May 17, 2019 / 2:01 PM / 3 days ago

India flips to discount as gold prices gain; demand dips in top hubs

MUMBAI/BENGALURU (Reuters) - Gold was sold at a discount this week in India for the first time in 2-1/2 months as higher prices deterred jewellers and retail buyers, while currency fluctuations and economic worries triggered caution amongst buyers in other Asian hubs.

A salesman arranges gold bangles inside a jewellery showroom in Mumbai, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

Gold futures in India, the world’s second biggest bullion consumer after China, jumped to 32,538 rupees per 10 grams earlier this week, a peak since March 4.

“Customers are struggling to adjust with the sudden price rise. Some are waiting for a correction,” said Harshad Ajmera, the proprietor of JJ Gold House, a wholesaler in Kolkata.

Dealers offered a discount of about $2 an ounce over official domestic prices, versus a premium of $2.5 last week.

The domestic price includes a 10% import tax and 3% sales tax.

“Retail demand was good during Akshay Tritiya. Jewellers have to replenish inventory but they are not doing so due to the price rise,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion importing bank.

Last week, Indians celebrated the Akshaya Tritiya festival, when buying gold is considered auspicious.

In China, premiums fell to $6-8 from $8-12 last week, compared with mid-April when premiums hit a two-year high of around $20 over the benchmark.

Global benchmark spot gold held around $1,284 an ounce on Friday, having climbed to a one-month peak of $1,303.26 earlier this week.

However, trading volume has picked up at the Shanghai Gold Exchange, said Samson Li, a Hong Kong-based precious metals analyst with Refinitiv GFMS.

“Investment demand may pick up later, especially as people are already speculating whether the yuan would fall further,” he added.

The yuan fell to its weakest since December on Friday.

Meanwhile, buyers in Japan kept a close eye on currency fluctuations, with the Japanese yen strengthening this week, a Tokyo-based trader said, adding that demand had not, however, moved significantly due to weak economic conditions in Japan and China.

The stronger yen pushed premiums to about $1 from 50 cents last week, the trader added.

In Hong Kong, demand was quiet as people are closely watching the U.S.-China trade talks, said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.

Premiums in the region were little changed at 60 cents-$1.30.

In Singapore too, demand was quiet, as the Akshaya Tritiya festival has ended and most jewellers have already bought gold, said Brian Lan, managing director at dealer GoldSilver Central in Singapore.

The premiums were unchanged at 60-80 cents.

Also, the Singapore dollar has strengthened against the U.S. greenback, making Singapore gold more expensive, added Lan.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Harshith Aranya and Arijit Bose in Bengaluru; editing by Arpan Varghese and Elaine Hardcastle

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