* Chinese premiums ease to $4.75-$5.25/oz from $5-$8
* Economic slowdown hurting appetite in China - dealer
* India's gold market: tmsnrt.rs/2b1Tl6J
By Rajendra Jadhav and Eileen Soreng
BENGALURU/MUMBAI, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Gold discounts in India narrowed to a four-month low this week as some consumers took advantage of a modest dip in domestic prices to buy bullion ahead of a festival next week, while other Asian hubs saw limited activity.
Dealers offered discounts of up to $8 an ounce on official domestic prices this week, the lowest since mid-June. They were offering a discount of $20 last week. The domestic price includes a 12.5% import tax and 3% sales tax.
Gold futures in India were trading around 38,050 rupees per 10 grams on Friday, having hit a record high 39,885 rupees last month. Prices are up more than 21% so far in 2019.
“Demand has been improving slowly due to Diwali, but still, jewellers are on the sidelines,” said Ashok Jain, proprietor of Mumbai-based gold wholesaler Chenaji Narsinghji.
Gold is considered an intrinsic part of festivals and weddings in India and is a popular gift.
Usually jewellers build inventory ahead of Diwali, but this year, they’re have not made big purchases after witnessing poor sales during the Dussehra festival earlier this month, a Mumbai-based dealer with a private bullion importing bank said.
India’s gold imports plunged 68% year-on-year in September to their lowest in over three years as record domestic prices curbed retail buying.
Demand looked grim in other Asian hubs as high prices and an economic slowdown exacerbated by a U.S.-China trade war soured consumer appetite.
While global benchmark prices were on track to mark a small weekly decline, moving in an $1,476.65-$1,497.74 an ounce range, they have climbed about 16% so far this year.
In top consumer China, bullion was sold at a premium of $4.75-$5.25 per ounce, down from last week’s $5-$8 range.
The Chinese economy is being hurt by the trade war and gold is too expensive for people to buy, said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers.
China’s third-quarter economic growth slowed to its weakest pace in almost three decades.
In Hong Kong, which has been hit by political protests and the resultant damage to tourism and retail sales, premiums of $0.45-$0.55 were being charged versus $0.50-$1.30 last week.
Premiums in Singapore were at $0.50-$0.60 an ounce, compared with last week’s $0.50-$0.80, with high prices likely to keep demand subdued, traders said.
“I don’t think the festive season will give demand for physical gold much of a boost as prices are still quite high,” a Singapore-based trader said adding, if the local currency doesn’t strengthen, demand would stay muted.
Gold in Japan was sold at par with the benchmark, a Tokyo-based trader said, as bullion priced in Japanese yen was at elevated levels. (Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Arpan Varghese and David Evans)