Minor Blemishes Apart, Gold Shone For Indians In 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013
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New Delhi: The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may have written off gold as an investment option but the yellow metal shows no sign of losing its sheen in India.

In 2013, not only did gold prices witness an upward march to touch Rs.34,600 per 10 grams, the demand also remained somewhat intact.

Steady demand, despite import restrictions, saw gold prices swaying between Rs.26,440 per 10 grams in April to Rs.34,600 per 10 grams in August.

"Gold will always remain an asset class in India. It will never fetch any negative return. Temporarily, there can be some reverses but in the long term it cannot fade away," Bachharaj Bamalwa, director, All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation, told IANS.

Last year, India imported around 960 tonnes of gold. High gold imports strained India's current account deficit (CAD) which touched a high of 4.8 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012-13.

India, being the world's biggest buyer of bullion, imported a record 162 tonnes in May, 2013. This shook the government, which was trying to rein in the huge current account deficit so as not to let the rupee depreciate any further.

The government raised the import duty on gold to 15 percent. This rise in import duty somewhat stalled gold imports between end-July and mid-October.

"This hiking of customs duty may help the economy in the short run but in the long run it does not because Indians will never stop buying gold. Thus the deficit in gold in the market, arising due to hike in import duty is filled by smuggled gold," economist Siddharth Shankar told IANS.

"Though the current account deficit looks a little better in the short run, in the long run the parallel economy is booming due to smuggled gold," Shankar added.

Somasundaram PR, managing director, World Gold Council, said: "Gold is considered as a strong asset class and we believe policy direction should aim at easing the regulatory landscape for gold imports, viewing it as a strategic investment asset."

He said demand for gold in India, whether in the form of jewellery or investment (bars and coins), is predominantly retail and is driven by millions of individuals across rural and urban India.

"They invest in gold as part of their household savings. It is important to understand jewellery is considered an investment - not discretionary spending for consumption. It serves as a collateral for lending to a large class of borrowers in certain socio-economic segments," Somasundaram added. "Look at the wedding and festive season in last quarter of 2013. This suggests the demand outlook remains strong and the long term fundamentals of the gold market is intact."

Source: IANS
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