Tag Archives: India

Precious Metals Import India 2015 Strong, Government Hopelessly Continues To Obstruct Demand

While India’s gross gold bullion import in 2015 reached the third highest amount ever at 947 tonnes and gross silver bullion import reached the highest amount ever at 8,504 tonnes, the Indian government is perpetually trying to obstruct the populace from protecting their wealth. 

Last week I was going through gold and silver trade data released by the Indian Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) and observed strong import of precious metals in 2015. At the same time I was reading the documents, news came out that stated the Indian government was to implement extra rules to hinder its people from buying gold. In my view, the situation in India is another perfect example of a government’s nonsensical fight against the economic tide. Central banks do it all time don’t they?

In an ongoing failure to understand what capitalism is about, the Indian government continues to “disagree” with its citizenry where savings should be placed. Whenever the Indian people increase gold purchases to secure their financial wellbeing, the government is keen to find new tactics to suppress this free market expression. The government aims the country’s wealth to be where it suits them – in the fiat currency they issue and control, but the populace believes fiat currency is inherently vulnerable and chooses physical gold for its long-term wealth preservation. It seems the more the Indian rulers resist private gold demand, the stronger the forces they’re fighting become. As we’ll see below, most undertakings by the government to keep its people from buying gold have been in vain.

First, let’s have a look at an overview of all the measures undertaken in the past years. At the end of the post I will present the details of the latest gold and silver import data (India mostly relies on import for its precious metals hunger).

When the price of gold made its famous nosedive in April 2013 Indian physical gold demand skyrocketed off the charts; in May 2013 India imported 165 tonnes of gold, the highest monthly tonnage ever. In reaction, the government decided in June 2013 to raise the import duty on gold from 4 % to 8 % and in August 2013 from 8 % to 10 %. In addition, in July 2013 the “80/20 rule” was implemented, forcing traders to export 20 % of all imported gold. The import duty on silver was raised to 10 % as well, although silver was not subjected to the 80/20 rule. The result was that by September 2013 India’s gold import through official channels had fallen to a mere 16 tonnes, but smuggling in gold had exploded. Gold trade was diverted to the black market with all due consequences – thriving criminality threatens social and economic stability – and India’s established gold industry organizations fiercely objected the government’s policy. Another consequence was that silver import has seen spectacular increases ever since (see further below).

Although heavily restricted, Indian gold import through official channels bounced of the lows in mid 2014. Eventually, the 80/20 rule was withdrawn in November 2014 while the Indian government was preparing a new trick: the gold monetization scheme, which was to “to mobilize the gold held by households and institutions in the country” and ”be able to reduce reliance on import of gold over time to meet domestic demand”. In my words, the scheme was intended to oversubscribe the people’s gold by exciting them to deposit their metal at commercial banks. The catch is that the gold depositor is technically lending his gold to the bank, whereby he risks losing his metal if the counterparty goes belly up – although these risks were not disclosed in the brochure. Ironically, the essence why people buy gold in the first place is protect their wealth, not to take risks (ie by lending). Not surprisingly, the gold monetization scheme has failed miserably. In the first two weeks after its launch in November 2015 only 400 grams trickled in – bear in mind, there is an estimated 20,000 tonnes of physical gold owned by the Indian private sector. It does not look like the gold monetization scheme will ever succeed in India.

Data from the World Gold Council shows Indian consumer gold demand accounted for 848.9 tonnes in 2015. Reasons enough for the Indian rulers to continue their hopeless quest to limit demand. In January 2016 the government introduced a rule that forces jewelry buyers to show a Permanent Account Number (PAN), which the vast majority of rural customers do not have, for any purchase above Rs 200,000. And it proposed the re-imposition of a 1 % excise duty. Remarkably, the excise duty was first introduced in 2012 but rolled back the same year as jewelers went on strike. This time around jewelers are seeking the same relief. Since 2 March they’re on strike indefinitely (speculating; the excise duty will not succeed).

Let’s head over to the most recent (final) trade data released by India’s customs department, the DGCIS. India’s gross gold bullion import in December 2015 was robust at 111 tonnes, up 9 % from November and up 218 % from December 2014. Total gross gold import for India in 2015 came in at 947 tonnes, up 22 % from 2014, the third highest amount ever.

India gross exported 11 tonnes of gold bullion in December 2015, down 22 % from November and up 35 % from December 2014. Gross gold export for the year 2015 aggregated to 150 tonnes, the highest ever, up 136 % compared to 2014. Gold bullion export might be elevated due to India’s increased refining capacity.

Net gold bullion import in December 2015 came in at 100 tonnes. Total net gold import for 2015 accounted for 797 tonnes, up 11 % year on year.

India Gold trade december 2015

India gold import 2015

India yearly gold demand

India’s gross silver bullion import was very strong in December 2015 at 1,042 tonnes, up 71 % from November and up 198 % from December 2014. Total gross silver import in 2015 accounted for a staggering 8,504 tonnes (!), up 20 % from 2014.

As, silver bullion export from India is neglectable, net import in December 2015 accounted for 1,041 tonnes and total net import for 2015 came in at 8,494 tonnes. The latter being 31 % of world silver mining output!

India Silver import trade 12 2015

India silver import 2015

From looking at official precious metals import and demand numbers we can wonder if the many restrictions from the Indian government have accomplished anything to their likes. One thing is for sure; the Indian people did not substantially bought less gold – and did buy substantially more silver.

Instead of hopelessly resisting and intervening in the Indian economy, the government could also choose to allow free market forces and/or even support the people’s love for gold to bolster India’s gold industry for it to become a global powerhouse. Wouldn’t that be much more effective?

Kindly note, the cross-border trade tonnages for this post, calculated by myself and Nick Laird from Sharelynx.com, are based on the Rupee values disclosed by the DGCIS and the monthly average metal prices. The gold and silver bullion import and export figures mentioned in this post exclude smuggling and cross-border trade in precious metals jewelry.

What Happened To The Shanghai International Gold Exchange?

Withdrawals from the vaults of the largest physical gold bourse globally, the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE), accounted for 54 tonnes (in week 45 / 16 until 20 November), up 10 % from last week. Year to date SGE withdrawals have reached 2,313 tonnes, which is an all time record.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE withdrawals delivery 2015 week 45

Please make sure you’ve read The Mechanics Of The Chinese Domestic Gold MarketChinese Gold Trade Rules And Financing Deals Explained, Workings Of The Shanghai International Gold Exchange, and SGE Withdrawals In Perspective.

Given elevated SGE withdrawals and continued weakness in the gold price it looks like the Chinese population is buying the dips. The Chinese central bank (PBOC) is likely doing the same, but not through the SGE. The PBOC does its monetary gold purchases in the international OTC gold market – for example, in London or Hong Kong.

According to Reuters China has imported 72 tonnes of (non-monetary) gold from Hong Kong in October – this gold is required to be sold first through the SGE, it’s not directed to the PBOC. Data from the Hong Kong Census & Statistics Department has not been released, but Reuters has a contract with the Department in order to obtain data a few days before the public release.

Known gold exports to China year to date: From January until October Hong Kong has exported 653 tonnes to China mainland, which is 784 tonnes annualized. Switzerland has exported 217 tonnes to China from January until October, annualized 260 tonnes. The UK shipped 210 tonnes to China in the first nine months of this year, annualized 280 tonnes. Australia net exported 49 tonnes in seven months, which is 84 tonnes annualized. So, without counting shipments from exporters such as South Africa and Singapore, China has imported 1,129 tonnes of gold year to date and is on track to import 1,408 tonnes of (non-monetary) gold in total this year. In addition, Chinese domestic mining output is set to reach 476 tonnes. Chinese apparent gold supply – without counting scrap – in 2015 will be 1,884 tonnes.


Using SGE withdrawals as a measure for Chinese gold demand can be slightly deceiving for a number of reasons. For example, Chinese citizens can buy gold on the SGE but prefer not to withdraw this metal from the vault, or chose to withdraw next month/year. This way, wholesale demand would actually be higher than the amount of gold being withdrawn. On the other hand, since the inception of the Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI) gold can be withdrawn from SGEI (IB) Certified Vaults in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ) and exported abroad. According to the accounting rules from the SGE, any SGEI withdrawal is included in SGE withdrawals. An export from the SFTZ would be included in SGE withdrawals. I’m always occupied with the details regarding SGE withdrawals, why we can use it as a measure for Chinese wholesale gold demand and why not. I think SGEI withdrawals can have been a cause for inflated SGE withdrawals this year. 

Late 2014 and early 2015 I’ve written SGE withdrawals could have been distorted by withdrawals from the SGEI. For a while I corrected SGE withdrawals by SGEI trading volume to be conservative about Chinese wholesale gold demand. We simply didn’t know what happened to the SGEI gold that was traded – was it withdrawn from the vaults or not withdrawn. Then, in February 2015 SGE chairman Xu Luode published some figures in an article for Bullion Bulletin that pointed out most of the SGEI trades that were withdrawn from the vault was imported into the Chinese domestic mainland. Meaning, SGEI trading volume could only have slightly distorted our measure of Chinese wholesale gold demand (SGE withdrawals).

After a run up in SGEI trading volume this year, from January until March, it appeared trading of iAu9999 (the most commonly traded SGEI contract – 1 Kg 9999) severely declined in recent months and I stopped subtracting SGEI trading volume from SGE withdrawals to measure Chinese wholesale gold demand. But, the other day I studied the Chinese SGE weekly reports. What I failed to see in recent months was that iAu9999 has been trading in the Chinese OTC market. Mea culpa. In the Chinese OTC market SGE contracts can be negotiated off-SGE, while settlement is done on-SGE.

In the Chinese weekly SGE reports we can see OTC trades on the first page. Below is a screen shot of the report, the OTC settlements are framed in red. Framed in blue is ‘this weeks’ trading, which was in week 45 (framed in green).

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 1.46.15 pm
Courtesy SGE.

Some analysts, including myself, thought the SGEI was dead. But it isn’t.

SGEI contracts bullionstar
In June OTC iAu9999 volume transcended a whopping 170 tonnes a week.

First of all, the iAu9999 contract is traded increasingly in the OTC market. In the chart above the black line resembles OTC iAu9999 trading volume. In the OTC market volume has declined from a peak in May, but I wouldn’t say trading has ceased.

It certainly is possible the gold of these OTC iAu9999 trades can have been withdrawn from the vaults in the SFTZ and exported abroad and thus inflated SGE withdrawals. When a contract (iAu9999) at the SGEI is exchanged, four things can happen (in the context of this investigation):

  1. The gold stays in the vault.
  2. The gold is withdrawn and stored elsewhere in the SFTZ.
  3. The gold is withdrawn and imported into the Chinese domestic gold market.
  4. The gold is withdrawn and exported to, for example, India.

Option 2 and 4 would increase SGE withdrawals without increasing Chinese wholesale gold demand.

When looking at the numbers from the OTC iAu9999 trading we can see an interesting pattern.

iAu9999 OTC

Have a look at the data labels in the chart above. We can see that all weekly OTC iAu9999 volumes end on two zeros (blue bars) or three zeros (red bars). These volumes are the sum of all trades executed during the week. It’s safe to conclude these volumes are exchanged by large traders, as iAu9999 is changing hands in batches of one hundred (blue bars) or in some weeks one thousand (red bars) 1 Kg 9999 bars. For example, in the week that ended 3 July 2015 exactly 73,000 Kg’s were traded. In theory, 20,855 Kg’s were traded on Monday and 52,145 Kg’s on Thursday, aggregating at 73,000 Kg’s in total for the week. Though, this coincidence cannot have occurred each and every week. More likely the OTC iAu9999 traders buy and sell per 100 or 1000 Kg’s. No other SGE or SGEI contracts show this bulky trading pattern.

Did any foreign nations buy gold through the SGEI OTC market and export it from the SFTZ? Hard to say. The most obvious gold trading partner for China is India. Early this year the SGE chairman wrote about the SGEI [brackets added by me]:

… Using the International Board [SGEI] as a launch pad, China’s gold market will embrace greater openness and foster stronger ties with its neighbours and, together, elevate the trading and pricing influence of Asia in the world’s gold market.

As a perennial major consumer of gold and a close neighbor of China, India will undoubtedly become one of SGE’s most important partners in the coming years. SGE looks forward to forming close partnerships with the Indian market.

Imaginably, the iAu9999 purchases were withdrawn from the SGEI vaults in the SFTZ and exported to India. Though, India’s trade statistics can be tracked very precisely and only a small amount of gold has been exported from China to India since the SGEI was erected in September 2014.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.22.52 am
Courtesy Zauba.

In the table above we can see India imported 1.205 tonnes from China Since September last year. These imports into India can be processing trade from any Free Trade Zone in China (no SGEI involvement required), but can also be from purchases at the SGEI in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. In the latter scenario these exports would have been captured in SGE withdrawals (the metal is bought at the SGEI, withdrawn from the IB Certified Vault and exported).

In any case India imported very little gold from China in the past year. The only other gold importer from China I could find was Thailand at 1.488 tonnes, which makes me think foreigners have not yet been very active on the SGEI. More likely, at this stage, is that SGEI withdrawals are imported into the Chinese domestic gold market. Another option, given the large round number volumes, is that OTC iAu9999 is trading in China’s foreign exchange market.

I should add, the customs departments from Switzerland and Hong Kong confirmed that when gold is exported from local soil to the Shanghai Free Trade Zone it’s disclosed in their data as an ‘export to China’. It is irrelevant if that gold is ever imported into the Chinese domestic gold market. No matter what happens to the gold in the SFTZ  it is initially disclosed as an export to China.

In short, trading at the SGEI can have blurred SGE withdrawals this year. More research should point to what extent. 

India Precious Metals Import Explosive – August Gold 126t, Silver 1,400t

In the month of August 2015, India imported 126 tonnes of gold and 1,400 tonnes of silver, according to data from Infodrive India. Gold import into India is rising after a steep fall due to government import restrictions implemented in 2013.

Year-to-date India has imported 654 tonnes of gold, which is 66 % up year on year. 6,782 tonnes in silver bars have crossed the Indian border so far this year, up 96 % y/y.

Gold import is set to reach an annualized 980 tonnes, which would be up 26 % relative to 2014 and would be the second highest figure on (my) record – my record goes back to 2008.

India Yearly Gross Gold Import
On average, the Indian imports equal about 30 % of yearly world gold mining.

Silver import is on track to reach an annualized 10,172 tonnes, up 44 % y/y! This would be a staggering 37 % of world mining.

India Yearly Gross Silver Import

August trade data is preliminary and will be revised. However, these revisions are usually not significant. On 24 March 2015, I wrote an article based on preliminary data that suggested March silver import would transcend 130 tonnes, a few months later official data from the DGCIS disclosed that the Indian silver import figure for March was 132 tonnes.

India Gold Import Is Rising

When the gold price made its famous nosedive in April 2013, demand from the East – India and China – exploded. The Chinese government counted its blessings and encouraged its populace to import an unprecedented 1,500 tonnes. In contrast, the Indian government was not willing to allow its people to satisfy themselves in buying gold. The reason being, a current account deficit.

The Indian government decided in June 2013 to raise the import duty on gold from 4 % to 8 % and in August 2013 from 8 % to 10 %. Additionally, in August the 80/20 rule was implemented – forcing traders to export 20 % of all imported gold. As a result (official) gold import dropped from an all-time high in May 2013 at 165 tonnes, to a mere 16 tonnes in September 2013. We can only speculate how much was smuggled into India at the time.

India Gold trade 8-2015
Note, this chart excludes jewellery trade.

The restrictions shocked the Indian precious metals market and premiums on local gold skyrocketed to 25 % (including the 10 % import duty) in December 2013. When the market eventually found a way within the existing framework to supply those in demand, premiums came down and official imports rose; illustrating the Indian people are not likely to stop buying gold, as they’re aware “their rulers are thieves”.

Finally, the 80/20 rule was withdrawn in November 2014 allowing gold to be imported more easily. The premium at Indian bullion shops over the international gold price (XAU/USD) has been slightly above the 10 % gold import duty this year.

Indian gold Premiums august 2015

The next strategy from the Indian government and the World Gold Council is to monetize gold “to reduce reliance on import” (click to read the proposal). The most recent draft describes how people can deposit their gold at a bank for interest and the banks can use this gold to lend out, though the exact workings of the renewed scheme are still unclear. In my humble opinion monetizing gold in India will not succeed and imports will not be dampened. The Indian people don’t want to lend their gold and they don’t want to melt their inherited emotionally-critical wealth.

Indian gold monetazition scheme

India Silver Import Is Rising

When the Indian government raised the import duty on gold in 2013, it simultaneously raised the import duty on silver to 10 %. However, the premium on silver didn’t reach 25 % like gold. Many people switched to purchase silver instead of gold. Import since 2013 has increased dramatically.

India Silver import trade 8-2015
Note, this chart excludes jewelry trade.

Last May India imported a record 1,542 tonnes of silver, in August an estimated 1,400 tonnes was shipped in, which would be the second highest number on record – my record goes back to 2008.

This year India is set to import 37 % of global silver mining output. Perhaps more interesting, annualized import equates to 18 % of total above ground silver inventory, based on numbers from GFMS.

Gold is hardly used in industries, more so hoarded by investors and central banks and has a high stock to flow ratio. GFMS estimates there is 180,000 tonnes of above ground gold of which India is set to import 980 tonnes (1 % of above ground stock). Silver has many industrial applications, is used up and is not anymore hoarded by central banks. Resulting in relative low above ground stocks which are partially being imported by India – not likely to be exported any time soon. Potentially creating scarcity at current prices. In a forthcoming post we will zoom in on the supply and demand metrics of the Indian silver market.

Indian Gold Import Exploding In March

March has not even ended, though preliminary data indicates India has already imported over 130 tonnes of gold this month.

Because of a “current account deficit” the Indian government decided in March 2012 to raise to import duty on gold from 2 % to 4 %, in June 2013 from 4 % to 8% and in August 2013 from 8 % to 10 %. Additionally, in August 2013 the 80/20 rule was implemented, which was eventually withdrawn in December 2014.

The restrictions the Indian Government implemented on gold trade spawned new life to smuggling cartels with all due consequences. Official Import fell drastically, wiping out any revenues the government collected from the import of the yellow metal. In May 2013 Indian gross gold import accounted for 168 tonnes, by September 2013 a multi year low was reached at 15 tonnes. Premiums in India, over London spot prices, skyrocketed to a staggering 25 %.

Indian gold Premiums march 2015

For a close look at recent import data let’s start with January; India officially gross imported a meager 39 tonnes, though up 9 % year on year. In February gross import accounted for 50 tonnes, up 57 % y/y. Then, the real surprise came this month; as said previously preliminary data (derived from daily numbers at Infodrive) suggests gross import accounts for 130 tonnes (March 2 – 21). When India’s Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence & Statistics will publish official data somewhere around April 13, we know the exact imported tonnage for March.

India Gold trade 3-2015

Perhaps surging import is caused by a falling price since the beginning of the year combined with the relaxation of import restrictions. Remarkably, premiums are staying close to 12 % (including the 10 % import duty), sourcing the metal is no problem.

Indian Gold and Silver prices

From daily trade data we can see a lot of gold from Ghana going directly to India. Could it be there is some conflict gold coming from Ghana?

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 2.33.56 PM

Monetizing Gold

A new scheme the India government is looking at to obstruct gold import is through monetizing gold, comparable to the Turkish system (read this post for the Turkish Reserve Option Mechanism). The World Gold Council’s managing director in India, Somasundaram PR, stated:

Will they allow banks to hold a part of their reserves in gold because of this deposit monetization? It is one of the recommendations. You need to give huge incentives to the banks to operate this deposit monetization.

In short, the Indian people would be able to make a gold deposit at a commercial bank, which technically is always a loan to the bank. Subsequently this bank can use the gold to meet its reserve requirements at the central bank – in this case the Reserve Bank Of India (RBI). The deposits would accrue interest (in Turkey denominated in gold), however, like every bank deposit, the gold can vanish if the bank becomes insolvent. The universal rule is; no risk, no return.

Furthermore, if the gold deposit scheme will be implemented, to the likes of the World Gold Council, I wonder how the RBI will treat the gold held as reserve requirement. The Turkish central bank (CBRT) counts these reserves as official gold reserves, which is double counting.

Turkish Official Gold Reserves

Increases in Turkish official gold reserves are not caused by CBRT purchases on the open market, but a reflection of the amount of gold held as reserve requirement by banks at the CBRT.

The World Gold Council has released two reports on gold monetization, (i) Why India Needs A Gold Policy, (ii) Turkey: gold in action. Both reports combined count nearly 90 pages, but not once are the risks of lending gold to a bank disclosed. Whereas most people own gold to explicitly avoid these banking risks.

Another plan from the Indian Government to prevent the circulation of “black money” is to require people doing gold purchases above 100,000 rupees, to show a so-called permanent account number (PAN), which is used to prevent tax evasion. This would be disastrous for the Indian jewelry industry as 80 % of the industry’s business comes from rural customers, who don’t have a PAN. Hence, Indian jewelers have threatened to go on strike against this plan.

SGE Chairman: India Will Become SGE’s Largest Partner

The latest Indian Bullion Bulletin has just been released wherein the chairman of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) Xu Luode presents the SGE’s international ambitions – read below.

The Chinese government regards the gold market as an indispensable component of China’s financial market and attaches great importance to its growth and development.

The Shanghai International Gold Exchange

Xu provides an excellent all round update of the SGE, though he’s somewhat exaggerating the performances of the SGE International Board (SGEI) till thus far. I don’t blame him though, the SGEI has great potential.

One way to enhance SGEI trading would be to allow individual foreign investors to have easy access to the international exchange and its wide range of products, which is currently limited to SGEI members (banks, refineries, etc). Xu notes this will change soon.

I’ve gotten numerous questions by email from investors worldwide that would like to trade on the SGEI, but can’t get through. At this stage it’s simply not possible, but my contacts at ICBC will timely notify me when everybody can trade at the SGEI. I’ll keep you posted.

Governor of the central bank of China (PBOC) Zhou speaking at the opening of the Shanghai International Gold Exchange.

Xu Luode from the Bullion Bulletin:

Embrace Global Markets, Strengthen International Cooperation, Share China Opportunities, Advocate Mutual Benefits

Shanghai Gold Exchange, A Market-based and Global Exchange Center

Xu Luode, Chairman, Shanghai Gold Exchange

The Shanghai Gold Exchange (“Exchange” or “SGE”) was officially established on October 30, 2002 by the People’s Bank of China (“PBC”) under the approval of the State Council. In just little over a decade, the SGE has firmly placed itself as the most important domestic trading platform and central hub for spot and investment products in gold, silver and platinum. SGE’s success also extends to the international stage: it has been ranked as the world’s largest exchange for physical gold bullions for seven years in a row, and its trading volume in gold and silver reached 11.6 and 430.5 thousand metric tons respectively in 2013, which puts it as the fourth largest exchange in the world for gold and third largest in silver.

I. Background and Significance of the Launch of the International Board

The official launch of SGE’s International Board on September 18, 2014 has unveiled a new chapter in the reform and development of China’s gold market, and marked a solid step in the opening up of the China’s gold market to global investors. Its strategic launch underscores both SGE’s own development needs and its desire for greater integration with international markets. The background and significance of the International Board are:

Xu Luode 21. China has an enormous market base for gold products and harbors great potential.

In recent years, we have witnessed the trend of “oriental gold” playing an increasingly important role in the global market attributable to the rapid development of the China’s gold market: in 2013 alone, the gold produced and imported by China exceeded 50 percent of the world’s gold production and 60 percent of the world’s gold consumption, respectively. As the world’s biggest gold producer, consumer, and importer, China is gradually integrating itself into the global gold market. Meanwhile, China is still a relatively young market as compared to its more established siblings in the world; similarly, SGE has been operating for less than 12 years and is still in its early development stage. But the future is bright: as the urbanization spreads to far corners of China and national income level surges, the development and growth potential of the China’s gold market has never been stronger.

2. Chinese government has been a major proponent for advancing China’s gold market and ushering in its era of internationalization.

Chinese government regards the gold market as an indispensable component of China’s financial market and attaches great importance to its growth and development. PBC has laid a solid foundation for transforming it from a domestic commodity market based on spot products to an international investment market based on derivatives. On another front, the Chinese government established the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone (“Shanghai FTZ”) in September 2013, signaling its determination to introduce more innovations and reforms to the domestic financial system. As national efforts to internationalize RMB reach their crescendo, China’s domestic gold market is facing an auspicious window and timing for pursuing its internationalization and greater openness.

The significance of the launch of the International Board is manifest in the following three aspects:

(1) The International Board provides a vital link between the domestic and international gold markets.

By inviting foreign investors to trade in China’s domestic market, the International Board has greatly expanded the size of the market and increased market liquidity. Foreign investors can take advantage of the diverse range of trading, pricing, and hedging instruments as well as the arbitrage opportunities of “RMB-denominated gold price, RMB interest rates, and RMB exchange rates” provides, and share in the benefits and wealth brought about by China’s market reforms and development.

(2) The International Board provides a new investment channel for offshore RMB.

The International Board offers an attractive investment channel for foreigners holding offshore RMB and imbues offshore RMB with greater investment value and liquidity than ever before. At the same time, the International Board has spurred innovations in FX and interest rate products, improved the visibility and standing of RMB as an international money of account and settlement currency, and accelerated RMB’s march to becoming an international currency.

(3) The International Board lends greater weight to the importance of Asian gold market on the international stage.

China, India, Dubai and Singapore all enjoy vibrant trading scenes and Asia gold 2comparative advantages; however, in the eyes of many investors, the influence wielded by the Asian markets is still very limited as a whole. Using the International Board as a launch pad, China’s gold market will embrace greater openness and foster stronger ties with its neighbors and, together, elevate the trading and pricing influence of Asia in the world’s gold market.

II. Key Features of the International Board

The launch of the International Board has attracted major spotlights from international markets due to its five prominent features:

1. Internationalization of market participants.

SGE’s first 40 highprofile international members include major global commercial banks, investment banks, gold refiners, and investment firms such as HSBC, Standard Chartered, Scotia Mocatta, Goldman Sachs, ANZ, Metalor, Heraeus and PAMP. International members are permitted to trade in all products listed on the Exchange through proprietary accounts and on behalf of international investors.

2. Internationalization of funds.

Offshore RMB and offshore convertible currencies can be used in the trading of RMB-quoted precious metals products offered by the Exchange via the PBC’s Free Trade Accounting Unit.

3. Internationalization of pricing.

All products listed on the Exchange are denominated in RMB. As more market participants gather to trade on the Exchange, and onshore investors and domestic funds become more intertwined with offshore investors and offshore funds, the sphere of influence of trading prices on the Exchange will gradually expand from nearby regions to the whole world and, at the same time, RMB-denominated gold benchmark price will emerge as another financial index of global significance.

4. Internationalization of products.

SGE integrates the Main Board with the International Board so that domestic and foreign investors can trade in the same arena. After being admitted to the Exchange, international investors are allowed to trade in a wide array of products, including the three spot gold products listed on the International Board as well as spot and deferred products on the Main Board. In addition, to better meet the needs of the market, the Exchange has further optimized the structure of products and recently introduced (T+N) deferred products as a new choice for the investors. SGE has also embedded bullion leasing service in its design of the International Board. SGE will concentrate on the launch of this service as its next step toward offering the full range of services that international investors demand.

5. Internationalization of delivery, storage and transportation services.

SGE provides delivery, storage, logistics and other supporting services for the importation and transit of gold through its fully modernized vault in the Shanghai FTZ that is capable of holding thousands of metric tons of gold. International investors may choose to conduct the delivery of physical gold at this vault at their own discretion. The physical gold so delivered may be imported into China by any qualified entity commissioned by the Exchange, or transited without restriction to any other country in the world.

III. Market Performance and Development Outlook of the International Board

As of November 2014, international members have traded more than 100 metric tons of gold in aggregate with a total turnover of around RMB 25 billion; imported gold tipped in at around 12 metric tons, and a total of 15 metric tons of gold have been deposited into the International Board Certified Vault. The market functions of the International Board are beginning to take root and contribute positively to the national economy. As is widely expected, the International Board has shown a promising start, but SGE’s internationalization initiative has just taken its first step, more efforts and time will be needed to realize the full market functions and economic impacts of the International Board.

1. Strengthen international cooperation and seek mutual benefits.

SGE and CME have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with regards to future cooperation efforts. As a perennial major consumer of gold and a close neighbor of China, India will undoubtedly become one of SGE’s most important partners in the coming years. SGE looks forward to forming close partnerships with the Indian market.

2. Attract more foreign entities and investors to participate.

At present, a large number of international organizations have expressed their strong desire to join in the SGE and the Exchange itself has started the admission process for a second group of international members. Looking ahead, SGE will continue to admit competitive foreign entities as its members in accordance with market needs, and will allow international members to conduct brokerage services when the time is ripe and accelerate the preparatory steps for the eventual admittance of foreign individual investors.

3. Further tap into market potentials and improve investor service.

In the future, the SGE will continue to optimize and enrich its range of bullion products, gradually open its silver, platinum, palladium and other precious metals products as well as price asking products and derivatives such as forwards and options to international investors. Furthermore, the SGE will focus on enhancing its transit and leasing businesses, gradually roll out foreign currency-based collateral services and FX swaps, accept offshore funds from more varied sources for International Board transactions, further improve the financial services offered to international members and customers in regards to account opening and cross-border funds transfers, provide customized and streamlined financial solutions to international members, and, by adopting a top-down design, offer exceptional and expedient services to international investors.


Mr. Xu Luode, Bachelor of Economics and senior accountant, is the Chairman of Shanghai Gold Exchange. He is also the Vice Chairman of China Gold Association, the Vice Chairman of China Payment and Settlement Association, the Executive Member of China Finance Society, and the Executive Member of China Numismatic Society.

India Silver Import 2014 At 7,063 Tonnes, Up 15 %

India’s customs department, the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence & Statistics (DGCIS), just released the QUICK ESTIMATES FOR SELECTED MAJOR COMMODITIES for December 2014. According to DGCIS the figures for December are provisional and subject to change, however, I’ve been tracking these quick estimates for months and they are reasonably accurate – compared to the official numbers that lag a few months.

In December India imported $182.31 million in silver; divided by an average price of $16.3 an ounce this accounts for 11,188,095 ounces, or 348 tonnes, down 72 % from 1,254 tonnes in November. The total gross amount of silver imported in 2014 accounted for a whopping 7,063 tonnes, up 15 % from the shocking 6,125 tonnes in 2013. As far as my data goes back (2009) net silver import 2014, 7,055 tonnes, is a record.

Bullion Bulletin released a report in 2014, called An Empirical Study Of Silver Markets In India. In the intro it states:

Why has the silver import into India increased in 2013? We started talking to the industry. We could identify two causes – investment demand and jewelry demand. Investment demand was largely due to demand switch from gold and relative attractiveness of silver to gold.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 10.30.32 AM
Courtesy of Bullion Bulletin

The quick estimates do not disclose any silver export; the official numbers do, but these are negligible as we can see in the next chart.

India Silver Import December 2014

India Yearly Net Silver Import 2009 - 2014

Note, the previous charts are build from numbers on silver as disclosed by the DGCIS, I do not know how much silver is exported in the form of jewelry or silverware. There are numbers available about the value of silver jewelry exports from India, published by the Gem & Jewelry Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), however these values can capture fabrication costs, gems and other precious metals. There for I don’t feel comfortable deriving exported silver tonnage from GJEPC data.

According to Bullion Bulletin total silver demand in India has been strong in recent years, 3,381 tonnes in 2010, 5,519 tonnes in 2011, 3,890 tonnes in 2012 and 5,822 in 2013. This demonstrates little silver import, as disclosed by DGCIS, is exported in the form of jewelry, silverware or industrial products.

Large inflows of silver into India are often supplied by the UK; we can see a clear pattern if we compare India gross import with UK net export to India.

India vs UK Monthly Silver Trade 2009 - 2014
Eurostat has not yet released any data from December 2014

Meaning the UK, the London Bullion Market, is drained from silver by the East just like it’s drained from gold by the East. I don’t see any silver shortages in the near term in the UK, but I’ll keep an eye on it.

India Silver Import 6789t YTD

Gold and silver import into India in November was spectacular. According to the DGCIS provisional estimates India imported 148 tonnes of gold, year to date India has imported 745 tonnes, down 3 % y/y.

India Gold Import November 2014

In 2013 the import duty on gold was raised from 4 % to 10 % and the 80/20 rule was implemented – the latter required all importers to re-export 20 % of all gold imported. On November 28, 2014, the 80/20 rule was suspended, nevertheless India imported the largest amount of gold in November since May 2013.

Why was import elevated? First of all because demand was strong.

India Gold Premium

Second, I think there has been little obstruction to import gold. Let me explain what I mean with obstruction; the premiums on gold in November averaged a little over 3 % (after subtracting the 10 % import duty). Strong official import and low premiums tell me there is very little gold smuggled into India. When premiums skyrocketed it meant that gold imports were obstructed by the 10 % import duty, the 80/20 rule and the confusion in paper work that initially was caused by the 80/20 rule; tightening supply and raising the premiums. This is confirmed by an inverse correlation between official imports and premiums  (falling premiums coincide with rising official imports and vice versa). Now the premiums are low I think there is little obstructing for gold to be imported through the official channels. In November gold importers were still required to pay the 10 % import duty and re-export 20 % of their cargo, however, it seems these procedures were done more efficiently compared to previous months.


In November India imported 1,254 tonnes of silver – a record as far as my data goes back – year to date total import stands at 6,789 tonnes, up 28 % y/y. India is heading to  import approximately 7,406 tonnes in total this year. What’s yearly global silver supply again?

India Silver Import November 2014

Silver premiums are relatively constant in India.

India Silver Premium

Switzerland Net Exports 100t Of Gold In October

From looking at rising SGE withdrawals and Indian import in recent months, we knew demand was increasing consistently and huge amounts of physical gold had to be supplied from somewhere. As I’ve written in a previous post, this type of gold demand can’t be met by just mine supply and so the metal has to be sourced from countries that have large stockpiles, the usual suspects: the UK, Hong Kong and Switzerland.

In 2013 the UK was severely drained (net 1424 tonnes), last week we learned Hong Kong became a net exporter since August 2014, the latest trade data from Switzerland shows the Swiss net exported 100 tonnes of fine gold in October. 75 tonnes net to India and 45 tonnes net to China.

Switzerland gold trade October 2014

Customs data of the usual suspects (Switzerland, the UK and Hong Kong) is getting exciting; they can’t net export gold forever. We know there are often shortages in these trading hubs, it’s only the price of gold that tells us otherwise. The Financial Times reported there are currently shortages in London, from November 14:

As one refiner told me: “Over the past four weeks my cost of hedging has risen by 30 per cent. Not only that, but there is not enough liquidity in the physical market in London to settle my obligations as they come due. I have to fly gold from Zurich to London, because there just is not enough gold on offer in London. You never used to have to do that.”

Personally, I’ve heard statements, second hand, from a Swiss refiner that supply is extremely tight at the moment. Record lows in the GOFO rate suggest the same dynamics. Meanwhile demand in India and China is rising.

Shanghai Gold Exchange withdrawals 2014 week 45, dips

Even the World Gold Council is reporting on strong Chinese gold demand.


India Precious Metals Import Explodes In October

Despite all efforts from the Indian government to curtail India’s demand for precious metals – for example a 10 % import duty on both gold and silver, the Indian people continue to put their savings in a store of value they consider being prudent; precious metals.

By hiking the import duty on gold in 2013 from 4 % to 10 % and the implementation of the 80/20 rule importers were thwarted shipping in metal. In part because the importers  needed to find out how to work through the new rules, which were deliberately setup to complicate the process.  

At first official gold import dropped like a brick, the premium on gold over London spot sky rocketed to 25 % and smuggling flourished.

Since 2014  India’s customs department, the DGCIS, discloses preliminary estimates on commodity trade data (only imports for precious metals). The latest data shows gross gold import in October jumped to 106 tonnes, up 13 % m/m, up 260 % y/y. 106 tonnes gross import is 1,271 tonnes annualized.

India Gold Import October 2014

Year to date India has officially gross imported (ex smuggling) 597 tonnes of gold, down 21 % y/y, annualized 716 tonnes.

Recent history has demonstrated that the more gold is imported through official channels the less pressure there is on the premium of gold in India. Throughout October the premium hovered around 2.5 %, excluding the 10 % import duty.

India Gold Premium November 2014

India gross imported a whopping 1,243 tonnes of silver in October, up 54 % m/m, up 217 y/y. This is one tonne short of the 1,244 tonnes record of May 2011.

India Silver Import October 2014

Year to date India has gross imported 5535 tonnes, up 13 % y/y, annualized 6,641 tonnes.

Premiums on silver in India floated around 2 % throughout October, excluding the 10 % import duty.

India Silver Premium November 2014

India Imports 32 Tonnes Of Gold In February

Without further ado here are the official trade numbers from the DGCIS.


Gold trade 2-2014

Gold premiums provided by Nick Laird from sharelynx.com.

Indian Premiums AU 02


Silver trade 2-2014

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January India Silver Import 462 MT

The DGCIS, India’s customs department, just released the trade numbers for January 2014. Strangely For gold and silver they only disclose the import numbers. To figure out net import I’m aware of only one other source; COMTRADE, but they haven’t caught up until January. For gold we know the Indian government implemented the 80/20 rule in August 2013, meaning gold traders have to export 20 % of their imported gold. By knowing how much gold was officially imported we can thus calculate how much was officially exported.

India officially net imported 28 metric tonnes in January 2014, up 12 % m/m, down 77 % y/y.

Gold trade 1-2014

However, the official numbers on gold import have very little correlation to Indian demand as the majority of gold is smuggled into the country. The main reason for this is India’s import duty on gold that was raised in January 2013 from 4% to 6 %, in June to 8 % and in August to 10 %. Resulting in high premiums and increased smuggling. This chart is from Nick Laird, sharelynx.com:

Indian Premiums AU

In this video by Sunny Pannu from Minaurum gold, Indian gold expert Jayant Bhandari explains the current situation in the Indian gold market.

Another result from the restrictions in gold trade is that many Indians flocked to silver. 2013 Indian net silver import broke all records at 6016 metric tonnes. The Indian gross monthly import average in 2013 was 512 metric tonnes. In January 2014 gross silver import was 461 metric tonnes, down 44 % m/m, up 51 % y/y.

Silver trade 1-2014

India Imported 6125 Tonnes Of Silver In 2013

I’m glad you’re able to read this post. This website has been suffering from many DDOS attacks in recent weeks that not only prevent people from reading my posts, additionally it makes it very hard for me to reach my own server to publish. I will try to figure out how to protect In Gold We Trust in cooperation with my web host to insure better service for my readers in the future.  

Back to business; India’s customs department DGCIS just came out with their final trade numbers for gold and silver in 2013. Only gross import numbers for both precious metals are disclosed in these reports, the export numbers I grabbed from the Comtrade database (although these numbers are quite insignificant).

Starting from August 2013 all Indian traders had to export 20 % of their gold imports. This was a measure designed by the government, on top of an import duty that was raised to raised to 10 %, to slow down gold import. Of course the only result from these measures was that official gold import dropped like a brick, premiums skyrocketed and Indian supply shifted to smuggling. In this next chart by Nick Laird we can see how the import duty pushed the premiums to 25 % in january.

Indian Premiums 2014

The loss for the Indian government is that they miss revenues since they raised the import duty from 4 % to 10% through 2013 and implemented the 80/20 rule. Crime has taken over gold trading with all due consequences. Sadly history repeats itself. Official import crashed hard through 2013.

India gold tm 2103

India gross imported 173 t in H2 2013, down 73 % from 631 t of in H1. Total gross import in 2013 was 804 t, down 20 % from 999 t in 2012. From Jayant Bhandari, who travels a lot through India, I’ve been told that smuggling gold into India is quite easy as customs at the airport and the army at the border are happy to take a bribe. He wrote me:

Some of it comes via planes (via Dubai and Singapore, legally and illegally), some through the Bangladesh border and a minor part through Nepal and Pakistan. I don’t think it is worth the risk to bring it via China. Bangladesh border is the easiest, a few dollars of bribe to the army guys does the job.

I often hear analysts saying that there is shortage of gold in India. Incorrect. It is more liquid a commodity than water is. The spread is so thin that you can often buy and sell at the same price — the trader makes his margin from making jewelry.

Before the 90s, import of gold was heavily regulated and carried a massive customs duty. Of course, in those days most gold arrived in India through smuggling. A big mafia had built up in Mumbai and Dubai, mostly catering to India’s gold demand. Two things happened as a result: Government lost all prospects of earning revenue from gold imports, and most importantly, smugglers ran a ruthless empire in several Indian cities, particularly in Mumbai, controlling human-trafficking (with horrible consequences for poor girls and children) and financing the real-estate and the film industries. They were the unofficial rulers of Mumbai. When restrictions on gold were eased in early 90s under pressure from IMF, the same smugglers took the shape of what got to be known as terrorists. (All this should not sound strange to those who understand the history of prohibition in the US).

The current restriction and heavy custom duty on gold will repeat the consequences of the era before the 90s. But really in an irrational world where rhetoric has more value, who cares about the real consequences? Indeed, based on my many conversations with traders, all gold that India needs is already coming through smuggling. And smugglers want restrictions on gold imports to stay in place — they haven’t had it this easy for a long time.

The premiums on gold, currently 15 % above international prices, pushed a lot of Indian savers into silver. Indian silver import in 2013 was 6125 t, and all-time record, up 189 % from 2115 t in 2012. In December silver import accounted for 825 t, up 108 % m/m, 6560 %  y/y.

India silver import 2103

I wonder if the current Indian government is satisfied about its 2013 precious metals policy and if the next government will choose the same path.

Official India PM Import August: Gold Down, Silver Holds

India’s official gold import is coming down like a hammer. In August India’s gross gold import was a mere 17 tons, – 72 % m/m, – 65 % y/y. The lowest since February 2009. In the first 8 months of this year total gross import accounted for 708 tons, up 111 tons compared to the same period in 2012, or + 19 % y/y.

India monthly gold import August 2013

The main reason for this slump is India’s import duty on gold that was raised  in January from 4% to 6 %, in June to 8 % and in August to 10 %. Another reason is the 80/20 rule that came in force in August, forcing importers to directly re-export 20 % of their gold import. The results are that official import is decreasing, gold smuggling is increasing, premiums are making al time highs and silver imports are up. If we look at a chart from Nick Laird we can see that on top of the import duty Indians have to pay a premium of 12 % on gold, 22 % in total!

India Gold Premiums

Silver demand in india is extraordinary high this year. India gross silver import in August was 369 tons versus 212 tons in August 2012, an increase of  157 tons, + 74 % y/y.  Compared to July 2013 imports decreased 428 tons from 797 tons, – 54 % m/m. Year to date India gross silver import stands at 4311 tons, up 2440 tons compared to the same period in 2012, or + 130 %.

India monthly silver import augustus 2013

The DGCIS has not disclosed any gold or silver export numbers from August.

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