World gold demand slips 11 percent in 3Q

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HONG KONG (AP) — Global gold demand fell in the third quarter as investors bought fewer bars and coins and buyers in China held back because of an economic slowdown, an industry group said Thursday.

About 1,085 metric tons of gold was sold worldwide in the three months through September, the World Gold Council said in a report. That's down 139 metric tons, or 11 percent, from a record 1,223.5 tons in the same period of 2011.

Bar and coin purchases slid by nearly a third to 294 tons while jewelry buying dipped 9 percent to 449 tons. Central bank purchases also slowed. The declines were offset somewhat by rising demand from exchange traded funds that buy gold bars on behalf of investors.

Investors in Europe accounted for more than half the drop in bar and coin demand as investors were "less aggressive" in their buying. But the London-based council said in a report that investors were still continuing to buy at historically high levels. The results also looked poor because they were being compared with "extraordinary levels of demand" in the previous year, when investors flocked to the safety of gold because of the worsening European debt crisis, weak U.S. dollar and rising inflation.

Gold, which has risen about 10 percent in the past six months, was trading at $1,725 an ounce.

Gold demand in China, the world's second biggest market, "lost further momentum" in the quarter, with demand falling 8 percent to 176.8 tons as the country's painful economic slowdown hurt consumer sentiment.

"This was particularly noticeable among the middle classes whose purchases of 18-carat gold jewelry were among the worst casualties," the report said. A slowdown in the number of jewelry stores opening in China, which also sell bars and coins, also hit demand.

But the report forecast that China would recover as the holiday gift giving season approaches and on hopes of an economic stimulus package from the country's new leaders.

Companies in China would buy gold jewelry and other luxury items to give as bonuses to staff and as a way to thank customers, said Albert Cheng, a managing director at the World Gold Council.

India, the world's biggest gold market, rebounded 8 percent to 223.1 tons as buying picked up again following strikes by jewelers, fewer auspicious marriage days and a new import duty in the first half of the year. Rising prices also prompted people to buy on expectations of further prices increases, the report said.

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