india gold imports seen rising

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    BOMBAY, Feb 17 (Reuters) - India, the world's largest gold
    consumer, is likely to resume import of the precious metal this
    week after a long lull, as global prices have fallen sharply amid
    signs the United States is unlikely to attack Iraq immediately.
    But large-scale buying is expected to start only when prices
    fall further even though India is well into its wedding season,
    when demand for gold jewellery rises, traders said on Monday.
    Spot gold had slipped to $347 an ounce in early
    European trade from more than $380 nearly two weeks ago, but
    traders said they were looking to make bulk purchases at around
    $320 an ounce.
    "Importers have waited so long for a comfortable price level.
    Many of them feel that they should wait for some more time for
    prices to fall further and stabilise," said Narendra Singh
    Rathore, a gold trader based in the northwestern city of Jaipur,
    a major bullion trading centre.
    India imports an average of 13,000 gold bars (of 116.64 grams
    each) a day, and these overseas purchases constitute about 70
    percent of the country's total consumption. Local prices
    therefore closely track global trends.
    Traders said many consumers, who had suspended jewellery
    purchases due to firm prices, will slowly start buying as the
    marriage season peaks in the next two weeks, prompting jewellers
    to replenish stocks.
    Demand for gold jewellery normally rises in India during the
    Hindu marriage season, which starts in mid-January and runs
    through March.
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