Reader Manas asked: “I would like to know if this is the right time to invest in gold as an investment. Or should i wait till the budget.”
First, this is a fairly short-term horizon, and I doubt that the budget will have a material impact on gold prices. However, I’m no gold expert, and to approach this as an investment, let’s look at what does affect gold, in the Indian context:
* Exchange Rates: Concerns about weakening of the rupee (versus other currencies) triggers an increase in gold investments. This requires us to analyze (and make assumptions) about future exchange rate movements.
Currency traders must have noted the recent move inthe INR:USD rate from 44 to 44.6 - this is most likely triggered by the differences in “real” interest rates in US & India. With the US facing inflationary pressures, if the US Fed continue its tightening policy, expect the rupee to weaken further to 45/46. Of course, if the US Fed stops in mid ‘06, and the RBI starts tightening, the rupee will climb back to the 43/44.
* Inflation: If inflation shoots up in India, investors use gold as a hedge against devaluation of their rupee investments. For now, inflation seems to be in control (below 5%), except for oil prices.
* Jewelry demand: This factor is uniquely important in India, since gold jewelry consumption is quite high. Typically, seasonal factors kick in, with September/October (post-harvest) and December/January (marriage) as the peak months of demand.
Over the coming few months, none of the above factors provide a strong bull OR bear case for the metal. Of course, there’s always one factor that can exert a strong influence - speculation! A look at gold charts shows that the price hasn’t been able to stay above Rs 8000 (per 10gms) for too long; however, it has had a tendency for rapid moves - both bullish moves (6000 to 8000 in 4 months) as well as “trend reversals” (7200 to 8100 and back to 7200 in 1 month).
Bottom-line: Determine what percentage of net assets should be allocated to gold. For me, 3-5% is reasonable, mainly as an inflation hedge - this can always be adjusted upwards if inflation concerns start cropping up. Also, if practical, I would buy it in multiple installments over a period of few weeks, thus avoiding the need for “market timing”.