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Asia Gold-India demand falters as virus rages, China ramps up imports

* India premiums rise to $4 versus $3 last week

* China premiums little changed at $7-$9

* China allows multi-billion dollar gold imports - sources

April 16 (Reuters) - Elevated domestic prices and renewed coronavirus restrictions due to a surge in infections dulled physical gold purchases in India, while China stepped up bullion imports as demand gradually rebooted.

“Retail demand has been falling in many regions due to restrictions on the movement of people,” said Ashok Jain, proprietor of Mumbai-based gold wholesaler Chenaji Narsinghji.

On Friday, local gold futures were trading around 47,000 rupees per 10 grams after rising to 47,279 rupees on Thursday, the highest since mid-February.

Many states such as Maharashtra, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh have imposed local curbs to arrest the spread of the coronavirus.

Dealers were charging a premium of up to $4 an ounce this week over official domestic prices, inclusive of 10.75% import and 3% sales levies, up from the last week’s $3.

Jewellers were making moderate purchases despite weak retail demand, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion importing bank.

In China, the world’s biggest gold consumer, premiums of $7-$9 an ounce were charged over benchmark spot gold prices, compared with $7-$10 an ounce last week.

“I think what’s keeping the premiums in check is the recent news about onshore banks being allowed to import more gold by the People’s Bank of China,” said Yingtao Jin, an analyst at StoneX Group.

China has given commercial banks permission to import large amounts of gold into the country, five sources familiar with the matter said.

Premiums of around $1.8 an ounce were being charged in Singapore, said Raghu Kedia, managing director at Arihant Jewellers, adding domestic demand remained slow, although more gold was flowing into China via Hong Kong and even Dubai.

In Hong Kong, premiums charged were $0.50-$2 an ounce versus$0.50-$1.80 last week.

In Japan, gold was sold between flat to a premium of $0.50, compared with premiums of $0.5-$1 last week. (Reporting by Brijesh Patel, Diptendu Lahiri and Swati Verma in Bengaluru, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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