China gold demand fell in the first half of 2014. Nevertheless, gold consumption could find support from a rising middle class, potentially lifting the precious metal-related exchange traded funds over the longer term.

According to the China Gold Association, China’s gold demand fell 19% to 569 tons over the first half of the year, compared to 706 tons consumed over the same period last year, reports Xan Rice for Financial Times.

Figures from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department mirror the trend, revealing that gold exports to mainland China dropped in June for the fourth successive month to 41 tons, the lowest since January 2013. China mainly buys gold through Hong Kong but Shanghai imports are also on the rise.

The recent pullback in investment-driven consumption suggests Chinese consumers have lost faith in gold as a store of value. CGA data reveals gold coin sales plunged 44% and small gold bar demand plummeted 62%.

Still, this year’s numbers do not easily compare with 2013 data.

“Last year was an exceptional year, so any comparison with that is going to suffer,” said Joni Teves, precious metals analyst at UBS. “The Chinese are still buying gold, just not at the same rate as in 2013.”

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