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Gold to Rise on Indian Import Easing?

Smuggling means the CAD isn't really dropping. But if restrictions are eased...?
SINCE last August, writes Julian Phillips of the GoldForecaster, the government of India, the world's largest gold consumer nation, placed a stranglehold on gold imports into the country.
The Indian government requires that 20% of all gold imported be re-exported as jewellery. This forced the amount of gold imported to drop to less than one-third of former levels until October of last year.
The amount imported has since risen to 38 tonnes a month and has held at that level. But the amount of gold that was expected to be imported for the year was north of 1,200 tonnes. India only achieved an imported total of 825 tonnes, around 400 tonnes less than expected. 
If the Indian government eases these restrictions in the end-March budget seven days ahead of the elections (and we expect they will), will it cause a jump in demand from the London market, where India sources its gold from? If so, would that be sufficient to send the gold price soaring?
It may appear so, until we peer under the obvious at the basics.
The reason the government gave for the gold import curbs was that it had to curb its Current Account Deficit (CAD), the gap between the flow of money into and out of India. Since the gold bullion import curbs, this deficit has 'officially' fallen back substantially. To ease restrictions at the end of March would gain votes for the government, so it has every incentive to do so. 
However, a simple easing-up on restrictions will not be sufficient to increase demand. The reason is the very high duties the government started to raise from the start of 2013. At a total of 15%, the duties on gold provide every incentive to smugglers to bring gold in illegally. It's guesstimated that 250 tonnes of gold are entering the country illegally and likely more. We guess this figure by the perceived shortages in the internal gold market there. At 250 tonnes of smuggling, there would be a shortfall on total imported volumes of gold on last year's expected 1,200 tonnes of 150 tonnes. 
If the government dropped duties to 5% or less, the incentives to bring in gold illegally would fall dramatically. Would this stop smuggling? No, because the shortage of gold would persist. What it would do is to add a 'shortage' premium to the gold price over and above legally imported gold's prices that would ensure continued smuggling. 
One advantage to the government in allowing the current restrictions to persist is that the costs of smuggled gold are not added to 'official' figures when calculating the Current Account Deficit, giving the impression that it is dropping, when the reality is that it is not.
But the second reality is that the restrictions are not keeping much more than 10% of demand for imported gold back. In itself this is a defeat for government. Hence, there is little point in maintaining restrictions on gold imports. 
Their political unpopularity must be weighed against the extra revenue the government is drawing in on the legally imported gold. With election beginning on April 7th we expect to see restrictions convincingly lifted so as to gain the most votes.
How much volume of gold would then be imported and its impact on gold prices? What will that do to the volume of gold imports? We believe it would add a real total of between 150 tonnes and 200 tonnes of demand to the London market. Is this enough to boost prices? Ordinarily you would think not, but bear in mind the growing levels of total Asian demand and you see that the demand / supply levels are leaving the market tightly balanced.
Rather like a see-saw tipping over, even an extra 200 tonnes would add an extra 4 tonnes a week to current demand where global supply is around 84 tonnes a week. So in itself, it would not have a dramatic impact, but in a balanced market, it would have a disproportionate impact, particularly when Indian and Chinese demand is growing constantly.
If allowed to import all the gold wanted by Indian investors we may see 1,300 tonnes or more of demand from Indian investors in 2014. As it is we need extra supplies to cope with the rising demand, but they're not coming at current price levels. Bear in mind that the 1,300 tonnes of extra supply from the US last year appears to have dried up in 2014. It is against this background that we conclude that yes, gold prices would be pushed higher by an easing of duties and restrictions on Indian gold imports, disproportionately more than the actual increase in the tonnage then imported!

JULIAN PHILLIPS – one half of the highly respected team at – began his career in the financial markets back in 1970, when he left the British Army after serving as an Officer in the Light Infantry in Malaya, Mauritius, and Belfast.

First he worked in Timber Management and then joined the London Stock Exchange, qualifying as a member and specializing from the beginning in currencies, gold and the "Dollar Premium". On moving to South Africa, Julian was appointed a macro-economist for the Electricity Supply Commission – guiding currency decisions on the multi-billion foreign Loan Portfolio – before joining Chase Manhattan and the UK Merchant Bank, Hill Samuel, in Johannesburg.

There he specialized in gold, before moving to Capetown, where he established the Fund Management department of the Board of Executors. Julian returned to the "Gold World" over two years ago, contributing his exceptional experience and insights to Global Watch: The Gold Forecaster.

Legal Notice/Disclaimer: This document is not and should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase or subscribe for any investment. Gold Forecaster/Julian D.W. Phillips have based this document on information obtained from sources they believe to be reliable but which it has not independently verified; they make no guarantee, representation or warranty and accepts no responsibility or liability as to its accuracy or completeness. Expressions of opinion are those of Gold Forecaster/Julian D.W. Phillips only and are subject to change without notice. They assume no warranty, liability or guarantee for the current relevance, correctness or completeness of any information provided within this report and will not be held liable for the consequence of reliance upon any opinion or statement contained herein or any omission. Furthermore, they assume no liability for any direct or indirect loss or damage or, in particular, for lost profit, which you may incur as a result of the use and existence of the information, provided within this report.

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