The biggest story in gold the past year has been India. With the world’s former largest gold importer seeing a 21% fall in shipments during 2016, to just 676 tonnes.
But news this week suggests India’s gold demand is coming back to life — for the first time in nearly a year.
Preliminary statistics on India’s February gold imports showed a major lift. With gold experts GFMS estimating that the country brought in 50 tonnes of bullion during the month — up 82% from the 27.4 tonnes Indian buyers imported during February 2016.
That’s a rare uptick for India’s imports. Which have generally been registering lows over the past several months.
The return of India to the gold market makes sense. Given that many of the factors weighing on demand in 2016 were temporary — including a jewellers strike early in the year, and a cash crunch triggered by demonetization of small bank notes in November.
The demonetization effect had been weighing on India’s gold markets even into January. But the strong February import stats show that the worst may now be over, with Indian consumers making their way back to the market.
The most critical point is that this increased buying is happening even as gold prices are holding relatively high — with an ounce of gold currently selling for near $1,250, not far off the $1,350 peak we saw during the past year.
When gold ran from $1,050 in early 2016 up those heights, reports suggested many Indian buyers were holding off in hopes of lower rates. But this week’s news shows those holdouts may now have given up the wait, and decided to accept today’s prices as a new normal.
The February buying still isn’t a barnburner — with the 50 tonnes imports during the month working out to just 600 tonnes annualized. But the year-on-year increase is encouraging. Watch to see if the March numbers continue the trend and come in higher than a year ago.