for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up

Asia Gold-Indian jewellers stay shut as lockdowns stifle demand

* India discounts at highest in eight months

* Imports into China via Hong Kong, Switzerland jump in April

* China gold premiums little changed at $7-$10/oz

* Singapore premiums at $1.2-$1.7/oz

May 28 (Reuters) - Physical gold demand in second-biggest bullion consumer India was negligible this week with most jewellery stores still shut by COVID-19 lockdowns, forcing dealers to offer steep discounts.

“Lockdowns are badly hitting the industry. Jewellers have stopped buying since retail demand is almost zero,” said Ashok Jain, proprietor of Mumbai-based gold wholesaler Chenaji Narsinghji.

Most states have imposed curbs as infections crossed 27 million, with over 3,000 people dying every day.

Dealers offered discounts of up to $10 an ounce, the highest since mid-September 2020, over official domestic prices — inclusive of 10.75% import and 3% sales levies — unchanged from last week.

A few states are considering easing restrictions from June 1 and that could help attract retail consumers, said a Mumbai-based bullion dealer with a gold importing bank.

On Friday, local gold futures traded around 48,400 rupees per 10 grams, having scaled a peak since Feb. 1 at 49,067 rupees earlier this week.

Chinese premiums were little changed at $7-$10 an ounce over benchmark spot gold prices.

Net gold imports into the country via Hong Kong jumped in April to a nearly three-year high, while Swiss exports to China also soared, as demand staged a rebound from last year’s pandemic slump.

Imports could increase further with Beijing having given banks permission to import large amounts of gold.

In Hong Kong, premiums of $0.8-$2 an ounce were charged.

Singapore premiums were little changed at $1.2-$1.7.

Brian Lan, managing director at dealer GoldSilver Central said the first few days of the week saw more selling due to higher prices although some high net worth individuals looked to buy up before prices move even higher.

Japanese dealers sold gold at anywhere between flat to an $0.30 premium.

At current prices, “not many individual investors are willing to buy gold bars” and some were selling, a Tokyo-based dealer said. (Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar, Brijesh Patel and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru;)

for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up