June 7, 2019 / 8:59 AM / 11 days ago

India flips to discount, premiums skid elsewhere as gold prices surge

MUMBAI/BENGALURU (Reuters) - Gold prices in India flipped into discounts this week as a rally in local prices dampened demand, while premiums in other major Asian hubs declined as a price surge prompted investors to sell back bullion.

A saleswoman displays a gold necklace inside a jewellery showroom on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya, a major gold buying festival, in Kolkata, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/File Photo

Global benchmark spot gold was headed for its best week this year, supported by expectations of an interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve and heightened global trade tensions.

Gold futures in India, the world’s second-biggest bullion consumer after China, hit their highest level since March 1, at 32,834 rupees per 10 grams, earlier this week.

“Just in a week prices rose by 1,000 rupees. Consumers are struggling to digest the sudden price rise,” said a bullion dealer based at Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat.

Dealers this week were offering a discount of 50 cents an ounce over official domestic prices, compared with a premium of up to 50 cents last week. The domestic price includes a 10% import tax and 3% sales tax.

Jewellers made enough purchases last month and they would prefer to build inventory at lower prices, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion importing bank.

“Anyways, retail demand remains weak in June and July. So, jewellers are not in a hurry,” the dealer added.

India’s gold imports in May jumped 49% from a year earlier to 116 tonnes as a correction in local prices during a key festival boosted retail demand, a government source said on Tuesday.

Premiums in leading consumer China were seen around $7-$10 an ounce over the benchmark this week, compared with $14-$18 last week.

Traders said there was physical buying during the beginning and towards the end of the week with premiums firming around $10 on Thursday.

Markets in China and Hong Kong were closed for holidays on Friday.

Taking advantage of higher prices, customers resorted to selling back gold and Asian centres saw increased volumes of scrap gold, a trader with a Singapore-based bullion bank said.

In Singapore, premiums fell to a range of 20 cents to 50 cents from 80 cents last week, while those in Hong Kong declined to around 40 cents from 60 cents.

“Demand from the wholesale side was quiet due to higher prices. On the flip side we saw some retail investors coming to pick gold. A lot of wholesale customers sold gold back to us and took profits,” said Brian Lan, managing director at dealer GoldSilver Central in Singapore.

The bar inventory was higher due to sell-backs, which also reduced premiums, Lan said.

In Japan, higher prices and weak demand pushed premiums down to 50 cents from $1 last week, said a Tokyo-based trader, adding that banks also sold back gold.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai and Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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