After the gold prices crossed Rs. 50,000 for 10g after 9 years period since 2011 in India, there seems to be no stop to how high the prices can go. The gold prices touched Rs.58,100 for 10g in Bangalore as of 7th August. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise because commodities like gold have always had exceeding demand in India. Especially after considering that India is one of the world’s largest consumer second only to China.
However, the increase seems unrealistic in times of pandemic where every investment seems to have suffered, only gold seems to have found its biggest boom. In the three year period from September 2016 to October 2019, gold saw an increase of 25% in its value. But along with the increasing troubles of 2020 in the midst of a pandemic the value of gold has already shot up 37.8% or by Rs. 15,240 with 5 more months to go.
Today, we take a look at the scenario finding possible reasons for the boom and also discuss if investing now is a good idea.
The Indian Gold Market
It would be rare to find a market in India that has consistently been in demand such as that of Indian Gold. There have been many jokes that have passed on claiming that the gold available in households is more than sufficient to cover all the deficits and debt that our country faces. But when we look at the following figures these statements may not be exaggerated. Indian households have piled up as much as 25000 tonnes of gold. To put things in perspective that alone would amount to Rs. 145.25 lakh crores in today’s rates. India’s central bank the RBI, on the other hand, has a total holding of 653.01 tonnes of gold. That too after buying additional 40.45 tonnes of gold in the current year.
The figures in the households are the ones that have been accounted for. It does not include gold smuggled into the country which stands approximately at around 120-200 tonnes every year. After observing these figures it may not come as a surprise that India accounts for 25% of the world’s total physical gold demand worldwide.
Why is there an increase in Gold Price?
For many Indians, gold has always been the favorite investment instrument traditionally apart from the land. Despite this, a significant portion is still placed in liquid assets like cash, stocks, etc. In the times of a pandemic, individuals are seeking shelter for their savings in an investment that doesn’t necessarily provide great returns but at least maintains its value and provides liquidity. This has led to the demand for gold skyrocketing to new heights.
Now we take a look at some other factors that have lead to this increase in demand.
As you may already know that gold is scarce because all gold is mined. Over time however mining for more gold has become difficult and due to its characteristics, it is safe to say most of the gold is recycled and put back into circulation. But luckily enough this gold cannot be consumed like other commodities. Enabling it to keep its value since time immemorial keeping up with the rising population. Another factor that adds to its scarcity due to its lack of consumption is what happens after the commodity is bought.
Gold, after it is bought, is taken out of the market for long periods of time only to be kept in a drawer or bank locker taking it out of the market for years. But these factors like scarcity, inability to consume, etc, have always existed. Then why have the prices increased now?
These factors have always existed at lower prices only because the increasing demand has always been checked with adequate supply. In order to limit the spread of the virus most countries had to resort to a lockdown. This has had adverse effects on not only mining but also a lack of shipments. As per some estimates, the global demand for gold is 1000 tonnes more than the supply. This rise in demand as mentioned earlier has been due to people’s search for a secure asset.
The demand for gold also has its roots in humans’ desire for beauty. Demand for gold in India is interwoven with culture, tradition. This is primarily because of the dependence of marriages and other functions on gold. According to a study by the World Gold Council, Indian consumers view gold as both an investment and an adornment. When asked why they bought gold, almost 77 percent of respondents cited the safety of investment as a factor, while just over half cited adornment as a rationale behind their purchase of gold.
3. Geopolitical Factors.
People search for a safe haven like gold extends to periods of geopolitical tension like war. This is the reason why crisis situations like wars have a negative impact on almost all asset classes. But when it comes to gold it has a positive impact. This increase in the price of gold was earlier also noticed during the Korean nuclear crisis. Similar trends are noticed due to tensions between India-China and US-China.
4. Exchange Rates
It has been observed that a weakened US Dollar also leads to a rise in gold rates. The same is noticed in the current situation.
5. Limited Influence by Big Market Movers.
In stock markets, it is the FII and DII’s that are termed as market movers. This is because of their ability to influence market trends due to top huge capital in possession. In the Gold market, it is the central banks that have a significant influence. This is because almost every central bank keeps reserves in the form of investment in gold. When an economy is performing well and the RBI has sufficient foreign reserves it will want to get rid of gold.
Because gold does not generate any return and a booming market will provide a better return if the money is invested elsewhere. But in this scenario, the other investors as well will not want to invest in gold as they too would prefer to earn returns. Hence central banks are caught on the wrong side of the trade leading to a fall in the value of gold.
But however, the influence the central banks like RBI have is limited. This is because of the Washington Agreement. This agreement, however, is not binding and is more like a gentleman’s agreement. According to it, central banks will not sell more than 400 metric tons a year. Limiting the influence of central banks even if they want to benefit from high prices.
In Closing: Should you Invest in Gold now?
Predicting Investments is always tricky due to the uncertainties present. Most of us may have already noted the effects of economic turmoil on gold and decided to invest in the future if we are faced with a similar scenario. But that doesn’t help today, does it? In order to help you take better decisions, let us take a look at previous gold rate highs.
If you notice in the above chart you’ll be able to see that the Gold rates boomed in the 1980s as well. But a person investing in such a high would only reap the benefits almost 3 decades later post 2008. Similarly, a person who invested in 2011 is reaping some minimal positive benefits in 2020. Hence considering this if investments were made in gold say in early 2020 is a completely different story than investing now.
However, it is also best to take a look at the forecasts predicted by analysts. Analysts, however, have been bullish and have predicted that gold prices could go up to Rs. 65,000 for 10g in the next 18-24 months. But it is necessary to note that these estimates depend on a period that COVID-19 will take a while more to be controlled. Also, public vaccine availability is not anticipated for at least months to come.
From the above arguments, it shows that when the investment is made on a long term perspective there may be other alternatives that provide better results in the same time frame. However, investing for short periods completely depends on one’s estimates for COVID control or vaccine availability oy unavailability.
Also read: [Update] COVID-19 Vaccine: When can we expect it to be ready?
Aron, Bachelors in Commerce from Mangalore University, entered the world of Equity research to explore his interests in financial markets. Outside of work, you can catch him binging on a show, supporting RCB, and dreaming of visiting Kasol soon. He also believes that eating kid’s ice-cream is the best way to teach them taxes.
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