China has surpassed India as the world's biggest gold consumer.
The World Gold Council said Tuesday that the Chinese bought 1,066 metric tons of the metal last year, easily topping the 975 tons purchased by Indian buyers, who faced new import restrictions.
The London-based trade group said consumers bought more gold jewelry, bars and coins last year, with demand up most in China, Turkey and Thailand, but less so in the United States and India. The council said global purchases have continued to shift from West to East, with strong consumer demand.
Gold is often viewed by investors as a safe haven for assets against riskier stock holdings. But with world gold prices dropping 15 percent last year, investors sharply cut their holdings. Gold-backed trading accounts sold nearly 900 tons, more than 50 percent of their holdings.
World gold prices reached a peak of $1,895 an ounce in September 2011. The price has dropped unevenly but steadily since then, closing at $1,327 Monday on the London market.