ASIA GOLD-Demand in India picks up ahead of festival

* Uptick in gold demand in India ahead of Akshaya Tritiya

* Premiums inch up in Singapore, little changed in China

MUMBAI/BENGALURU, April 13 (Reuters) - Physical gold demand in second-biggest consumer India saw an uptick this week ahead of a key festival, although higher prices weighed on sentiment across the broader Asian markets.

Next week Indians will be celebrating the annual festival of Akshaya Tritiya, when buying gold is considered auspicious.

“Many potential buyers were on the sidelines. They started buying after prices jumped,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a private gold importing bank.

In the Indian market, gold futures were trading at around 31,041 rupees per 10 grams. Prices hit 31,562 on Wednesday, their highest since August 2016.

“Akshay Tritiya is just around the corner but footfalls are still significantly lower than usual,” said Fatechand Ranka, a jeweller based at Pune, in western state of Maharashtra, adding “it is forcing industry players to give discounts on jewellery- making charges.”

Dealers in India were offering a discount of up to $2 an ounce over official domestic prices this week, down from $3 last week. The domestic price includes a 10 percent import tax.

India’s gold imports in March halved from a year ago to 52.5 tonnes as a rally in local prices to 16-month high slashed demand, provisional data from precious metals consultancy GFMS and bank dealers showed.

Meanwhile, appetite for physical gold in other Asian centres remained muted as high bullion prices kept most buyers on a wait-and-see mode.

Spot gold was up 0.4 percent at $1,340.86 per ounce at 0948 GMT, and was set for a second weekly gain. Prices had touched a 11-week high of $1,365.23 on Wednesday.

“Prices have been on the higher end.. The market hasn’t changed too much in China,” said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.

Premiums in top consumer China ranged between $6 to $8, little changed from last week.

“The stock market is more attractive than the gold market at the moment,” added Leung.

In Hong Kong premiums were at 50 cents to 60 cents, while in Singapore premiums rose to 70 cents from 40-50 cents the previous week.

Gold continued to be sold at par with the global benchmark in Japan, which saw more sellers of the yellow metal this week, a Tokyo-based trader said. ($1=65.24 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai and Eileen Soreng, Swati Verma in Bengaluru Editing by Keith Weir)