What the Chinese Are Buying and How to Own it First

There is probably no group of buyers more watched and coveted than Chinese consumers. Over the weekend, the Financial Times had a piece that highlights things the Chinese like to buy.

This is important because the Chinese are becoming increasingly affluent in large numbers. Total consumer spending was $1.7 trillion in 2007, compared to $12 trillion in the U.S. But that number is growing rapidly. The FT focused on the new rich. China now boasts more millionaires than the U.K. The rapid growth of this group has companies all over the world spending more money and time figuring out ways to get in their pockets.

So what do the affluent Chinese like? Outside of ordinary things like flashy cars and booze and quirky things like ivory and dried seahorses, one thing was mentioned in the FT piece that caught my eye: The Chinese love gold.

“China loves gold in all its forms,” the FT reports, “as a reserve currency, jewelry, an investment.” I’ve mentioned in the past about how the Chinese central bank doubled its holdings of gold this year, but it’s more widespread than that.

The rising middle class in China also buys a lot of gold. Since 2007, Chinese consumers have been the second largest purchasers of gold jewelry in the world, behind only India. The FT points out those gold sales were up 28% year over year in May. Total gold demand for the year was up 21%, to 400 million tonnes. There are not too many sales of any kind going up that much in this financial crisis, but there it is.

The financial crisis and weak stock market have helped gold as people look for a place to park some money. I think gold will remain a good place to be for some time yet. And gold stocks have the stars lined up for them. Many are reporting falling cash costs, yet the price of gold is staying up here in the $900s — and is likely headed much higher. That means gold stocks are reporting good increases in cash flow, among the few sectors to do so.