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'Gold rush' reveals scant investment options

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-05-07 14:05

BEIJING - Though credited with stabilizing gold price, the recent gold-buying spree in China reveals a lack of investment options for Chinese households looking to retain asset value.

Despite a new price swing, the precious metal will stay buoyant at $1,542 per ounce for 2013, thanks in part to strong retail demand from China and India, predicted HSBC recently.

Chinese households came under the spotlight with their generous purchase of the yellow metal amid a growing chorus to short-sell gold to shore up the dollar and the US economy.

Chinese buyers have swarmed into retail stores in the mainland and Hong Kong over the past two weeks, snapping up 300 tons of gold, according to Chinese media reports.

Yet spot gold transactions, though resurgent after gold took a dip, can have little impact on gold price, according to Zhao Xijun, deputy dean of the School of Finance, Renmin University of China.

"We all know gold can retain or even increase the value of assets. But we can only afford to buy gold accessories and gold bars," said a woman surnamed Cai, a resident of North China's Tianjin city.

The rush for bargains embodies the limited choice Chinese households have when it comes to investment.

With an under-performing stock market, tightly controlled property sector and low interest rates, Chinese households have scant options to invest their money for better returns.

While trust fund and insurance companies offer investment opportunities, they either have a threshold too high for ordinary households or can not allow investors to withdraw their money for emergency use, leaving people like Cai with very few choices to seek returns on their assets.

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