* Indian discounts highest since late September
* Gold in India hits record high of 44,961 rupees
* Spot gold en route best week since 2009
* Gold in China sold at par with benchmark vs a discount last week
By Sumita Layek and Rajendra Jadhav
BENGALURU/MUMBAI, March 6 (Reuters) - A price rally to record highs subdued physical gold purchases in India this week, driving bullion dealers to offer deeper discounts, while buying interest was minimal in top-consumer China and Hong Kong.
Dealers in India offered a discount of up to $25 an ounce to official domestic prices, the most since late September, and up from last week’s $14 discount. The domestic price includes a 12.5% import tax and 3% sales tax.
“There was hardly any sale this week. Retail buyers, jewellers, nobody was willing to buy even after offering discounts,” Mukesh Kothari, director at dealer RiddiSiddhi Bullions in Mumbai, said.
Gold futures hit a record high of 44,961 rupees earlier on Friday.
“The falling rupee is making gold even more expensive for Indian consumers,” a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion importing bank said.
The Indian rupee fell to the lowest in 16-months on Friday, making imports expensive for consumers in India, which fulfils nearly all of its demand from imports.
The country’s gold imports plunged 41% in February from a year earlier as a rally in local prices to a record high trimmed retail demand, a government source said on Tuesday.
International spot gold prices were on track for their biggest weekly gain since January 2009, as the coronavirus epidemic continued to disrupt economic activity around the world, with infections nearing 100,000.
“Only on the investment side, there is demand. Physical demand is lousy,” Ronald Leung, chief dealer, Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong, said.
In top consumer China, gold was sold at par with the benchmark, compared to discounts of up to $6.8 an ounce last week, while premiums in Hong Kong recovered to $0.30-$1 an ounce from last week’s discount of $0.20 to a premium of $0.40.
“Demand is at the minimal level, as business activities are still far from the normal levels. No one wants to consume. Not just gold jewellery, but almost across all sectors,” said Samson Li, Hong Kong-based precious metals analyst at Refinitiv GFMS.
In Singapore, premiums remained largely unchanged at $0.40-$0.60 an ounce from $0.40-$0.50 a week earlier.
“Local retail purchase of gold has recovered to normal levels. Better understanding of the coronavirus situation in Singapore could have contributed to that,” Silver Bullion sales manager Vincent Tie said.
In Japan, gold was sold from flat to a premium of $0.60 an ounce, from last week’s flat to $0.50. (Reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; editing by Barbara Lewis)