HONG KONG (AP) — Global gold sales slipped in 2012 for the first time in three years as the biggest central bank purchases in half a century weren’t able to offset a decline in demand from India, an industry group said Thursday.

Pic: AP.

The World Gold Council said that 4,405.5 metric tons were sold in 2012, down 176.8 metric tons, or 4 percent, from 4,582.3 metric tons in 2011. It’s the first annual decline since 2009.

However, the value of gold sold last year rose to an all-time high of $236.4 billion, mainly because of the rising price for the yellow metal, which rose 6 percent to an average of $1,669 per ounce.

The council said Indian gold demand fell 12 percent last year to 864.2 metric tons. Demand fell 36 percent in the first half of 2012 as Indian buyers cut back because of new import duties, higher local gold prices and market turmoil over government plans to curb imports.

However, demand picked up again in the second half ahead of the wedding and festival season, which includes events such as Diwali. Fears of another hike in import duties also helped spur second-half buying.

Demand in China, the world’s second biggest market, held steady at 817.5 metric tons, even as the country went through a painful economic slowdown.

Central banks, looking to diversify their foreign currency reserves, stepped up their purchases of the precious metal. They bought 543.6 metric tons of gold last year, the highest amount in 48 years. Some countries, including Brazil and Paraguay, started buying gold for the first time last year, the report said.