Some rush to buy gold but serious investors stay cool

The reaction to gold's latest low point has differed greatly across world markets - and among buyers in Singapore. Last night, gold was trading at US$1,096.10 an ounce.
The reaction to gold's latest low point has differed greatly across world markets - and among buyers in Singapore. Last night, gold was trading at US$1,096.10 an ounce.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Some retail buyers of physical gold here are rushing to get the precious metal, now that gold prices are hovering near five-year lows.

But the reaction to gold's latest low point has differed greatly across international markets - and among buyers in Singapore.

While China's gold purchases from Hong Kong fell to their lowest levels in a year this month, sales of American bullion coins were at their highest in two years.

Likewise in Singapore, some buyers have rushed to snap up the precious metal while more serious long-term investors are holding out to see how prices move.

After falling to US$1,085.50 (S$1,482) an ounce last Friday, a five-year low, the price of gold has since risen slightly, but it is still far below the 2011 peak of US$1,921.50 an ounce. Last night, it was trading at US$1,096.10 an ounce.

Many buyers here have flocked to gold markets to try their hand.

Ms Jessica Chia, 33, is the business manager for Ho Bee Goldsmith & Jewellery, with three stores here. She said the firm's retail gold price, which stood at $62 for one gram in January, was $56 a gram two weeks ago and is now $54.50.

Even the vegetable sellers in her neighbourhood are asking her if it's a good time for them to buy gold, she said.

Ms Chia said that Ho Bee is also taking advantage of the drop in prices to build up its stock.

"Customers who were selling five years ago are coming back now," said Ms Chia. She added that the majority are middle-aged customers who indicate that they are buying gold "for safekeeping".

For instance, 43-year-old Madam Catherine Ong, who works with her husband in real estate consulting, said she most recently bought gold last month and again two weeks ago. In all, she spent about $10,000 on jewellery for her son and daughter, and coins "just to safekeep".

"I think I bought too soon," she told The Straits Times. "Actually I'm buying, but now I think the prices will drop further. That's my gut feeling, so I will hold for a while."

A similar picture was painted by Mr Luke Chua, sales and operations manager of BullionStar. Following the metal's first price fall of 4 per cent on Monday, the company, one of the largest bullion dealers in Singapore, saw a 300 per cent increase in the demand for physical gold.

Mr Chua, 29, said his firm is seeing record demand from short- term buyers.

He added: "Our queues are longer and our stocks are getting taken up. Usually we get our gold from refineries and the refineries are running low on stock as well."

However, not all are biting the hook of lower prices. A 65-year-old retired businesswoman, who wanted to be known only as Margaret, said she would wait for the price to drop below US$1,000 before purchasing more gold. She does not want to sell any of her bullion, though, seeing it as a safe investment against the next global crisis.

She quipped: "I anticipate that one day the whole thing is going to crash and then people will look for gold. My long-term view is that the price cannot drop very much more."

It is this long-term perspective that has led to relatively stable demand from more farsighted buyers.

Mr Eddie Listorti, ANZ global co-head of fixed income, currencies and commodities, told The Straits Times that although the bank has seen a significant increase in demand for physical gold from Asia, there was no liquidation from its Singapore gold vault.

A spokesman for Metalor, which operates a gold refinery in Singapore, concurred. The firm has seen only a small rise in demand for physical gold from the first quarter.

"With the recent dip in the gold price to its lowest level, investors are adopting a wait-and-see view to determine the next buy or sell position," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Some rush to buy gold but serious investors stay cool'. Print Edition | Subscribe