November 22, 2019 / 2:30 PM / 24 days ago

Asia Gold-Indian gold sellers opt for discounts; China, HK demand weak

* India discount at $3/oz versus $1.5 premium last week

* Demand weak in China, premiums slip to $2-$3.50/oz

* Weak economy, protests weigh on Hong Kong gold market

* Japanese, Singapore premiums flat

By Asha Sistla and Rajendra Jadhav

BENGALURU/MUMBAI, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Gold demand remained subdued in China this week against a backdrop of slowing economic growth, and in Hong Kong where protests continued, while prices in India flipped into discount as demand eased.

In Hong Kong, gold premiums remained unchanged at 30 cents to 50 cents an ounce range over benchmark prices, as people awaited district council elections on Sunday after months of unrest by pro-democracy protesters, which caused gold demand to weaken in the region.

“Retail (demand) has seen a slowdown because of the protests going on in Hong Kong. The economy is also hurt by the U.S.-China trade war, weighing on demand,” said Dick Poon, general manager at Heraeus Precious Metals in Hong Kong.

A fresh dispute between China and the United States over Hong Kong this week, as the U.S. Congress passed legislation to back protesters in Hong Kong and threaten China with possible sanctions on human rights, further raised fears that the 18-month long trade war could not be settled this year.

“Demand is generally higher this time of the year (in Hong Kong), but this year it is quieter mostly because of the political situation there,” said Peter Fung, head of dealing at Wing Fung Precious Metals.

Premiums dropped to $2-$3.50 an ounce in top consumer China, compared with last week’s $4-$4.50 an ounce range.

“Premiums are under pressure, demand is low. People don’t have money to buy gold as the economic condition is not good,” Fung added.

Gold demand was lacklustre in India as well, with dealers offering a discount of up to $3 an ounce over official domestic prices this week, compared to a premium of $1.5 an ounce last week.

The domestic price includes a 12.5% import tax and 3% sales tax. Gold futures were trading around 38,000 rupees ($530) per 10 grams on Friday.

“Jewellers are cautious. After making healthy purchases last week, they have taken a pause. They are waiting for a correction in prices,” said Mukesh Kothari, director at Mumbai bullion dealer RiddiSiddhi Bullions.

India’s gold imports in October fell a third from a year earlier, dropping for a fourth straight month.

Demand in Singapore, however, firmed this week, with premiums of 50-60 cents being charged over global benchmark prices.

“We have not seen this level in a long time. The spot prices are low and that is helping to boost demand. If spot goes down to $1,400, premiums might go up by 40 cents,” said a Singapore-based trader.

Global benchmark prices have retreated over 5% from a six-year high of $1,557 an ounce hit in September, but are still on track for the biggest yearly gain since 2010.

In Japan, premiums of 50 cents an ounce were charged, the same as last week. ($1 = 71.6820 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; additional reporting by Swati Verma; editing by Susan Fenton)

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