Precious Metals Imports Into US Hit 19-Year High in 2020

March 9, 2021  by   0   0

Imports into the US of gold, silver and other precious metals surged last year.

The value of precious metals pouring into the US hit a 19-year high in 2020 and doubled the volume of 2019, according to an analysis of census trade data by USA TODAY.

The influx of precious metals into the US hit $55 billion last year. According to the USA TODAY report, the trend reflected rising demand among purchasers that ranged from Wall Street investment funds to ordinary people buying up bullion.

“Nonmonetary gold” – a category that excludes gold bars owned by central banks –  accounted for about two-thirds of total US imports of precious metals in 2020.

In the first three months of government lockdowns for coronavirus, the US imported $23 billion in precious metals, blowing past the 2019 total. Imports remained higher than pre-pandemic levels every month of 2020. Meanwhile, total US imports of goods fell by about 7% reflecting the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic response.

Even as overall gold demand fell in 2020 investment demand set a record. Global investment demand grew 40% to a record annual high of 1,773.2 tons.

Bullion coins were particularly hot sellers in 2020. A California coin shop owner told USA TODAY that he went from 100 to 200 calls a day to upwards of 1,000. “There hasn’t been a period over the last year where I could say business has slowed down,” the owner said.

Bar and coin demand grew 10% y-o-y in the fourth quarter of 2020 alone, pushing annual retail investment up 3% to 896.1 tons. According to the World Gold Council, demand for gold coins hit a record high.

Official gold coin demand was by far the strongest performing element of retail investment throughout 2020: it reached a record high of 297.6 tons. That is 10% above the previous high of 271t set in 2013 – a time when a precipitous drop in the gold price elicited an unprecedented response from retail investors who took advantage of lower prices to add to their long-term holdings. The growth in retail investment in official coins during 2020 can largely be attributed to consistent strength in investment interest in Western markets.”

USA TODAY said the big increase in precious metals investment reflected a lack of public confidence in the government’s response to the pandemic. “According to a survey done by the Pew Research Center late last year, public trust in the federal government remained so low that only  1 in 5 Americans said they trust the federal government to do what is right either just about always or most of the time.”

One gold broker USA TODAY talked to said he noticed a change in the demographic buying gold and silver.

Precious metals have typically been purchased and held by older white males, but now we’re seeing everybody. There’s a lot of young people who have educated themselves about the value or lack of value in the US dollar and how they can retain value by owning precious metals.”


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