* China premiums rise to $14-18/oz vs $12-14/oz last week
* Premiums in Japan scale back to about $1/oz
* India's gold market: tmsnrt.rs/2b1Tl6J
By Sethuraman N R and Rajendra Jadhav
MUMBAI/BENGALURU, May 31 (Reuters) - Gold premiums in top consumer China rose this week as investors bought the metal as a safe-haven due to rising trade tensions with the United States, while bullion demand moderated in India as local prices jumped to two-week highs.
In China, premiums rose to about $14-$18 an ounce over the benchmark from $12-14 an ounce last week.
“Investment demand has been picking up, due to uncertainties on trade disputes and the lacklustre performance in the stock market, while jewellery demand still remains quiet,” said Samson Li, a Hong Kong-based precious metals analyst with Refinitiv GFMS.
Weak yuan and lower gold import volumes also pushed premiums higher, Li said, adding that imports in the first four months of this year were much less than a year earlier.
Net gold imports via main conduit Hong Kong rose 20.5% in April from a month ago, but were down about 17% on year in the first four months.
Premiums in India, the world’s second-largest consumer, were at 50 cents an ounce over official domestic prices, down from a premium of up to $1 last week. The domestic price includes a 10% import tax and 3% sales tax.
Gold futures in India rose above 32,000 rupees per 10 grams on Friday, the highest in a fortnight.
“For the last few days retail demand is weak. It could fall further if prices remain at the current level,” said Mukesh Kothari, director at Mumbai-based bullion dealer RiddiSiddhi Bullions.
Jewellers have made enough purchases for the wedding season and now they are waiting for a price correction, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion importing bank.
India’s gold imports in April rose 21.4% to $3.97 billion.
In Singapore, traders saw slightly higher safe-haven demand and purchases ahead of the Malaysian festival Hari Raya. Premiums, however, remained unchanged from last week, around 80 cents.
“We saw buying from customers seeking to increase defensive assets in their portfolios,” said Gregor Gregersen, CEO of Singapore retailer Silver Bullion Pte Ltd.
Premiums in Hong Kong were unchanged, at 60 cents to $1.30 an ounce.
Meanwhile, in Japan, premiums rose to $1 from 75 cents last week, as the beginning of the week saw some demand due to relatively lower prices, said a Tokyo-based trader. But, buying waned towards the end of the week, he added.
Gold prices were on track for their first monthly gain since January as investors seek safety in the bullion with the escalating trade war stoking concerns of a global economic slowdown. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai and Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)