, all in an effort to keep track of gold demand in the mainland, even more important, to make estimates of how much gold is imported from the rest of the world. I hope to have more facts from the SGE by next week in order to report as precise as possible on Chinese gold demand and import.


Workings Of The Shanghai International Gold Exchange

This post is part of the Chinese Gold Market essentials series. Click here to go to an overview of all Chinese Gold Market Essentials for a comprehensive understanding the largest physical gold market globally.

“This event is a major milestone in China’s opening of its financial market to foreign investors. The Shanghai International Gold Exchange will bolster China’s gold market toward greater trading volume and further highlight the price discovery function of the gold market”, Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank Of China, at the opening ceremony of the Shanghai International Gold Exchange September 18, 2014.


The one with the biggest smile, just left of the center, is PBOC governor Zhou. 

An Introduction To The Shanghai International Gold Exchange

On 18 September 2014 the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) launched it’s subsidiary the Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI) located in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. In this post we will investigate how the new gold exchange operates and how can international investors can participate in the Chinese gold market.

I’ve written many posts on the structure of the Chinese domestic gold market, with the SGE at its core, and how gold trade between China mainland and foreign countries is regulated. Has all this suddenly changed now the Chinese gold market is fully opened to the rest of the world? No, the structure of the Chinese domestic gold market and Chinese gold trade policy has not been altered. The SGE and SGEI are technically separate exchanges. This is because a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in terms of trade is a separate country (region) from China mainland. FTZ’s enjoy different trade rules; one can not freely import goods from a FTZ into the mainland. Hence, gold imported into a FTZ is not imported into China’s domestic gold market. However, with the SGEI there is a fashion conceived that links the Chinese domestic gold market with the international gold market.

Shanghai Free Trade Zone
Courtesy Wall Street Journal

The launch of the SGEI is a very important step in China’s process of liberalization, opening up, going out and internationalizing the renminbi to bolster economic strength and become a dominant player on the world stage of geo-politics. Developments in the Chinese economy are rapidly accelerating and in their gold market it’s no different.

Prior to the launch of the SGEI, which is also referred to as the International Board (IB), no less than 16 English rulebooks were released on the website of the SGE on September 16, 2014. Because the structure of the Main Board (MB) had already been documented in Chinese, I think these existing documents have been translated in English and supplemented by new rulebooks about the principles of the IB – and will additionally be supplemented if the IB or MB develop. This would explain the large amount of rulebooks. A welcome incidental of the SGE English rulebooks is that it provides nomenclature on everything related to the SGE and the SGEI, or the Exchange. In the past there has been much confusion on terms like physical delivery on the SGE in the gold space, these misconceptions will hopefully be a thing of the past. From now on I will use the exact same nomenclature used in the rulebooks of the Exchange with regard to the Chinese gold market.

In this post I will expand on the most important changes that took place on 18 September 2014, perhaps at first it may seem a bit confusing, in the end it will all make sense. Note, all my analyzes of the Exchange are by definition simplified.

New Physical Gold Products Offered To International Investors Through The IB

The International Board has launched three new physical products international customers (SGEI members) can buy and sell:

  1. iAu100g       physical product       100 gram gold bar    fineness 999.9
  2. iAu99.99      physical product       1 kg gold ingot          fineness 999.9
  3. iAu99.5        physical product       12.5 kg gold ingot     fineness 995.0

According to the rulebooks of the Exchange gold bars weigh 0.05 kg, 0.1 kg and gold ingots 1 kg, 3 kg, 12.5 kg.

Before we can go into detail on physical products and how international investors can trade these, we must first learn a bit more about the trading structure on the Exchange.

When you become a customer of the Exchange you will receive a trading code that is connected to your identity (or company) until infinity, no matter if you switch broker twice a week this code will stick with you until death does you part (article 17). Subsequently, you will be attributed two accounts:

1) The first is your Bullion Account; each customer’s physical deliveries, load-in and load-out amounts shall be recorded in its Bullion Account. Note, physical deliveries are not withdrawals from the vaults. As we can read from Article 85 of the Spot Trading Rules of the Shanghai Gold Exchange:

Article 85

The term “Physical Delivery” refers to the act of transferring the ownership of the precious metals traded by the Exchange for the performance of the terms of a trade.

By physical delivery the Exchange transfers precious metals from one Bullion Account to another.

