Asian hubs ramp up purchases for Lunar New Year; India offers discounts

FILE PHOTO: A saleswoman stands behind the showcased gold necklaces at a jewellery showroom in Agartala, capital of India
FILE PHOTO: A saleswoman stands behind the showcased gold necklaces at a jewellery showroom in Agartala, capital of India's northeastern state of Tripura, August 18, 2010. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey

By Rajendra Jadhav and Bharat Gautam

(Reuters) - Gold was sold at a discount in India this week as a rise in domestic prices dulled demand and jewellers looked ahead to the country's annual budget, while the upcoming Lunar New Year spurred demand in other key Asian centres.

Retail demand moderated in the last few days as gold prices are moving higher and some states imposed restrictions because of rising coronavirus cases, said a New Delhi-based bullion dealer.

Dealers were offering a discount of up to $2.5 an ounce on official domestic prices — inclusive of the 10.75% import and 3% sales levies — this week, down from last week's premium of $0.5.

A Mumbai-based bullion dealer with a gold importing bank said jewellers are postponing purchases because of the country's annual budget, which will be presented on Feb.1.

"Many jewellers and bullion dealers incurred losses last year because of surprise duty cut in the budget. They don't want to take a risk this year," the dealer said.

Elsewhere in Asia, dealers and analysts said premiums are being charged on gold sales in the run up to the Lunar New Year holiday, a seasonally strong phase for demand, following which those premiums are likely to come down.

Along with holiday demand, in Singapore "we continue to see gold buying among those concerned about rising inflation in the real economy," said Vincent Tie, sales manager at dealer Silver Bullion.

Singapore dealers were charging $1.50-$1.80 per ounce over global rates versus a $1.80 premium last week.

In China, premiums were little changed at $4.5-$5 an ounce versus benchmark spot gold rates. Hong Kong saw premiums stable at $0.50-$2.00. [GOL/]

Chinese demand is positive but not outrageously firm, independent analyst Ross Norman said, and cautioned that a recent jump in spot gold rates could see Asian demand petering out a little bit in an already price-sensitive region.

In Japan, dealers continued to offer discounts of $1.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai and Bharat Govind Gautam; additional reporting by Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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