June 19, 2024

India’s Attempt To Curb Gold Purchases Will Ultimately Fail

India may increase the import tax on gold for the third time this year in an attempt to shore up the weak rupee.  Purchases of gold and silver account for a huge 12.5% of all Indian imports and are contributing to a record current-account deficit according to Bloomberg.

“The government may look at increasing the duty to 7.5 percent,” Prithviraj Kothari, president of the Bombay Bullion Association, said in a phone interview. D.S. Malik, a finance ministry spokesman in New Delhi, declined to comment.

The tax on bars and coins was doubled to 4 percent in March after imports jumped to a record 969 metric tons in 2011. A further increase may deter jewelry buyers and investors during India’s festival season, which starts this month, as a decline in the rupee against the dollar boosts domestic gold prices to an all-time high. Imports plunged 42 percent to 340 tons in the first half, according to the producer-funded World Gold Council.

Curbing shipments of gold will help the country to narrow the current-account deficit as the drop in rupee boosts the cost of crude-oil purchases, according to the finance ministry. The shortfall widened to a record 4.2 percent of the gross domestic product in the year ended March from 2.7 percent in 2010-2011.

The rise in the deficit, the broadest measure of trade, was due to slower exports and so-called relatively inelastic imports of petroleum products, gold and silver amid a rally in global prices, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said on Aug. 23.

Will India’s attempt to restrict import of precious metals be successful and what impact will this have on the price of gold and silver?  Let’s consider the following:

1.  The Indian government should know better.  In 1962, India passed the Gold Control Act which prohibited Indian citizens from owning gold bars and coins.  The result was the instant creation of a huge black market that continued to supply gold and silver throughout India.

The (Gold Act) legislation killed the official gold market and a large unofficial market sprung up dealing in cash only. The gold was smuggled in and sold through the unofficial channel wherein, many jewelers and bullian traders traded in smuggled gold. A huge black market developed for gold.

In 1990, India had a major foreign exchange problems and was on verge of default on external liabilities. The Indian Govt. pledged 40 tons gold from their reserves with the Bank of England and saved the day. Subsequently, India embarked upon the path of economic liberalization. The era of licencing was gradually dissolved. The gold market also benefited because the government abolished the 1962 Gold Control Act in 1992 and liberalized the gold import into India on payment of a duty of Rs.250 per ten grams. The government thought it more prudent to allow free imports and earn the taxes rather than to lose it all to unofficial channel.

2.  India should be more concerned with maintaining a currency that offers their population a stable store of value rather than depriving their citizens of viable alternate currencies such as gold and silver.

3.  The centuries old tradition in India of holding gold and silver as a source of liquidity and for capital preservation is unlikely to change.  The rupee, like most other paper currencies, has been systematically debased.  Inflation in India over the past decade has made holding rupees a losing proposition.

Courtesy: inflation.eu

4.  The reduction in gold demand during the first half of the year by both China and India has been widely touted in the mainstream press as a reason for a continued sell off in the precious metal markets.  Right.  Despite the reduction in gold demand by China and India, gold based out in the $1,600 range before rallying sharply to $1,697.   Gold is now $99 or 6.2%  higher than it was on the first trading day of 2012.

courtesy: stockcharts.com

5.  By attempting to restrict gold purchases, India has simply advertised the rupee’s intrinsic lack of value to their citizens which will ultimately create an even greater demand for gold and silver.

Gold Demand Soars as Supplies Increase Marginally

Gold demand increased strongly across all sectors during 2010, as the supply of gold barely increased.

According to the World Gold Council, global demand for gold hit a 10 year high of 3,812.2 tonnes worth $150 billion.  The demand for gold hit an all time high in value as gold prices hit a record high of $1,421 per ounce on the London PM fix.  Typically, as the price of an item increases demand will decrease, but in the case of gold, it seems that  higher gold prices are creating more demand.  The risk of sovereign defaults, inflation, economic concerns and weak currencies have convinced many investors that gold is  integral to the preservation of wealth.

The demand for gold in 2010 was nothing less than extraordinary considering the 25% increase in gold prices.  The London PM Fix price of $1,121.50 at the beginning of 2010 increased steadily throughout the year and closed on December 30, 2010 at $1,405.50.

The World Gold Council noted that key factors affecting the price of gold during 2010 included the following:

  • Jewelry demand increased by 17% over 2009, with demand particularly high in both India and China.  Asia accounted for 51% of total investment and jewelry demand during 2010.
  • For the first time in 21 years, central banks became net purchasers of gold.
  • Investment demand for gold during 2010 was actually down by 2% in 2010 to 1,333 tonnes, but was the second highest demand year on record.

Gold Demand - World Gold Council

The value of gold demand skyrocketed by 38% in 2010 to $150 billion, despite the 40% increase in gold’s value since 2008.  The statistics for specific demand categories, according to the World Gold Council were as follows:

  • Total gold jewelry demand increased by 17% to 2059.6 tonnes despite increased gold prices.  The value of jewelry demand was $81 billion.
  • Investment demand for bar and coin and ETFs remained stable in 2010, down only 2% from the previous year.  In value terms, demand strongly increased by 23% to $52 billion.  Demand for physical bars increased by 56% to 713.2 tonnes.
  • ETFs accounted for 9% or 338.0 tonnes of gold during 2010 which was down by 45% from the peak of 617.1 tonnes in 2009.  At year end 2010 gold holdings by ETFs amounted to 2,175 tonnes worth $96 billion.
  • Gold demand by the technology and electronics industry rose 12.4% to 419.6 tonnes.
  • The market with the strongest growth in gold demand was India.  Gold demand by Indian consumers increased by 66% to 963.1 tonnes worth $38 billion.
  • The market with the strongest investment demand was China which saw a 70% increase in demand for coins and small bars to 179.9 tonnes worth $7 billion.

Total gold supply increased by only 2% as mines struggled to find new deposits and increase production from existing mines.  Out of total yearly gold supply, 40% comes from recycled gold.