Japan's gold exports have doubled this year as individual investors locked in profits after gold prices soared earlier in the year; but retail demand for bullion has been picking up steadily over the past few months.
Industry sources say the rise in retail demand for gold may turn Japan into a net importer again, but that may not happen immediately as many players are still looking to unload their gold holdings when prices recover.
Japan was a net importer of gold in October for the first time this year as investors bought on a plunge in prices. But, according to finance ministry data shown on Friday, exports exceeded imports again in November.
In the 11 months leading up to November, Japan's exports of unwrought solid gold, gold bars and sheet totaled 393.9 tons, up from 174.9 tons in 2007. In November alone, Japan exported 47 tons of gold, rising more than five-fold from October, while imports more than halved to 4.1 tons from the previous month.