2) The second account is your Margin Account. Article 28 of Detailed Clearing Rules of the Shanghai Gold Exchange states:

Article 28

Funds in a Margin Account are composed of Trading Margin and Clearing Deposit. The Trading Margin recorded in the Exchange’s system is the margin that is tied to current day’s trades and the Clearing Deposit is the sum of all other funds on the margin account that is not part of the Trading Margin.

The most basic way of trading bullion on the Exchange is through physical products (which do not enjoy any leverage or fractional backing). After submitting a buying order of the respective product a buyer wishes to purchase on the Exchange, that order has to be matched with a seller’s order before a deal can be executed. When a deal is closed physical products are settled the same day. The amount of yuan in full is transferred from the buyer’s Margin Account to the seller’s Margin Account and the corresponding amount of bullion is transferred from the seller’s Bullion Account to the buyer’s Bullion Account. The buyer is now the owner of physical gold (located in an SGE(I) Certified Vault) and is free to process the bullion to its discretion. From the Spot Trading Rules of the Shanghai Gold Exchange:

Article 46

To trade in a physical product, a buyer must possess funds of an amount equaling the total transaction value of the product when placing the order; and a seller must have the corresponding full amount of physical bullions in its trading account when placing an order. After an order is placed, the funds or physical bullions covered by the order will be frozen immediately.

After an order on physical gold product is filled, the buyer may re-sell the purchased gold on or after the current trading day, or may request to withdraw the gold.

From the Detailed Rules for Physical Delivery of the Shanghai Gold Exchange:

Article 18

A member or customer trading in a physical gold or platinum product may request to withdraw the gold or platinum bullions as soon as the trade is executed.

Settlement on the same day a deal is closed is referred to as (T+0) settlement.

Be aware of the fact that when bullion is withdrawn from a MB or IB Certified Vaults it’s not allowed to re-enter these vaults before it is melted and re-assayed by an SGE approved refinery again. From the Detailed Rules for Physical Delivery of the Shanghai Gold Exchange:

Article 23

Any gold bullion withdrawn by a member or customer shall not be loaded into any Certified Vault in the future.

Gold Products Offered To International Investors By The MB

Next to the three new physical products offered by the International Board, the Main Board offers 8 of its existing products to international customers, divided in two types; 4 physical products and 4 deferred products.

  1. Au100g        physical product       100 gram gold bar     fineness 999.9
  2. Au99.99       physical product       1 kg gold ingot           fineness 999.9
  3. Au99.95       physical product       3 kg gold ingot           fineness 999.5
  4. Au99.5         physical product       12.5 kg gold ingot      fineness 995.0
  5. Au(T+D)      deferred product       1 kg gold ingot           fineness 999.5
  6. Au(T+N1)    deferred product       1 kg gold ingot           fineness 999.5
  7. Au(T+N2)    deferred product       1 kg gold ingot           fineness 999.5
  8. mAu(T+D)   deferred product       100 gram bar             fineness 999.9

The details of all MB and IB products are documented in Annex 2 of the Spot Trading Rules of the Shanghai Gold Exchange. In a future post we’ll discus the workings of deferred products.

As mentioned before the IB and its vault are located in the Shanghai FTZ. From the SGE website we know the IB Certified Vault is owned by the Bank Of Communications. According to China’s state TV network CCTV this vault has a capacity of 1,000 tonnes.

These are the details of the vault as disclosed by the SGE:


Malca-Amit, a global gold vaulting and transportation company, opened a 2,000 tonnes gold vault, their biggest vault on the planet, in the Shanghai FTZ in November 2013.

It could very well be this vault will also become an IB Certified Vault. If not, it would still be able to store 2,000 tones of gold in the Shanghai FTZ in addition to the 1,000 tonnes Vault of the Bank Of Communications. These huge amounts of vaulting capacity signal the threat of the Chinese gold market to the London Bullion Market that historically has been the global center of precious metals trading, but saw a large share of its physical bullion transported to China in recent years.

