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Asia Gold-India activity slows as dealers close the books

* China premiums at $7.5-$10/oz versus $7-$9 last week

* Indian coronavirus cases jump to over 5-month peak

* Japan premiums edge up to $1/oz

March 26 (Reuters) - Top Asian hubs saw moderate physical gold buying this week, with activity in India muted as the country’s financial year was coming to a close, while jewellers kept a wary eye on rising coronavirus cases.

“Bullion dealers and jewellers are avoiding buying due to the year end. They’re busy with closing the books,” said Harshad Ajmera, the proprietor of JJ Gold House, a wholesaler in the city of Kolkata.

The Indian fiscal year runs from April to March.

Dealers charged premiums of up to $5 an ounce over official domestic prices, inclusive of 10.75% import and 3% sales levies, down from last week’s $6.

On Friday, local gold futures traded around 44,500 rupees per 10 grams after touching an 11-month low of 44,150 rupees earlier this month.

“Retail demand is steady despite rising coronavirus cases, but jewellers are afraid authorities could start imposing localized lockdowns,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion importing bank.

COVID-19 cases jumped to an over five-month high in India on Friday.

In China, premiums rose to $7.5-$10 an ounce over global benchmark spot prices, from last week’s $7-$9, while Hong Kong dealers reported premiums of $1-$2 versus $0.50-$1.70 previously.

“We’re seeing some steady demand. If (spot) prices fall below $1,700, we might see additional demand,” said Peter Fung, head of dealing, Wing Fung Precious Metals in Hong Kong.

China’s monthly net gold imports via Hong Kong in February were little changed at 4.192 tonnes, as fresh import quotas were not issued by the central bank.

In Singapore, premiums were unchanged at $1.5-$2.

“Demand hasn’t been much for gold this week but silver has seen some (interest)” and while investors are seeing gold as a safe haven, the muted price action has dimmed their interest, said Brian Lan, managing director at dealer GoldSilver Central.

In Japan, premiums rose to $1 an ounce from $0.50-$0.75 last week. (Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Arpan Varghese and Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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