Import restrictions and the rival appeal of equities have put a damper on India’s gold market, traditionally the world’s biggest. As festival season gets under way and Indians indulge their craving for the yellow metal, many are wondering when New Delhi and the Reserve Bank of India will begin rolling back their efforts to keep the market in check.
Officials are particularly concerned about the effect of gold imports on India’s troublesome current account deficit. One way round that problem would be to encourage more recycling of gold already in India. It could also be an enticing business proposition.
South Korea’s stock exchange opened a gold trading platform on Monday with the hope of boosting transparency of gold trades and rooting out shady deals used for tax evasion.
Eight brokerages and 49 dealers were allowed to participate in the market. They will get tax benefits to encourage their active participation and they will be exempted from trading commissions temporarily until March 2015. Importers of gold to be traded on the exchange will also be exempted from tariffs to increase supply.
India’s policy makers clamped down on gold imports last year, repeatedly hiking duties and introducing quantitative restrictions which squeezed supplies and pumped up premiums in the local market.
As a result China knocked India off the top spot to become the world’s biggest gold market in 2013, according to research by the World Gold Council (and as beyondbrics predicted a while before). What’s surprising is that demand for the yellow metal is still growing rapidly in India, where love for gold is deeply ingrained in culture and religion.
Restrictions on India’s gold imports will be reviewed by the end of March if concerns over the country’s external balances ease up, India’s finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, said on Monday.
As the second largest gold importer after China, any shift in India’s import policies could have an influence on world markets. However, much depends on how policymakers judge their progress in bringing down the current account deficit.
As India’s current account deficit ballooned to unsustainable levels last year, the government slammed the breaks on gold imports with duty hikes and new rules on re-export of the yellow metal. The result was that the jewellery industry hit a standstill.
However, according to Pakistani authorities, India’s official inflows of gold have simply shifted to unofficial channels. Time for action.
India’s external balances have been a focal point this year as the country’s economic woes have centred around the depreciation of the rupee.
So policy makers will be pleased to see India’s trade deficit narrowing yet again. The gap was squeezed to $9.2bn in November from $17.2bn in the same period a year earlier, according to new data from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Good news?
When the Reserve Bank of India put out its latest statement on the nation’s current account deficit on Monday it looked like good news.
The gap narrowed to $5.2bn, or 1.2 per cent of GDP, in the three months to September from $21.0bn, or 5 per cent of GDP, in the same period a year earlier. But are these numbers simply a mirage?
Rumours have been circulating for a while that capitalist bankers may be cooking up ways of helping cash-strapped, socialist Venezuela. Now details are emerging of how the Bolivarian Revolution is paying generous fees to get its hands on hard currency, without actually running up any new debt, or running down its reportedly-depleted foreign exchange reserves.
In the fourth part of our series on gold in India, beyondbrics asks why sales of the precious metal were so subdued before this month’s Diwali festival – usually a peak season.
See also part one, jewellers in a desperate spot, part two, gold loans on the up, part three, the story in charts, and from FT Analysis, India: Part of the fabric.
In the third part of the beyondbrics series on India and gold, we tell the story of the country’s obsession in seven charts.
[See also the FT analysis: India: Part of the fabric; beyondbrics series part 1, the jewellers in a desperate spot; and part 2, the growth in gold loans.]
In the second part of a beyondbrics series on India and gold, we look at the surge in gold loans – a market that highlights the country’s obession with the metal, and serves to reinforce demand.
See part one: India’s jewellers in a desperate spot. Coming on Friday: India and gold in charts.
What can India do about its gold habit? In the first part of a beyondbrics series, to accompany the FT’s Analysis of India and gold, we look at the impact of recent measures to curb the country’s gold appetite on the jewellery industry.
India’s mandarins aren’t quite done tinkering with the gold market.
This week, the government hiked customs duty on gold and jewellery from 10 per cent to 15 per cent, a move aimed both at reducing imports and protecting domestic goldsmiths ahead of the festival season.
By Puran Singh and Nupur Pavan Bang of the Indian School of Business
“Getting married this year would be very costly for me. With gold prices at an all-time high, jewellery shopping will literally wipe out all my savings. My parents will insist that I buy at least 50 grammes of gold jewellery for my future wife. It does not make sense right now at such high prices.” So says a friend, bracing himself to tell his fiancée their wedding must be postponed.
That'll be 20% please
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has put new restrictions in place to limit gold imports, in an attempt to control the country’s unsustainable current account deficit and ease pressures on the depreciating rupee.
The central bank announced late on Monday that 20 per cent of imported gold must be set aside for export with the remainder going to the jewellery industry.