Last year's demand for jewellery in Vietnam was 12 tonnes, 11 per cent higher than the 2020 figure of 11 tonnes. But the fourth quarter saw a 12 per cent on-year fall to 2 tonnes, as the market was hit hard by COVID-19.
Q4 retail investment in Vietnam declined by 11 per cent on-year to 6 tonnes. Although lockdowns started to ease in October, consumer confidence took time to rebound fully. On-quarter retail demand grew, due in part to concerns about inflation, a reduction in the savings rate, and weakness in the VND. Annual bar and coin demand in Vietnam was 31 tonnes, a slight increase on the 29 tonnes purchased in 2020.
Andrew Naylor, regional CEO, APAC (ex-China) at the World Gold Council said, “While many Vietnamese consumers were wary of high-value purchases due to the severe effects of the pandemic, sales picked up in November with promotional campaigns and the wedding season. Cultural milestones, coupled with Vietnam’s recovery of consumer confidence led to a significant rise in annual consumer demand for gold.”
Returning to the global picture, demand for gold reached 1,147 tonnes in Q4/2021, its highest quarterly level since Q2/2019 and an increase of almost 50 per cent on-year, according to the World Gold Council.
Gold bar and coin demand rose 31 per cent to an 8-year high of 1,180 tonnes as retail investors sought a safe haven against the backdrop of rising inflation and ongoing economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the World Gold Council’s data series reported outflows of 173 tonnes in 2021 from gold-backed exchange-traded funds (ETF) as some more tactical investors reduced hedges early in the year amid vaccine rollouts, while rising interest rates made holding gold more expensive.
Nevertheless, these outflows represent only a fraction of the 2,200 tonnes that gold ETFs have accumulated over the preceding five years, demonstrating the continuing importance investors place on including gold in their portfolios.
Turning to annual consumer demand, the jewellery sector rebounded to match 2019’s pre-pandemic total of 2,124 tonnes.
This was aided by a strong Q4 when demand reached its highest level since Q2/2013 – a quarter where the price of gold was 25 per cent lower than the average comparative price in 2021; further highlighting the strength of demand in the most recent quarter.
For the twelfth consecutive year, central banks were net purchasers of gold, adding 463 tonnes to their holdings, which was 82 per cent higher than 2020. A diverse group of central banks from both emerging and developed markets added to their gold reserves, lifting the global total to a near 30-year high.
The use of gold in the technology sector in 2021 increased 9 per cent to reach a three-year high of 330 tonnes. While technology demand is comparatively smaller than other sectors, its uses are far-reaching and prevalent in a variety of electronics, from mobile devices to the sophisticated James Webb telescope recently put in orbit.
Gold is expected to face similar dynamics in 2022 to those seen last year, with competing forces supporting and curtailing its performance. Near term, the gold price will likely react to real rates, which in turn will respond to the speed at which global central banks tighten monetary policy and their effectiveness in controlling inflation.
Historically, these market dynamics have created headwinds for gold. However, the elevated inflation seen at the start of this year and the possibility of market pullbacks will likely sustain demand for gold as a hedge. In addition, gold may continue to find support from consumer and central bank demand.
Louise Street, senior analyst EMEA at the World Gold Council commented, “Gold’s performance this year truly underscored the value of its unique dual nature and the diverse demand drivers. On the investment side, the tug of war between persistent inflation and rising rates created a mixed picture for demand. Increasing rates fuelled a risk-on appetite among some investors, reflected in ETF outflows. On the other hand, a search for safe-haven assets led to a rise in the gold bar and coin purchases, buoyed by central bank buying. Declines in ETFs were offset by demand growth in other sectors. Jewellery reached its highest level in nearly a decade as key markets like China and India regained economic vibrancy."
Street further said, “We expect similar dynamics to influence gold’s performance in 2022 with demand drivers fluctuating according to the relative dominance of key economic variables. How central banks deal with persistently high levels of inflation will be a key factor for institutional and retail demand in 2022. Meanwhile, the jewellery market’s current strength could be hampered if new COVID variants restrict consumer access again or continue if the economic recovery endures."