What happens if gold prices fall?
What are the problems gold loan companies would actually face under tension if the bulk of their funding is securitised receivables?
Remember, it’s the mortgage-backed securities, which fuelled the housing bubble in the US. Shaky home loans were securitised, bundled and accorded higher rating which investment banks sold to “smart” hedge funds while “smart” insurance companies like AIG insured them. Underlying this chain of transactions was a key assumption. House prices in the US never fall all across the country for a prolonged period. It is the same assumption for Gold Loan receivables too — gold prices never fall in India. In the US, when house prices crashed everywhere in 2007 and 2008, the securitised loans and the insurance written on it (credit default swaps) started to blow up. Massive losses, bankruptcy and financial panic followed in a quick succession.
There is no question of that kind of panic here because the gold loan market is too small and localised. But to assume gold prices do not crash or that it will leave no impact are both dangerous. A sharp drop in gold prices is likely to set off a chain of events that may wreak havoc on the financial structure of gold loan companies. If gold prices fall by 30%-40%, the loan provider would either need the borrower to put up more gold or make good the margin in cash. What if the customer is unable to meet the shortfall and starts defaulting on her loan? The company will be forced to auction off the pledged jewellery at a much lower price in the market. Selling used household jewellery in a falling market will invariably lead to a still lower realisation. What will creditors (the banks) to gold loan companies do in such a situation? They will be left holding receivables from housewives which would have declined in value and which they would find it impossible to liquidate. A small panic would ensue.
Family jewellery carries a lot of sentimental attachment. When the men take the loan, there is a pressure from the women to redeem the gold as soon as possible. Most of these borrowers choose to prepay the loans and the chances of default are very unlikely. In India, gold is not a commodity for the common man; it is ‘Lakshmi’ (the Hindu goddess of wealth). They would think of losing that jewellery only if they are in severe difficulty. So this question of risk in terms of imbalances may not arise.
Gold Loan Providers :
- Allahabad Bank
- Development Credit Bank
- Muthoot Finance
- Andhra Bank
- Federal Bank
- Oriental Bank of Commerce
- Axis Bank
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