Earlier this week we reported that gold, defying expectations, is one of the best-performing commodities of the year so far.
And now we've learned that gold bullion imports by India climbed a stunning 65 percent last month after the country's central bank allowed more investors to buy foreign bullion. Imports rose to $3.12 billion in June from $1.89 billion this time last year.
India is the world's second-largest consumer of gold after China, accounting for approximately 25 percent of all gold consumption. Gold is the country's second-largest import item after oil.
This news comes closely on the heels of the recent election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeks to loosen import restrictions and other government regulations that tend to stifle economic growth. The rally also coincides with the Indian wedding season, which typically ends on July 7 and 8.
More importantly, what this news could portend is a stronger-than-normal second half of the year for the gold market. Data points going back 35 years confirm the probability of gold gaining strength in the second half, thanks largely to international celebrations such as Diwali, Ramadan and Christmas. This year in particular looks very promising indeed.
Keep your eyes on real interest rates
Recently I chatted with Daniela Cambone during my weekly Gold Game Film program on Kitco. I pointed out that, with the end of the Indian wedding season, we're historically due for a slight correction in the gold market. But whereas last year saw a huge contraction and liquidation of gold around this time, the gold bullion exchange-traded funds (ETFs) around the world this year actually expanded.
Daniela and I also looked ahead at the gold market in the coming months. One of the points I shared dealt with the strong correlation between gold performance and real interest rates, which you arrive at after subtracting inflation from the nominal interest rate.
If we go back to when gold was at $1,900 [in August 2011], the negative real interest rates were 200 basis points. Then by December of last year, it went to plus 50 basis points. Now it's gone negative again, and gold is rallying. And I think that that's a key factor when we look forward, and I think we're going to continue to have negative real interest rates. So when inflation starts to rise like it did in the '70s, [the Federal Reserve isn't] going to be able to lift rates as fast as the inflationary rate because it will stifle the economy dramatically.
One last point I want to emphasize is our perennial suggestion to investors: 5 percent exposure to gold bullion, 5 to gold stocks, and rebalance each year for an overall 10 percent weighting in your portfolio.
Last year the stock market boomed, whereas bullion disappointed and gold stocks dramatically underperformed. Had investors taken their profits in the stock market and rolled it into gold, they would have done exceptionally well this year.
That continues to be our discipline here at U.S. Global Investors, and the recent gold rally, domestically and in India, substantiates this position.