As gold demand in India abated in 2009, it adversely impacted yellow metal's prospects across the world, says WGC.
The Global gold demand fell last year for the first time since 2009 as jewellery buying abated in the key Indian and Chinese markets and U.S. and European coin and bar investment dropped, the World Gold Council said on Thursday.
While gold consumption is expected to stabilise this year, it may be some time before it revisits record levels seen in the depths of the financial crisis, the WGC said in a report.
"It's hard to see a major move up in demand (this year)," the WGC's managing director for investment, Marcus Grubb, said. "Demand will remain high, but we're talking small single-digit numbers in terms of growth from the current tonnage level."
"The tonnage last year was 4,405 tonnes for consumer demand, and if you add in over-the-counter demand, it's another 100 tonnes higher," he said. "We would expect 2013 to be quite similar to that."
Grubb said he sees gold prices, which have traded between $1,625-$1,695 an ounce this year, staying within their current trading range, although potentially market-destabilising events such as upcoming U.S. budget talks could push them higher.
Gold is down 1.4 percent this year after posting its biggest quarterly drop since 2008 in the last three months of 2012.
Buying by central banks peaked in the fourth quarter at 145 tonnes. In the full year, central bank purchases continued their upward trend to hit a 48-year high at 534.6 tonnes.
But jewellery demand overall fell 3 percent last year to 1,908.1 tonnes, with the biggest absolute decline noted in India, the world's largest gold consumer, where a weak rupee left consumers struggling against record-high local prices.
China, the second biggest gold buyer behind India, saw a 1 percent drop in jewellery demand to 510.6 tonnes, its first annual decline since 2002.
Overall demand was flat in China in the full year and fell 12 percent in India, although it rose by 35 percent in the final quarter as buyers scrambled to avoid a widely-anticipated hike in import duty announced in January.
"Provided we see no more increases in import duty, we still think we will see India continue to recover from what was a difficult year in 2012 overall," Grubb said. "Some of the buying may have been pulled into Q4 (by anticipation of the duty hike), but overall we think that will be countered by other