The trend of high volumes of rough diamond exports from Antwerp continued in July, while the diamond capital’s polished trade showed signs of life among persistently soft results. According to figures published by the AWDC, on a year-over-year basis, the volume of rough diamond exports increased significantly (20%) for the third month in a row (+55% May, +53% June), totaling nearly 11 million carats, while their value actually declined by 4% to $1.1 billion. The volume of rough imports also increased 15% while their value tumbled by 14%. Clearly, lower-priced rough is dominating the trade recently. Meanwhile, the value of polished exports fell 1% while their volume fell 9%. The polished diamond trade figures were marked by pockets of substantial shifts in various markets.
For the year 2017 to date (Jan.-July), the volume of rough exports has increased nearly 19% to 77.8 million carats compared to the same period a year ago, while falling 2% in value to $7.7 billion. A similar trend is found on the import side, as rough volumes increased nearly 3% while their value has fallen by 13%. As independent analyst Paul Zimnisky wrote recently, “Producers have been unloading excess inventory consisting of primarily lower-quality goods and have seen their average-price-per-carat figures skewed lower so far this year despite raising prices on a like-for-like basis. For example, De Beers has seen over a 20% decrease in average price per carat sold in H1 2017 over H2 2016, but has alluded to a 2-4% increase in their “average price index” over the same period of time.” Strong demand for rough continues.
Compared to June 2017, Antwerp’s polished exports increased 4% in volume and 1% in value, while imports lost 11% in volume and 31% in value compared to last month. Polished exports to the U.S. in July more than doubled in volume compared to June while increasing 75% in value to $370 million, while polished imports from the U.S. fell just as precipitously. Year-over-year, among Antwerp’s top five markets, good for nearly 80% of the value of polished exports, those to the U.S. were up 22%, to Israel +16% and Switzerland +59%; these were balanced by a 39% decline in exports to its second largest market, Hong Kong, while those to the U.A.E. remained stable at +2%. Overall trading levels in the polished diamond markets were muted due to the summer slowdown in Europe and the United States, with polished prices down due to cautious sentiment and an abundance of supply, as more rough than anticipated worked its way through to manufacturers, who have ended up with high levels of inventory.