Gold News

India's Changing Gold Culture

India has been the world's No.1 gold buyer for thousands of years. But traditions are changing...
TODAY marks the last day of Shradh, writes Adrian Ash at BullionVault, the period of "closed observance" on Hindu calendars when it's deemed "inauspicious" to start new ventures or make new investments.
The end of Shradh has a political angle. Also known as Pitru Paksha, the early autumn shutdown has been used to delay nominations for upcoming elections, reports The Times of India.
Fighting such "superstitions" can be dangerous. Rationalist campaigner Narendra Dabholkar was murdered in summer 2013 when pushing anti-superstition laws. This summer's delay to India's electoral process has angered many who want to reduce what they see as the stifling (and corrupting) effect of India's deep culture of religious observance.
Gold looms large in that culture of course (and also in India's huge bribery and corruption culture). The peak demand season in the world's heaviest consumer market starts now, running on until Diwali at the end of October. But long term, many analysts think the wider availability of luxury goods in India will dent India's gold demand, overcoming superstition where rationalism cannot. Many financial services providers think the same of their products...from bank savings to stock-market funds.
India's younger citizens are indeed breaking with tradition over gold, suggests this story on Mineweb. But not how Western observers might expect. Instead, some younger people have broken Shradh to buy gold at the recent low prices.
Forecasts of Asian households "substituting" out of gold into hi-tech consumer goods and packaged financial services are as old as the global bull market in gold, if not older. But they've proven very wrong to date. The only thing to dim India's appetite for gold has in fact been government anti-import rules...imposed because 2013's demand was so huge in response to the price slump.
India's gold industry is finding ways around that...literally smuggling gold in " through the backdoor" (ahem) as one expert analyst joked to me last week. News today also says the old VAT round-tripping scam...where the same metal is imported and then re-exported in a loop to earn sales tax rebates illegally...has found a new use, helping get around India's strict and stifling 80:20 rule.
Ancient Rome's Pliny the Elder started the trend of European commentators calling India the " sink of the world for bullion" more than 2,000 years ago. Can that culture, and the flow of metal West to East it has demanded for so long, ever be changed by flat-screen TVs or iPhones?
Keep a close eye on how India's demand...and the floor it's clearly helped put beneath gold prices to date...develops as Diwali investing, gift-giving and temple offering draws near in 2014.

Adrian Ash

Adrian Ash, BullionVault Gold News

Adrian Ash is director of research at BullionVault, the world-leading physical gold, silver and platinum market for private investors online. Formerly head of editorial at London's top publisher of private-investment advice, he was City correspondent for The Daily Reckoning from 2003 to 2008, and he has now been researching and writing daily analysis of precious metals and the wider financial markets for over 20 years. A frequent guest on BBC radio and television, Adrian is regularly quoted by the Financial Times, MarketWatch and many other respected news outlets, and his views from inside the bullion market have been sought by the Economist magazine, CNBC, Bloomberg, Germany's Handelsblatt and FAZ, plus Italy's Il Sole 24 Ore.

See the full archive of Adrian Ash articles on GoldNews.

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