India's Jan gold imports plunge 76% to 32-month low
MUMBAI, Feb 16 (Reuters) - India's January gold imports plunged 76% from a year earlier to a 32-month low on subdued demand after domestic prices rallied to record highs and as jewellers postponed purchases, hoping for a reduction in import duty, a government source said.
Lower imports by the world's second-biggest bullion consumer could weigh on benchmark gold prices , but the fall may help in bringing down India's trade deficit and support the ailing rupee .
The country imported 11 tonnes of gold in January, compared with 45 tonnes a year earlier, the source said on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
In value terms, January imports dropped to $697 million from $2.38 billion a year earlier, he said on Thursday.
Local gold futures jumped to a record high of 57,270 rupees per 10 grams in January, stifling retail demand, which had been expected to improve amid the ongoing wedding season, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a private bullion importing bank.
Weddings are one of the biggest drivers of gold purchases in India as bullion in the form of jewellery is an essential part of a bride's dowry and also a popular gift from family and guests.
Jewellers and bullion dealers hardly bought any bullion in the second half of January, as they had expected the government would cut the import duty on gold in its annual budget to curb a rise in smuggling, said a New-Delhi based bullion dealer with a private bank.
India did not slash the import duty on gold in its budget presented on Feb. 1 but raised the import duty on silver.
Local gold prices have fallen nearly 5% from the all-time high and this has helped attract retail consumers, the New-Delhi-based dealer said.
"In February, imports would improve. Bullion dealers and jewellers need to build stocks for wedding season," he said.
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