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Demand for gold will weaken this year as a surge in purchases by investors will not offset a dramatic fall in consumption by jewellers, industry and central banks, an industry report said on Wednesday.

Consultancy Metals Focus also predicted that gold prices would average $1,700 an ounce this year, suggesting that a rally to eight-year highs around $1,770 will stall.

The coronavirus outbreak has turned the global gold market on its head.

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Lockdowns have collapsed sales of jewellery, bars and coins in markets including China and India that are usually the engines of gold demand, while western investors have rushed to buy what they see as a safe asset for turbulent times.

Jewellery makers will use 1,596 tonnes of gold in 2020, down from 2,137 tonnes last year, Metals Focus said in its Gold Focus 2020 report.

Central banks will buy 350 tonnes, down from 646 tonnes in 2019, and industries such as electronics manufacturers will use 291 tonnes, down from 326 tonnes last year, it said.

Investors will only partially compensate.

Sales of bars and coins will rise to 925 tonnes from 850 tonnes last year and exchange traded funds, which store gold on behalf of investors, will increase their stockpile by 900 tonnes, compared to 404 tonnes in 2019, Metals Focus said.

Gold supply would decline by only 1% to 4,762 tonnes, leaving the market oversupplied by 690 tonnes, the seventh consecutive annual surplus and the biggest since at least 2011, according to Metals Focus.

Its prediction of average prices this year of $1,700 an ounce, while below current levels, is 22% higher than last year’s average of $1,393 an ounce.

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