Asia Gold Activity picks up in most hubs, volatility saps India demand

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  • China premiums at $7-$10 an ounce, India flips to discount
  • Wholesalers, businesses buying more in Singapore-dealer
  • Retail demand seen picking up into year-end

Dec 10 (Reuters) - Top Asian hubs saw healthy demand for physical gold this week as domestic prices retreated into the year-end, although volatility in rates deterred retail buyers and jewellers in India.

Markets in China, Japan and Singapore took cues from a dip in global benchmark spot gold prices .

In Singapore premiums rose to $1.40-$1.80 an ounce over spot rates - around $1,779 an ounce on Friday - from last week's $1.30-$1.60

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Brian Lan, managing director at dealer GoldSilver Central, said retail consumers were purchasing gold, but most of the buying was from wholesalers and businesses that used current prices to stock up.

Retail buying could increase into the year-end as people get their salary bonuses, he added.

Customers in top consumer China were charged premiums of $7-$10 an ounce versus last week's $6-$9.

Hong Kong premiums rose to $0.80-$1.80 from $0.50-$1 previously.

Dick Poon, general manager at Heraeus Metals Hong Kong Ltd, said premiums could be moving higher in part because of a reduced inflow of scrap as refiners prepare for annual stock counts.

In Japan, gold was sold between on par with the benchmark to $0.50 premiums.

A Tokyo-based dealer said some retail investors could buy gold to hedge against concerns over the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The Indian market flipped to a discount of about $2 an ounce over official domestic prices - inclusive of 10.75% import and 3% sales levies - from last week's $2 premiums.

"Retail demand has fallen substantially in the last few days, prompting jewellers to reduce bullion purchases," said Harshad Ajmera, proprietor of Kolkata-based wholesaler JJ Gold House.

On Friday, local gold futures traded around 47,880 rupees per 10 grams, having hit a two-month low of 46,388 rupees last week.

The volatility has prompted jewellers to delay purchases for the upcoming wedding season, a Mumbai-based bullion dealer with a private bank said.

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Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai and Asha Sistla in Bengaluru; editing by Arpan Varghese and Barbara Lewis

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