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FBS: India's Sept gold imports fall 36 percent as high prices curb demand
MUMBAI (Thomson Financial) - India's gold imports fell around 36 percent year-on-year in September as high prices curbed demand ahead of forthcoming festivals.

Imports are estimated to be at around 64 tonnes, down from 100 tonnes last year, Suresh Hundia, president of the Bombay Bullion Association, told Thomson Financial News in a telephone interview.

The 'Navratri' festival, considered auspicious for buying gold, has marked the beginning of the festival season in India.

Around 22 tonnes of unsold stock is still lying with the banks and will be carried forward to this month, said Hundia, adding prices will determine buying interest from the world's largest consumer of the metal.

Analysts said a weaker rupee has further added to the woes by making imports of the dollar-denominated asset expensive. The Indian rupee declined to 47.295 per U.S. dollar -- its lowest level since May 2003 -- due to huge capital outflows.

International spot gold prices rose to 839 dollars an ounce on a softer dollar and silver was up more than 5 percent on Friday on short-covering with all eyes on U.S. economic data. Silver was quoted at 11.18 dollar an ounce, tracking the yellow metal.

'Indian demand has become sensitive to gold prices,' said Walter De Wet, head of commodities research at Standard Bank over the phone from Johannesburg, adding that $800 an ounce would provide a buying opportunity in the yellow metal.

Last month, India's gold imports surged for the first time in 11 months to 100 tonnes from 64 tonnes a year earlier on lower international prices.

'We believe gold prices will move lower on a stronger greenback and the average price for the first quarter of the calendar will be at $790 an ounce,' De Wet added.

AngloGold (nyse: AU - news - people ) Ashanti Ltd., the world's third-largest gold producer, had recently noted that the Indian festival of Diwali would a catalyst for recovery in gold demand during the second-half of the calendar year.

India imports around 800 tonnes of gold a year, accounting for 20 percent of world gold consumption.

During September India is estimated to have imported 280 tonnes of silver, Hundia added without giving the year-ago figure.

In Mumbai, gold of 0.995 purity opened 295 rupees lower at 12,860 rupees per 10 grams and gold of 0.999 purity opened 300 rupees lower at 13,220 rupees per 10 grams.

Silver of 0.999 purity opened 1,055 rupees lower at 19,570 per kg.