July 17, 2020 / 1:35 PM / 24 days ago

Asia Gold-India, China retail markets reel from pandemic pain

* Chinese discounts deepen to $30-$25/oz

* India still at small premium as imports, smuggling stall

* Some retailers forced to shut in Singapore- dealer

* GRAPHIC-2020 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl

By Arpan Varghese and Rajendra Jadhav

BENGALURU/MUMBAI, July 17 (Reuters) - Physical bullion remained out of favour this week among consumers in top hubs China and India in the grip of the coronavirus, while investors in Singapore and Japan bought gold and silver to safely park their wealth.

Discounts in top buyer China deepened to $30-$25 an ounce versus global benchmark prices, from $20-$25 last week.

China may return to premiums only by late August or early September, said Samson Li, a Hong Kong-based precious metals analyst at Refinitiv GFMS.

Spot prices hovered near $1,800 an ounce en route to a sixth straight weekly gain.

“Over the past many years, thousands of tonnes of gold has been flowing into China but that gold cannot leave the country,” London Bullion Market Association senior adviser Jeremy East said at the online HKEX Commodities Forum on Wednesday.

“It’s going to take some time for the country to consume the discounted gold.”

In India, dealers charged premiums of up to $2 an ounce over official domestic prices, versus last week’s $3 premium.

Traders have been charging a premium as imports have fallen sharply in the last three months while smuggling halted, said a Kolkata-based bullion dealer.

Imports plunged 86% year-on-year in June.

Local gold futures held near a record high of 49,348 rupees per 10 grams hit earlier this month.

In Singapore, while high net worth investors continued to stock up, “jewellers and manufactures have been hit badly”, said Brian Lan, managing director at Singapore dealer GoldSilver.

“In fact, some jewellers have shut, we’re seeing inflows from people looking to exit the business.”

Singapore premiums were unchanged at $1.50 an ounce.

Vincent Tie, sales manager at another dealer Silver Bullion, however, said they saw higher gold and silver demand this week.

In Japan, gold was sold at anywhere between on par with the benchmark to a $0.50 premium, with some consumers opting for silver. (Reporting by Harshith Aranya, Arpan Varghese and Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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