Hong Kong's gold jewellers are expecting a boost in the Year of Rat as it is auspicious to get married and have babies, after sales plummeted last year largely because of the anti-government protests.
"The second half of the Year of the Pig shaped up to be a bad year for many gold jewellery shops due to the social unrest as it discouraged tourists from coming here for shopping," said Haywood Cheung Tak-hay, president of the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange Society, which provides facilities and related services to its members for gold, silver, and precious metal transactions. "Some gold jewellery shops have seen sales decrease by between 40 and 70 per cent."
Cheung was hopeful that the gloom would lift in the Year of the Rat, which begins on January 25. "When there are more weddings and babies born, there will be more demand for gold jewellery."
It is a tradition in China for a bride's relatives to give gold jewellery as gifts while parents also buy gold bangles with dragon and phoenix motifs and other ornaments as dowry.
The upcoming Year of the Rat comes first in the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. The 12 animals - which follow in the order of rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig - represent a cycle of 12 years.
"It is not only a good year for weddings but also a popular year for having babies, as children born in the Year of the Rat are smart, clever and dynamic," said feng shui master Wong Man-chiu.
It is also a Chinese tradition for family and friends to present gold jewellery to newborn babies, while some jewellers mint gold coins with the zodiac animal of the year - another popular gift.
According to Cheung, the Year of Dragon is the most sought after among the 12 zodiac animals for couples to tie the knot and have babies, noting "gold sales more than double compared to any other year".
Cheung believes rising demand will lift local gold prices further. He expects it to touch HK$17,000 (US$2,188.62) per tael (37.79 grams) during the Year of the Rat, about 17 per cent higher from its close of HK$14,540 on January 19.
In the Year of the Pig, bullion price rose 18 per cent from HK$12,338 at the end of the Year of the Dog.
In the international market, gold price rose to a seven-year high of US$1,574.37 per ounce on January 7 amid political tension in the Middle East before falling back to US$1,556.2 on January 19. Investors rushed to the traditional safe-haven asset after Iran fired at least a dozen of missiles at military bases in Iraq that hosted American personnel after the US' assassination of its top general, Qassem Soleimani, on January 3.
The yellow metal jumped 18 per cent in 2019 to close at US$1,517.01, easily beating the benchmark Hang Seng Index's 9 per cent climb. Many traders believe gold price may increase by another 10 per cent in 2020 because of low-interest rates globally and high geopolitical tension.
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