Abenomics fuels frenzy of bullion purchases

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Abenomics fuels frenzy of bullion purchases

Gold sales by Japan’s biggest bullion retailer surged 63 percent to a five-year high as prices slumped and investors sought refuge from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s campaign to stoke inflation and weaken the yen.

Sales of bars to local investors by Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K. soared to 37.3 metric tons in 2013, from 22.9 tons a year earlier, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement yesterday. Sales exceeded purchases for the first time since 2004.

Gold in London slid 28 percent last year, the most since 1981, spurring demand in Asia, while many investors in the United States and Europe lost faith in the metal. The yen’s 18 percent drop against the dollar since Abe became prime minister in December 2012 and a looming increase in the nation’s sales tax help maintain bullion’s appeal as a haven in Japan.

“Gold has been very attractive to individual investors as a hedge against inflation,” said Kazuhiko Saito, chief analyst at commodities broker Fujitomi in Tokyo. “Investors became concerned as Abenomics weakened the yen.”

Abe plans to raise the sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent in April to address the nation’s swelling public debt also encouraged gold purchases by local investors in 2013, said Kate Harada, general manager of the precious metals department at Tanaka Kikinzoku, a unit of Tanaka Holdings.

Consumer prices excluding fresh food - the Bank of Japan’s key gauge - rose 1.2 percent in November from a year earlier. The government last week raised its assessment of the economy for the first time since September, citing improvements in private consumption and business investment.

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