China gold demand to rise, World Gold Council says
China's demand for gold is set to rise by about 20% over the next few years, the World Gold Council has estimated, as the population becomes more wealthy.
The council estimates private sector demand for gold in China will rise to at least 1,350 tonnes by 2017.
Chinese customers bought 1,132 tonnes of gold last year, in jewellery as well as gold bars and coins for investment.
The forecast comes as China becomes the world's largest gold-consuming nation since last year, overtaking India.
The World Gold Council says China is at the "centre of the global gold eco-system", as rapid urbanisation creates a rising middle class.
Albert Cheng, from the World Gold Council, said: "The cultural affinity for gold runs deep in China and when this is combined with an increasingly affluent population and a supportive government, there is significant room for the market to grow even further.
"Whilst China faces important challenges as it seeks to sustain economic growth and liberalise its financial system, growth in personal incomes and the public's pool of savings should support a medium term increase in the demand for gold, in both jewellery and investment."
According to the council, consumers bought a record amount of gold last year, with Asia's economic heavyweights China and India in the top two spots.
In Western markets demand for the precious metal remained strong, particularly in the US, where people bought a lot of gold jewellery as well as gold bars and coins.