LONDON: Demand for gold soared in the second quarter as investors sheltered from global turmoil including Brexit, the World Gold Council said Thursday.

Total gold demand stood at 1,050 tonnes in April-June period, an increase of 15 percent compared with the second quarter of 2015.

That took first-half demand to 2,335 tonnes — which was the second highest level for that period and not far from the record 2,371.5 tonnes seen in 2013.

“Investors sought risk diversification and a safe store of value in the face of continued political, economic and social instability,” the London-based WGC added.

Investment demand surged 141 percent to 448 tonnes in the second quarter.

Jewellery demand sank 14 percent to 444 tonnes — with heavy falls in key markets China and India — and central bank purchases also slid.

But over the course of the first half, investment demand leapt to a record 1,064 tonnes, stimulated by soaring prices.

Gold is widely regarded by investors as a safe store of value in times of heightened geopolitical and economic turmoil.

“2016 has unleashed a variety of events creating economic and political uncertainty,” the WGC added in its latest Gold Demand Trends report.

“The US election, the UK referendum on EU membership and possible implications of the Brexit outcome, the increasingly parlous state of Italy’s banking sector; these have proved a potent combination as far as gold investors are concerned.

“Add to that continued geopolitical unrest in the Middle East and the investment case for gold was cemented.”

Prices jumped by about one quarter in value during the first half.

“A number of factors turned the attention of the western investor community towards gold in the opening months of the year — and brought it even more sharply into focus in the second quarter,” the WGC added.

“Global monetary policy remained front and centre. Negative interest rate policies in Japan and Europe, combined with expectations of a slowdown in the cycle of US rate hikes, underpinned investors’ gold-positive sentiment.

“Heightened uncertainty has further focussed their minds.”

At the same time, however, high prices contributed towards “lacklustre” consumer purchasing, particularly in price sensitive markets.

Investment demand was however buoyed by so-called exchange traded funds (ETFs), which enjoyed a “stellar” first half.

“The global picture for gold is dominated by considerable and continued investment demand driven by the West as investors rebalance their investments in response to the ever-expanding pool of negative yielding government bonds and heightened political and economic uncertainty,” added Alistair Hewitt, WGC head of market intelligence.