November 13, 2014 / 10:21 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 4-Indian gold curbs still possible after inconclusive policy meeting

* October gold imports jump to 150 tonnes -govt source

* Curbs could imposed for private trading firms

* Finance ministry and central bank to resume talks (Adds failure to reach decision at meeting)

By Manoj Kumar and Suvashree Choudhury

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI, Nov 13 (Reuters) - India’s Finance Ministry and central bank will reconvene in a day or two after failing to come to a decision on Thursday over whether to restrict gold imports after inbound shipments surged in the past two months, pressuring the country’s trade deficit.

October shipments to India, the world’s No.2 gold consumer behind China, jumped to about 150 tonnes from less less than 25 tonnes a year earlier and 143 tonnes in September, a finance ministry official said on Thursday.

Officials from the country’s central bank and Finance Ministry met on Thursday to discuss the policy but no decision was taken, a senior ministry official told Reuters after the meeting. They will resume their discussions in a day or two.

Measures under discussion would restrict imports by private trading firms, which started importing gold around the middle of this year after being barred from doing so from July 2013, two other sources with knowledge of the matter said earlier.

All the sources declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The October jump follows a 450 percent increase in September imports to $3.75 billion, weighing on India’s trade deficit and prompting suggestions that the government could again step in to curb gold imports.

Any new restrictions could raise local premiums to the global benchmark and hurt consumer demand. Reduced Indian gold buying would also pressure global prices, already smarting from weakening demand in China.

Struggling with a high current account deficit, India last year raised the import duty to a record 10 percent and made it mandatory to export a fifth of all bullion imports, crimping supply, boosting local premiums and encouraging smuggling.

India’s gold imports are typically strong in the second half of the year as banks and retailers stock up for major festivals such as Dhanteras and Diwali, when it is considered auspicious to buy gold.

India’s appetite for gold jumped by more than a third to 225.1 tonnes in the July-Sept quarter, boosted by jewellery demand, the World Gold Council said.

“Given the recent seasonality, it would be advisable to wait for another month or two of gold import data before re-imposing any restrictions,” Nomura analysts said in a note.

“There’s been some increase in underlying gold demand as well, but we do not expect this to be sustained.” (Writing, additional reporting by Krishna N. Das and A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Joseph Radford and David Goodman)

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