August 2, 2019 / 12:50 PM / 4 months ago

Asia Gold-Demand mixed as prices rally; safe-haven interest picks up

* Chinese premiums little changed at $10-$12 an ounce

* Protests dampen buying in Hong Kong market -analyst

* Indian dealers offer biggest discounts in three years

* India's gold market: tmsnrt.rs/2b1Tl6J

By Brijesh Patel and Rajendra Jadhav

BENGALURU/MUMBAI Aug 2 (Reuters) - Physical gold demand was mixed in Asian hubs as consumers cashed in on brief price rallies while global uncertainties prompted some safe-haven demand.

Global benchmark spot gold was on course for a weekly gain, having jumped nearly 2% on an escalation in U.S.-China trade tensions.

“There’s some investment demand coming in, but jewellery demand is weak,” said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.

In China, gold was sold at a premium of $10-$12 an ounce over the benchmark, little changed from last week. Premiums hardly budged in Hong Kong as well, with activity further dampened by political unrest.

China’s consumption fell 3.3% year on year in the first half of 2019, the China Gold Association said.

“Chinese tourists are not coming to Hong Kong. Local spending sentiment is also poor,” said Samson Li, a Hong Kong-based precious metals analyst with Refinitiv GFMS.

Hong Kong is grappling with a political crisis after months of violent protests that have challenged Beijing.

In India, dealers offered discounts of up to $35 an ounce — the highest since August 2016 — over official domestic prices. That compared with $24 discounts last week.

The domestic price includes a 12.5% import tax and 3% sales tax.

“Footfall at our showrooms has fallen sharply,” said Aditya Pethe, director at Mumbai-based Waman Hari Pethe Jewellers. “Consumers will take time to adjust to higher prices.”

Gold futures traded close to last month’s record high of 35,409 rupees.

India’s gold demand could soften in the September quarter because of record prices, the World Gold Council (WGC) said on Thursday.

Dealers are offering deep discounts on gold imported before recent tax increases, hoping to stir up stronger demand, said one Mumbai dealer at a private bullion-importing bank.

India raised import duties on gold to 12.5% from 10% last month.

Scrap supplies have improved significantly, meanwhile, reducing demand from banks, the dealer said.

The WGC estimates that scrap gold supplies could increase by 15% this year as the rally in local prices prompts consumers to sell old trinkets and jewellery.

Gold continued to be sold at a premium of $0.50-$0.80 an ounce in Singapore, with some investors opting for cheaper silver, traders said.

High-net-worth individuals and wholesalers bought gold when global prices hovered around $1,400, said Brian Lan, managing director at Singapore dealer GoldSilver Central.

However, the relatively high price range continued to prompt some consumers to sell back gold, he added.

In Japan, bullion was sold at par with the benchmark, compared with a $0.25 discount last week, one Tokyo-based trader said.

Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai Editing by Arpan Varghese and David Goodman

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