It was not enough for China to buy JPM’s landmark former downtown Manhattan headquarters, once the stomping grounds of David Rockefeller and the current location of the firm’s massive, and arguably largest in the world, gold vault (which, as Zero Hedge first demonstrated, is located just next to gold vault of none other than the NY Fed). It seems that for the nation that has unleashed the world’s biggest ever buying spree of physical gold -oblivious what the price of paper gold does on a daily basis – having purchased over 2000 tons of gold in the past two years as we showed recently…
… now the question is just where to store it.
Not surprisingly, in the Chinese bastion of capitalism, where there is demand, there will be supply. And in this case, the supply of gold storage is to be found in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, where the physical gold ends up in custodial limbo as it is not considered “imported” by China. In fact, the gold is theoretically in no man’s land and as such can be reexported out of China, or sent deeper into the mainland, to China’s banks or private buyers, on a whim. Of course, all that is on paper. If and when the Communist Party says “enough” all the gold in the FTZ would be “reappropriated.”
Bloomberg reports, that a gold vault that can store 2,000 metric tons, double China’s projected consumption this year, opened in Shanghai this month as owner Malca-Amit Global Ltd. seeks to benefit from rising demand in Asia’s largest economy.
The facility is the biggest for the Hong Kong-based company, and it can also store diamonds, jewelry and art, Joshua Rotbart, precious metals general manager, said in an interview. The site could hold bullion worth about $82.5 billion at today’s price, Bloomberg calculations show. China’s total demand may reach 1,000 tons in 2013, the World Gold Council forecasts.
Someone should tell China that just because the price of gold is sliding, it should stop buying the inflation-protecting metal. Then again, perhaps China knows all about the gold price and is reacting accordingly:
Consumption in China may increase 29 percent to a record this year, overtaking India as biggest user as lower prices and higher incomes spur demand, according to the WGC. The investment in Shanghai’s new free-trade zone reflects a shift in world demand away from the U.S. and Europe toward Asia. Demand for gold jewelry, bars and coins in Greater China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam is now about 60 percent of the global total, up from 35 percent in 2004, according to HSBC Holdings Plc.
“Such a facility is a massive vote of confidence for the Chinese gold market,” said Philip Klapwijk, managing director of Hong Kong-based Precious Metals Insights Ltd. “The trend for demand has been very strongly positive,” said Klapwijk, who’s monitored precious metals since 1988.
This is just the beginning of the great physical gold warehousing:
“There’s going to be more gold coming to China,” Rotbart said on Nov. 5. “This place can be used as a trade hub basically, so foreign banks can trade with domestic banks within this facility, saving costs and time.”
Bullion has been flowing into mainland China even as local output increased. Net imports from Hong Kong more than doubled to 826 tons in the first nine months of the year, according to Bloomberg calculations based on government figures. Local output rose 8.2 percent to 270.2 tons from January to August.
Shanghai is home to the country’s biggest physical gold exchange, founded by the People’s Bank of China. Gold volume on the Shanghai Gold Exchange rose to a five-month high of 22,703 kilograms on Oct. 8.
So how is it possible that with all the massive Chinese demand, gold is sliding? Simple: levered paper positions via ETFs are being unwound, and the resulting gold ends up in China as physical.
“There’s been a lot of gold being sold out of ETFs, all of that is outside of China,” Victor Thianpiriya, a Singapore-based analyst at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., said by phone today. “A lot of that has found its way to China via Hong Kong, attracted by demand for bullion bars.”
Which means that as levered paper trades are unwound, the underlying physical finds its way in China. For now, since the developed market has convinced itself there is no need for truly safe collateral, the premium on, and demand for, paper gold has tumbled, as has the associated rehypothecation velocity on the underlying. However, when demand for gold collateral surges once more, due to any of the types of events witnessed in 2010, 2011, or 2012, or inflation in China once again surges like it did in 2011, the story will change very quickly. Only this time, it will be China holding the apex of the “High quality collateral” pyramid.
And should the same level of demand for gold return as was seen in any of the prior years, then one will have to pay substantially more in fiat for the privilege of holding a truly safe asset. Especially since that actual physical asset will ultimately be located behind a massive safe door some 80 meters below the ground in Shanghai, which in turn will allow China to demand whatever fiat price it wishes for those once again scrambling into the safety of the yellow metal.
More on the Shanghai gold vault in the clip below: