(Bloomberg) -- Indian gold buyers sidelined for most of the past year due to surging costs are now snapping up bullion as a drop in prices unleashes pent up demand.
Benchmark gold futures in India have tumbled about 20% from a record in August last year, mirroring a decline in the global benchmark as haven demand wanes. In a sign that demand is picking up, imports into the country jumped 41% in February from a year earlier to the highest since November 2019, according according to a person with knowledge of provisional finance ministry data, who asked not to be identified as the information isn't public.
As well as lower prices, consumption is expected to pick up ahead of the wedding season and Akshaya Tritiya, which falls on May 14 and is the second-most auspicious day to buy gold in the Hindu calendar. Purchases were crimped last year by India's extensive lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
"The festival and wedding season looks good," said Ashish Pethe, chairman of the All India Gem & Jewellery Domestic Council. "The investment demand has come back, and the jewelry demand will come in after the rates stabilize," as a lot of the weddings postponed from 2020 will take place this year, he said.
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India is the world's second-biggest gold consumer and imports almost all the gold it consumes. An import tax cut announced last month has also made the precious metal cheaper in the local markets.
Some people are still in wait-and-watch mode and they are hoping for a further slide in rates, said N. Anantha Padmanaban, managing director of Tamil Nadu-based NAC Jewellers. "From April, we are expecting better business because of more weddings and relaxation of restrictions as more people get vaccinated and if there is a further fall in prices then there will be good demand."
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