India's gold demand could falter in June quarter on COVID-19 lockdowns-WGC

Woman looks at a gold necklace at a jewellery showroom during Dhanteras in Kolkata
Woman looks at a gold necklace at a jewellery showroom during Dhanteras, a Hindu festival associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, amidst the spread of COVID-19 in Kolkata, India, November 13, 2020. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/File Photo

MUMBAI, April 29 (Reuters) - India's gold consumption is expected to falter in the June quarter as various states are imposing lockdowns to arrest rising COVID-19 cases, dampening the celebration of weddings and key festivals, the World Gold Council (WGC) said on Thursday.

Appetite for gold soared in the first quarter on pent-up demand after weddings were delayed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But an escalating crisis in India has prompted most state governments to impose curbs on the movement of people and asked non-essential business to close, dampening demand in the world's second-biggest bullion consumer.

Lower purchases could weigh on gold prices , which have recovered this year and risen 6% so far in 2021. But falling demand for gold imports could help narrow India's trade deficit and support the ailing rupee .

"Weddings, the Akshaya Tritiya (festival) are going to be a very muted affairs," said Somasundaram PR, the managing director of the WGC's Indian operations.

Gold consumption typically jumps in the June quarter due to weddings and key festivals such as Akshaya Tritiya, when buying gold is considered auspicious.

India typically consumes around 200 tonnes of gold during the period but demand this year should be below that level, he said.

India is battling a second wave of COVID-19 infections, with at least 300,000 people testing positive for the coronavirus each day over the past week, overwhelming health facilities and crematoriums. read more

Gold consumption in the second half of 2021 could rebound on pent-up demand and as economic activity recovers, Somasundaram said. India's economy is expected to grow by 11% in fiscal 2021/2022. read more

Over the year, gold demand could be higher in 2021 than last year's 446.4 tonnes, which was the lowest since 1994, he said.

India' demand for gold jumped 37% from a year ago to 140 tonnes in the March quarter, while gold imports soared 262% year-on-year, the WGC said in a report published on Thursday.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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