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China's Net-Gold Imports via Hong Kong More Than Doubles in March

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China's net-gold imports via main conduit Hong Kong more than doubled month-on-month in March, data showed on Tuesday.

Net-gold imports by the world's top gold consumer through the port of Hong Kong rose to 111.647 tonnes in March from 47.931 tonnes in February, according to data emailed to Reuters by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.

China's net-gold imports rose to its best since May 2016.

Total gold imports rose to 116.68 tonnes in March from 49.026 tonnes in February.

Both total and net imports in March rose for a second straight month.

"In the past the (Chinese) banks had enough stocks to deal with the local consumption and now it looks like the old inventories have been consumed and the banks are replenishing stocks," said Joshua Rotbart, managing partner, J. Rotbart & Co in Hong Kong.

China allows only 13 banks, including three foreign lenders, to import gold, according to the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

China does not provide trade data on gold, and the Hong Kong figures serve as a proxy for flows to the mainland. The Hong Kong data, however, might not provide a full picture of Chinese purchases as gold is also imported via Shanghai and Beijing.

"Believe demand from China will continue to be strong... People are looking for a longer term safe haven - which is gold at this point of time," said Brian Lan, managing director at gold dealer GoldSilver Central in Singapore.

Gold has risen over 10 percent so far this year, driven by geopolitical worries.

Bullion is often seen as an alternative investment during times of political and financial uncertainty.

Gold prices eased on Tuesday as investor sentiment remained skewed towards riskier assets in the wake of the French election results last weekend, though concerns over tensions on the Korean peninsula limited the safe-haven metal's losses. (Reporting By Nallur Sethuraman and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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