Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- With stock prices scaling new highs and robust economic growth, Americans spent a record amount of money buying diamonds last year.

Demand in the U.S., which now accounts for more than half the world’s diamond consumption rose 4.4 percent to a record $41 billion last year, top producer De Beers said in a report Friday. That helped offset contractions in India and China. Global demand edged higher by 0.3 percent, to $80 billion.

The U.S. has been a bright spot in the diamond industry, expanding its market share in the past six years as wage growth, job creation and a strong stock market helped boost consumption, according to De Beers. That contrasted with purchases in key growth market India, where a jewelers strike and the demonetization campaign led to a 13 percent contraction. Demand fell 10 percent in the Gulf region as oil prices remained depressed.

De Beers says it expects a better performance in its key Asian markets in 2017 that should lead to “marginal” growth in global demand this year.

“While the U.S. drove global growth in 2016, it is increasing demand from emerging markets that is behind the last five years being the strongest on record,” Bruce Cleaver, chief executive officer of De Beers said. “Despite some markets facing challenging conditions last year, we see this trend continuing, with improvements in demand from China and India, in particular, emerging in 2017.”

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In the U.S., there have worrying signs that President Donald Trump’s pro-business policies are failing to boost consumption of luxury goods. Last week Tiffany & Co. and Signet Jewelers Ltd. reported disappointing sales and there are concerns about the amount of rough diamonds sold by the top producers in the first quarter.

De Beers sold $1.86 billion in its first three sales of 2017, including a $720 million offering in January, its biggest in at least a year. Alrosa PJSC, the second-biggest miner, increased first-quarter sales by 17 percent to 12.1 million carats.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Biesheuvel in London at tbiesheuvel@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Thomasson at lthomasson@bloomberg.net, Liezel Hill

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