Chinese investors going for Olympic gold

Updated: 2012-07-11 09:31

By Gao Changxin (China Daily)

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Chinese investors going for Olympic gold

The "Stronger" set of coins from The Royal Mint's London 2012 Gold Series commemorative coin range, which is a set of nine coins crafted in 22 carat gold and are inspired by the Olympic motto Faster, Higher, Stronger. [Photo/CFP]

Chinese people impressed the world with the speed they snapped up commemorative gold items during the Beijing Olympics.

One month before the London Games, they are flexing their investment muscles again, despite the great uncertainty surrounding the price of the yellow metal.

Subscriptions for London Olympics gold coins and bullion are proceeding "fairly well", although they are almost twice as expensive as gold on the open market, said Xu Chenjie, a saleswoman at a Shanghai branch of China Construction Bank.

The price of the coins is set at more than 500 yuan ($78) a gram, while gold on the open market costs around 300 yuan per gram.

The items became available last week, and some customers have even snapped up the 1-kilogram bullion the bank is offering.

Little can be said about the buyers' decision if it's made out of sheer love for the Olympics. But they might lose out if it's an investment.

Analysts are conservative about the prospects for the price of gold in the rest of the year, which has dipped more than 2 percent over the past 12 months.

In the best scenario, in which the US Federal Reserve succeeds in propping up US economic growth, leaders in the eurozone come up with a recovery plan, and Chinese growth bounces back, gold will be around $1,800 per ounce, said Liu Xu, a precious metals analyst with Capital Futures Co Ltd. That's an uptick of around 12 percent from the price of around $1,580 per ounce on Tuesday.

But if any of the three regions blunders or makes slip-ups, gold will probably be where it is now at the year-end, or even lower, he added.

Gold has doubled since 2008, as investors see it as a safe haven amid economic uncertainty. But the price of the precious metal has dropped around 15 percent from a record of $1,921 per ounce in September.

"There are little speculative opportunities in the metal this year," said Liu.

Mo Guogang, an analyst with Tianqi Futures Co Ltd, said that the chances are zero that the price of gold will end up higher at the year-end. And if the economic fundamentals worsen, the gold price could go below $1,400 per ounce, he added.

Liu said bullion is better that paper gold in the current circumstances, and gold has greater potential in the long term as inflation could return again in China's push to restructure its economy.

China's consumer price index eased to a 29-month low of 2.2 percent in June. Analysts said lower inflation erases some investment need for gold as a hedge against economic uncertainty.

Exchange-traded funds that track the gold price are the most common form of paper gold. Paper gold is a better means to speculate on gold as it does not require physical transactions and is traded in standard contracts that usually have leverage. Bullion, in comparison, is less convenient to trade but better at retaining its value.