India Gold Imports Hit Record As "Price Is No Longer A Factor"

All those who continue ridiculing gold, saying it has no utility, tend to forget one thing: it just happens to be the ultimate status symbol (especially for the nouveau riche). And who these days wants to demonstrate status (and has a lot of nouveau richness)? Why, the 2+ billion consumers who are benefiting from the biggest growth story in the world, i.e., China and India. According to the World Gold Council, gold demand in India in the last year reached a record. Per Bloomberg: "Purchases were about 800 metric tons, compared with 557 tons in 2009, Ajay Mitra, managing director for India and the Middle East at the producer-funded group, said today in a phone interview from Dubai." But how is that possible? After all gold prices surged in 2010 compared to 2009: is gold demand supposed to be inelastic? Surely you jest? Well, no: "Our assessment is demand will continue to be strong,” [Mitra] said. “Price is no longer a factor.”" Re-reading the bolded sentence a few times just may explain why PM distribution centers with actual physical inventories have suddenly become rarer than hen's teeth.

From Bloomberg:

Gold imports by India, the biggest bullion consumer, likely reached a record last year driven by investment demand, according to the World Gold Council.

Purchases were about 800 metric tons, compared with 557 tons in 2009, Ajay Mitra, managing director for India and the Middle East at the producer-funded group, said today in a phone interview from Dubai.

Imports at that level “would be the highest for India in its history,” he said. The group hasn’t released final data for last year. Purchases in 2010 may exceed 750 tons, Mitra said Nov. 17. The Bombay Bullion Association said Jan. 3 imports probably totaled 700 tons in 2010.

Gold for immediate delivery rallied 30 percent last year to reach a record $1,431.25 an ounce on Dec. 7 as investors bought the metal as a protector of wealth. Demand for bullion as an investment in India surged 73 percent in the year ended Sept. 30, according to World Gold Council data. Purchases by the Asian country this year will remain “strong,” said Mitra.

“Our assessment is demand will continue to be strong,” he said. “Price is no longer a factor.”

 Investment demand for gold in India grew faster than the 62 percent gain in jewelry demand in the same period, according council data.

“It’s been demand driven with investment in mind,” Mitra said. “While jewelry is a form in which a lot of consumers do buy in India, the core proposition really is security for the future, which is the investment angle for buying into gold.”

And that's just India. Next, throw China into the pot, mix, and let simmer...