September 2016 Indian Gold Imports Climb off July’s Multi-Year Monthly Low Levels.
Gold Imports Rise in Advance of Gold Giving Season; Remain Under Pressure From a Nationwide Jeweler Strike, Increased Duties, Taxes and Government Intervention.
Indian Gold Imports January – September 2016
Indian gold imports were 42.4 tons (approximately 1.4 million ounces) in September up 63% from 26 tons (approx. 835,000 ounces) in August but down 24% from gold imports of 55.5 tons (approximately 1.78 million ounces) in September 2015.
Last year we released a survey of India and Gold that covered supply and demand in that country and India’s historical affinity for gold. Indians love gold but their government hates that they love it.
India’s War on Gold
Indian gold imports have fallen sharply in 2016. Higher gold prices and the Indian government’s anti-gold policies are to blame for the reduction in Indian gold imports, which are a proxy for Indian gold demand as India does not have any significant domestic gold mining output. Business Standard reported earlier this week:
Since February, gold has been quoted at a discount due to low demand and high prices. As the Diwali and Indian wedding season kicked off in October, however, gold discounts began to disappear and in same cases small premiums were reported.
According to Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, gold imports to India were just 34 tons in February, the lowest amount since December 2014. Gold imports fell to 24.1 tons in March the lowest since September 2013. Gold imports rose to 31 tons in April but were about 50 tons lower than last April. After falling in the spring, gold imports from May through September remained at low levels (see charts below).
As a resut of the Indian government actions outlined below, Indian gold imports have fallen approximately 52% through September compared to the first nine months of 2015. Through September 2016, Indian gold imports were 333 tons (approximately 10.7 million ounces). During the comparable period in 2015 gold imports were 692 tons (approximately 22.2 million ounces).
Indian Annual Gold Imports 1999 – 2016
Indian government action and higher prices have slowed gold imports that are down over 50% year over year.
Despite increased demand, Indian gold imports have been hampered by government action. India has placed import duties on gold in order to slow the amount of gold coming into the country. The government’s stated reason for curbing gold imports is that it throws off their balance of trade with imports exceeding exports due to large gold imports.
India has no significant gold mines, so the country’s entire gold demand has to be met either from gold already in the country or by imports. Efforts to get India’s gold mining industry going have met with lots of red tape and very little production. An Australian Indian venture was recently announced that aims to restart an old gold mine that might provide India with a few tons of domestic supply.
Gold Monetization Scheme
The government hopes not only to stop gold from coming into India, but to get Indians to turn their gold in to the goverment in exchange for interest bearing bonds. The scheme launched in late 2015 so far has yielded little gold from Indian citizens. A couple of temples in India have, however, agreed to turn some of their gold in for the interest bearing bonds. For more on India’s gold monetization scheme click here.
Earlier this year the Indian government imposed a 1% sales tax on gold that immediately prompted jewelers across the country to go on strike. As of mid April, half of India’s jewerly stores were closed even though the strike was called off. The Indian government has refused thus far to lift the 1% tax. Rather, earlier this month, the Indian government exempted smaller jewelers from the 1% tax.
Additional Duty on Indians Returning From Abroad
In April 2016, the Indian government imposed an additional 15% duty on gold and silver for Indians returning home after one year abroad.
India’s Foreign Reserves
India’s foreign reserves have grown in recent years and reached an all time high of nearly $360 billion as of April 2016, or about the size of Russia’s foreign reserves.
India’s Gold Reserves
As of April 1, 2016, India’s gold holdings were 5.5% of its total foreign exchange reserves, down from 9.2% in September 2011. The percentage decrease is due in part to the increase in India’s overall reserves, the decline in the price of gold and because India has not added any gold to its reserves in recent years. India holds 557 tons of gold as reserves. Russia, in contrast, with overall foreign reserves about the same size as India’s, holds nearly three times that amount.
According to the World Gold Council, as of mid August 2016, India held the tenth most gold of any nation.
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