The Workings Of The Shanghai International Gold Exchange

Now we have a little bit more background information it’s time to put the pieces of the puzzle together. This is how the Exchange operates since 18 September 2014:

(Domestic) SGE customers can trade 12 gold products: 9 domestic gold products offered by the MB: Au50g, Au100g, Au99.99, Au99.95, Au99.5, Au(T+D), mAu(T+D), Au(T+N1), Au(T+N2) – and 3 international gold products offered by the IB: iAu100g, iAu99.99, iAu99.5. Some of these domestic customers, the ones blessed with a PBOC import license, can buy international physical products and have the bullion withdrawn from an IB Certified Vault to import the gold into the mainland. Or, the gold is directly transferred (imported) from an IB Certified Vault to an MB Certified Vault. For domestic customers without a PBOC import license it’s prohibited to withdrawal gold purchased through IB physical products. Note, (domestic) SGE members/customers are allowed to use onshore renminbi to buy physical products on the IB

(International) SGEI customers are allowed to trade 11 contracts: 8 domestic gold products offered by the MB: Au100g, Au99.99, Au99.95, Au99.5, Au(T+D), mAu(T+D), Au(T+N1), Au(T+N2) – and 3 international gold products offered by the IB: iAu100g, iAu99.99, iAu99.5. However, international customers can only deposit and withdrawal gold into and from IB Certified Vaults. Consequently, international banks or investors trading IB physical products can not export physical gold from the Chinese domestic gold market. When international customers withdrawal gold from the IB Certified Vault they are only allowed to store the gold elsewhere in the Shanghai FTZ or export the gold abroad, they are not allowed to export the gold into the mainland.

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 7.31.56 PM
Courtesy SGE.

The next quote is from an announcement published on the Chinese SGE website on September 16, one of my dear friends in the mainland was so kind to translate it:

No 3. The products that international members and international customers can trade include 3 International Board products and 8 Main Board products (Au99.99, Au99.95, Au100g, Au99.5, Au(T+D), mAu(T+D),  Au(T+N1), Au(T+N2). However, they can only deposit and withdraw on the international products.

No 4. Domestic members and domestic customers can participate in trading all the International Board products, but can’t deposit and withdraw on the International Board products (the members with import and export qualifications excluded).

I would like to clarify and strengthen the previous statements by quotes from the rulebooks. From the Detailed Rules for Physical Delivery of the Shanghai Gold Exchange:

Article 31

A Domestic Member or Domestic Customer may deposit physical bullions deliverable on the Main Board into a Main Board Certified Vault (“MB Certified Vault” for short); the member or customer is not permitted to deposit physical bullions deliverable on the International Board into any MB Certified Vault, nor may the member or  customer deposit any physical bullions into any International Board Certified Vault (“IB Certified Vault” for short).

Article 32

An International Member or International Customer who has obtained an approval from the Exchange may deposit physical bullions deliverable on the International Board into an IB Certified Vault. Furthermore, an International Member or International Customer who has obtained an approval may deposit, within its permitted quota, physical bullions deliverable on the Main Board into an IB Certified Vault. An International Member or International Customer is not permitted to deposit bullions into an MB Certified Vault.

Article 36

Each Domestic Member and Domestic Customer may withdraw physical bullions deliverable on the Main Board from an MB Certified Vault, but is not permitted to withdraw physical bullions deliverable on the International Board from an MB Certified Vault. Except for those members and customers qualified to import and export gold, no Domestic Member or Domestic Customer is permitted to withdraw bullions from an IB Certified Vault. Any Domestic Member or Domestic Customer that has gold import and export qualifications may withdraw physical bullions deliverable on the International Board from an IB Certified Vault.

From the Operating Guidelines for International Board Deliveries Of the Shanghai Gold Exchange:

Article 9 

To deposit bullions into Transaction Vaults, an International Member or International Customer must apply to the Exchange for Good Delivery accreditation. An accredited International Member or International Customer may then deposit physical bullions deliverable on the International Board into an IB Certified Vault. Furthermore, an International Member or International Customer whose application is approved may, within the permitted quota, deposit physical bullions deliverable on the Main Board into an IB Certified Vault.

Article 22

Any approved International Member or International Customer that sells physical bullions deliverable on the Main Board must engage a member which has the gold import/export qualification to carry out the import procedures on its behalf, and pay import agent fees for the fulfillment of such import procedures. The Exchange will issue a separate notice providing for the rate schedule and terms of payment of such fees.

From the Spot Trading Rules of the Shanghai Gold Exchange:

Article 99

Domestic members can trade on the IB. Where physical bullions are delivered and transported into the customs and deposited into a Main Board Certified Vault, the Exchange will further issue a SGE Execution Statement to the Domestic Member or the customer qualified to import gold for customs declaration purposes.

It can be more Chinese gold imports henceforth will enter through the newly launched SGEI, as more sellers of gold would like RMB in exchange – if the sellers prefer to receive USD the gold can still flow though the FTZ. The role of Hong Kong as the main conduit to China can be diminished by the latest developments.