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India festival saw unexpected jump in gold sales

Oct 21, 2009

By Ruchira Singh

MUMBAI, Oct 21 (Reuters) - India's gold sales for the Dhanteras festival could have risen up to 30 percent from a benchmark, as consumers expecting the near-record prices to rise further bought freely.

The Dhanteras festival, celebrated last Thursday (15 October), is India's biggest gold-buying day and generally accounts for sales of 15-40 tonnes in the world's biggest market, according to various trade estimates.

This year sales may have risen by a few tonnes for the festival from this benchmark.

"Sales were fantastic. Compared to last year, it was 20-30 percent up," said Harmesh Arora, director of NIBR Bullion Pvt Ltd, a Mumbai-based refinery that manufactures coins and bars.

Arora, who is also the vice president of the Bombay Bullion Association, said consumers especially bought coins as they thought prices could rise more.

Ajay Mitra, managing director-India of the World Gold Council, said gold sales were higher by 10-15 percent from a 40 tonnes benchmark because of a "media frenzy" over rising prices.

"Some sellers have told me consumers bought as they feared prices will rise. Some said consumers found no other asset class to invest," Mitra said.

"What helped people, was the availability of liquidity."

Gold prices MAUc1 touched an all-time high in India just a few days ahead of Dhanteras at 16,048 rupees ($345) per 10 grams on Oct. 13.

On Wednesday 21 October, gold was at 15,884 rupees, up 28 percent on year.

Data since 2000 shows in four of the five years that saw double digit percent increase in price on year, imports of gold in the festive second half of the year rose.

For a graphic showing India's correlation between gold price rise and gold imports in 2H, click: here


Gold sellers said they saw a switch to buying of gold coins and bars from jewellery.

"Demand from layman investors was more for coins and bars this festival as they bought with the intention of converting it later to jewellery," said Rahul Gupta, director of PP Jewellers in New Delhi.

A former India managing director of World Gold Council, Sanjeev Agarwal said consumers do buy coins on Dhanteras, though this year the volume had increased.

"Demand for bars and coins were substantially higher than jewellery as they are more economical," said Agarwal, who is now a consultant. A bullion dealer in a Mumbai bank, who did not want to be named, said sales of bars and coins across the counters recorded a 10 percent rise on year for Dhanteras. ($1=46.485 rupees) (Additional reporting by Siddesh Mayenkar; Editing by Jarshad Kakkrakandy)

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