The government's crackdown on undisclosed foreign assets and income is curbing demand for gold
in the world's second-biggest consumer, while rising real interest rates and better returns from other financial markets
are also hurting purchases, a banker said.
Although consumption should pick up from now until the end of the financial year, when India buys more for gifting during festivals and weddings, weak demand so far has dragged on the global gold
price that has shed nearly nine per cent from a two-year high in July to $1,258 an ounce on Tuesday.
"There is a crackdown on black money in India and many people who were looking at gold
as an investment for unaccounted income are no longer investing in gold
at all," Shekhar Bhandari, executive vice-president of Kotak Mahindra Bank, told Reuters on the fringes of an industry meet.
Unofficial estimates suggest funds illegally deposited in banks outside the country to avoid tax, known as "black money" in India, account for about 10-30 per cent of the country's gold
demand, said Bhandari.
A tax evasion amnesty scheme, led by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that closed in September disclosed nearly $10 billion in undeclared income.
demand has also been hit by higher returns from other asset classes, Bhandari said, with returns on equities and bonds at 12-13 per cent dwarfing gold's 0.9 per cent in terms of rupees since 2013. Rising real interest rate due to declining inflation is dimming gold's draw as well.
"The returns on gold
in rupees is pathetic," Bhandari said.
"I think it won't be advisable to invest in gold
given current levels where investment returns are likely to be negative in Indian rupees," he added.
imports fell for the ninth month in September as weak retail demand and higher discounts prompted banks and refineries to cut overseas purchases.
But imports in the second half of India's financial year to March will probably be 25-50 per cent more than the first half, said Sunil Kashyap, managing director for global banking and markets
"With Diwali just about two weeks away from now, demand so far looks good. Expectation is that it'll sustain until the end of the year," Kashyap said.
discounts dropped to the smallest in nearly nine months last week as the festive season began.
"If stability of the rupee continues and gold
prices are stable, then we can expect positive trends. But any kind of volatility could hamper gold," said Scotiabank's Kashyap.