Demand picks up in China, lacklustre in other hubs

BENGALURU/MUMBAI (Reuters) - Physical gold demand improved in top hub China this week as buyers took advantage of hefty discounts, while activity remained muted in other hubs due to lockdowns and holidays. Dealers in China were selling gold at an average discount of about $30 an ounce versus benchmark spot prices, narrowing from last week’s discounts of $48.

FILE PHOTO: Gold bullion is displayed at GoldSilver Central's office in Singapore June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su

“While in general, gold demand is still soft, (there has been) great improvement last week,” said Samson Li, a Hong Kong-based precious metals analyst at Refinitiv GFMS, noting that it was partly because of safe haven demand, and also attractive prices in China.

“I expect demand will continue to pick up gradually. Now with the sales of some gold bars during the Labour week holiday, I expect that retail will stock up inventories from wholesalers.”

The Labour Day holiday in China runs from May 1-5.

Global spot prices were up more than 1% so far this week, as investors hoped for more stimulus from the U.S. central bank.

A few jewellery stores opened in India, but demand was negligible because of higher prices and because there were few people going to the stores.

Indian gold futures were trading around 46,000 rupees per 10 grams on Friday, near a record high hit last month.

India’s gold imports plunged 99.9% year-on-year in April to their lowest in nearly three decades as air travel was halted.

Scrap gold supplies in India are likely to hit an all-time high in 2020, the World Gold Council said.

In Singapore, gold was sold at a premium of $1.25 to $1.65 an ounce. Demand remained steady even as the coronavirus-led restrictions kept most shops closed, traders said.

“Major refineries have just been allowed to resume their business fully this week ... retail products (should be) available in 2-3 weeks,” said Brian Lan, of Singapore dealer GoldSilver Central.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, gold was sold at a premium of around $0.53 to $1.25 per ounce over the benchmark.

“Some policies are relaxing, people are coming out but they aren’t buying gold, they are buying things to eat,” Ronald Leung, chief dealer, Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.

In Japan, demand was quiet due to a public holiday. Gold bullion was sold at anywhere between at par with the benchmark to a $0.50 an ounce premium.

Reporting by Harshith Aranya and K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai. Editing by Jane Merriman