New York–U.S. gold jewelry demand fell 1 percent last year, according to the World Gold Council.
In its full year Gold Demand Trends Report, the WGC said that in 2016 U.S. gold jewelry demand declined by 118.3 tons after increasing for three straight years.
The year started off well, with the first half marking the highest gold jewelry demand in seven years, since the 2008 financial crisis.
However, the three-year streak of increasing demand ended in the third quarter.
While the fourth quarter picked up due to holiday spending, rebounding 69 percent from the third quarter, demand ultimately was disrupted by the November presidential election, the WGC said, as consumers limited shopping amid a national climate of uncertainty.
Western Europe followed a similar pattern, with economic and political instability contributing to France’s 4 percent decline in gold jewelry demand for the year. The United Kingdom experienced an end to four years of growth in demand for gold jewelry with a 5 percent decrease in the fourth quarter and a 3 percent decrease for the year, undoubtedly influenced by post-Brexit consumer concerns.
Worldwide, gold jewelry demand was down 15 percent for the year, hitting a seven-year low at 2,041.6 tons. This was caused in part by high gold prices.
The two largest gold-jewelry consuming countries–India and China–were both severely down, accounting for 273 of the total 347-ton drop for the year.
India’s demand fell 22 percent, or 148.3 tons less than in 2015, which is the largest annual drop the WGC has on record.
The gold jewelry industry there was brought to a standstill due to the jewelers’ strike in the first quarter, and further hindered by the government’s demonetization policy enacted in the fourth quarter.
Holiday sales during China’s “Golden Week” national holiday were surprisingly weak. Young Chinese consumers spent their money on travel, rather than jewelry, leading to a 13 percent year-over-year decline in the fourth quarter, the WGC said.
Demand picked up in December with the approach of the Lunar New Year, but a tight supply chain wasn’t able to fully meet consumers’ needs.
On the investment side, global gold demand increased 2 percent, mainly due to the prevalence of gold-backed Exchange Traded Funds, which are popular in times of market unpredictability, such as election years.
Gold bars and coins, however, faced low demand in the first three quarters of the year, and were down 2 percent overall.