Turkish gold imports jump despite high prices

LONDON (Reuters) – Turkey’s 2007 gold imports will exceed last year’s levels, data show, as Turkish manufacturers export more jewelry and as consumers invest in gold as a safe haven in times of trouble, despite skyrocketing prices. Gold imports to Turkey, the world’s third-biggest consumer of bullion, rose 24 percent to 192 tons in the first nine months, matching the total for the whole of last year, figures from the Istanbul Gold Exchange show. Ramadan, the Muslim holy month when trading traditionally slows, caused imports to halve in September to 13.6 tons, from 27.7 in August, but producers say the trend is very strong. «In every Ramadan trading slows down,» said dealer Gokhan Aksu at Goldas, a leading producer and a member of the exchange. «But I cannot say the demand is weaker. The price in the Grand Bazaar is as strong as the world price, which also shows the firm domestic demand,» he said. «I believe we will see year-end imports around 240 tons.» That would be a rise of about 25 percent year-on-year and would bring imports back toward the record high of 270 tons seen in 2005 and the 250 tons imported in 2004. World gold prices have gained 15 percent since mid-August and touched a 28-year peak of $766.60 an ounce this week, mainly buoyed by a weak dollar and record high oil prices. One factor driving oil and gold prices higher is the Turkish parliament’s approval this week of a motion to allow its troops to cross into northern Iraq to attack Kurdish rebels, an action that the United States is urging Turkey not to take. Jewelers said domestic consumers had rushed to buy gold as the metal’s safe-haven appeal strengthened. «I do not see a serious slowdown in demand because of price,» said Omer Halac, chairman of the Istanbul Gold Refinery.