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Mint suspends orders amid rush to buy bullion

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Print Page: Print Sarah-Jane Tasker | November 22, 2008
Article from: The Australian

FEARS of the unknown long-term effects from the global financial crisis have sparked a new gold rush.

With retail and wholesale clients around the world stocking up on the precious metal, the Perth Mint has been forced to suspend orders.

As the World Gold Council reported that the dollar demand for gold reached a quarterly record of $US32 billion ($50.73 billion) in the third quarter, industry insiders said the race to secure physical gold had reached an intensity that had never been witnessed before.

Perth Mint sales and marketing director Ron Currie said the unprecedented demand had forced the Mint to cease orders until January, with staff working seven days a week, 24-hour days, over three shifts to meet orders.

He said Europe was leading the demand, with Russia, Ukraine, Middle East and US all buying -- making up 80 per cent of its sales. One European client purchased 30,000 ounces for $33 million.

"We have never seen this before and are working right at capacity. And we are seeing it from clients in the shop buying one ounce, right up to 30,000 ounces from overseas clients," Mr Currie said.

Robert Jaggard, manager of bullion and rare coins dealer Jaggards, said business had picked up strongly and he expected it to increase further.

"All around the world there has been a heavy run on physical gold and there is a shortage of supply," he said.

Mr Jaggard, who has been dealing in gold for 40 years and is an agent for the Perth Mint, said some clients were buying up to $1million worth of gold, paying a premium above the spot price.

Late yesterday afternoon, spot gold in Sydney was trading at $US747.30 an ounce, up $US8.15 on Thursday's local close.

"Professional business people who have previously bought small amounts now want more gold because they are suffering in other markets," Mr Jaggard said.

At a conference this week in Munich, delegates were lined up 30-deep to purchase physical gold. And reports out of the Middle East suggested that there had been unprecedented gold buying in Saudi Arabia during the first half of November, with an estimated $US3.5 billion purchased in recent weeks.

The World Gold Council, releasing its global demand trends yesterday, said identifiable investment demand, which incorporates demand for gold through exchange-traded funds and bars and coins, was the biggest contributor to overall demand during the quarter. It was up to $US10.7 billion, double last year's levels.

The figures showed retail investment demand rose 121 per cent to 232 tonnes in the third quarter, with strong bar and coin buying reported in Swiss, German and US markets.

The quarter also witnessed widespread reports of gold shortages among bullion dealers across the globe, as investors searched for a haven. Overall, quarter three saw Europe reach an all-time record 51 tonnes of bar and coin buying. France became a net investor in gold for the first time since the early 1980s.

World Gold Council chief executive James Burton said gold's universal role as a store of value had shone through during the quarter, helping attract investors and consumers to all forms of gold ownership.

"The rise in demand for gold bars and coins has been impressive," he said.

Demand in India, the largest market for gold, recovered during the third quarter, encouraged by lower gold prices, a good monsoon and the onset of the festive season. At 250 tonnes, total consumer demand was 31 per cent higher than the same period last year. In value terms, demand hit the record quarterly sum of $US5 billion.