November 16, 2018 / 1:18 PM / 24 days ago

Asia Gold-India swings to premium; benchmark price dip lends appeal elsewhere

* India premiums at $3 versus discount last week

* Premiums in China, Hong Kong edge higher

By Rajendra Jadhav and Karen Rodrigues

MUMBAI/BENGALURU, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Gold is trading at premium in India for the first time in more than two months on robust demand following a busy festival week, while a dip in global prices earlier this week helped bullion’s appeal in some Asian hubs.

Dealers in India, the world’s second biggest gold consumer after China, were charging a premium — the first time since early September — of up to $3 an ounce over official domestic prices this week.

Last week, they were offering a discount of $3. The domestic price includes a 10 percent import tax.

“After poor sales during Dusherra, jewellers were expecting weak demand even during Diwali. But surprisingly, demand was better than expected,” a Mumbai-based dealer with a private bullion importing bank said on Friday.

Indians celebrated Dhanteras and Diwali festivals last week, when buying gold is considered auspicious. The Dusherra festival was on Oct. 19.

“Jewellery demand improved in last few days due to a correction in prices,” Mangesh Devi, a jeweller in the western state of Maharashtra, said.

Local gold prices were trading near their lowest level in six weeks, as the rupee gained versus the U.S. dollar, , translating into cheaper rates in the international market.

The country’s gold imports in October fell 43 percent from a year ago to $1.68 billion, pointing to lower supplies.

Meanwhile, global benchmark spot gold prices fell to a one-month low earlier in the week at $1,195.90 an ounce, but have since recovered by about 1.7 percent to above the $1,215 mark, on track for a weekly gain.

In China, premiums of $4-$7 an ounce were charged over benchmark rates, slightly above last week’s $4-$6 range.

Premiums in Hong Kong also edged up to $0.80-$1.50 an ounce from $0.70-$1.50 previously.

“We saw some buying when the prices came down to $1,200 per ounce level... But when the market went up to $1,215 it became quiet,” Ronald Leung, chief dealer, at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong, said.

In Singapore, premiums remained unchanged at $0.60-$0.90 an ounce as demand was tepid, a Singapore-based trader said.

Premiums in Japan were flat for the ninth straight week, a Tokyo-based trader said, adding lower gold prices and a weak yen failed to stimulate public interest. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Eileen Soreng and Karen Rodrigues in Bengaluru; editing by Arpan Varghese and Jane Merriman)

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