By Peter Hobson
LONDON (Reuters) - Switzerland exported 126.6 tonnes of gold worth around $7 billion to the United States in May - the biggest monthly shipment on record - as high prices in New York continued to pull in metal, customs data showed on Thursday.
Swiss shipments to China and India, usually the two largest buyers, remained near rock bottom.
The coronavirus crisis has turned the global gold market on its head, with purchases of jewellery and gold bars in Asia falling sharply while investors in the West stock up on bullion as a safe asset to weather a period of turmoil.
Prices on the CME Group's Comex exchange in New York have been consistently higher than prices elsewhere, encouraging people to ship gold to the city.
Switzerland, a major trading, vaulting and refining centre for precious metals, has now shipped 281 tonnes of gold to the United States since the start of March - 15 times more than was shipped in the whole of 2019.
Meanwhile, Switzerland shipped 503 kg (0.5 tonnes) of gold to India, 42 kg to Hong Kong and no gold at all to China in May.
Each of these destinations usually receives hundreds of tonnes of metal from Switzerland a year. Since the start of March India has imported 7.6 tonnes, Hong Kong has taken 195 kg and mainland China has received nothing.
In total, Switzerland exported 141.9 tonnes of gold in May.
(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Editing by Pravin Char)