MUMBAI/BENGALURU - Demand for physical gold gathered pace in top consumer China ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, while activity was muted in India as jewellers held off on purchases in anticipation of the country's budget presentation on Friday.
Gold is considered a popular gift during the Asian holiday, which falls during the first week of February.
Premiums of $10-$12 an ounce were charged in China, up from last week's $9.50-$11.50 range, traders said.
Seasonal factors have pushed up demand in China, said Samson Li, a Hong Kong-based precious metals analyst at Refinitiv GFMS, adding prices could dip post the holiday season.
The holiday also pushed up retail buying of gold and silver in Singapore, with premiums of 60 cents to 80 cents being charged against the 60 cents-70 cents previously.
However, rising gold prices kept wholesale demand in check, traders said.
"There was a huge influx of sell orders this week due to the higher prices with many looking to cash in profits accumulated on their metal holdings," said See Hong Kang, Customer Service Manager at BullionStar Singapore.
Global benchmark gold prices registered a fourth straight monthly gain in January. [GOL/]
Demand in Hong Kong, however, was subdued with premiums of 60 cents-$1 charged over the benchmark, as a weaker Hong Kong dollar made gold more expensive for local buyers, traders said.
In India, dealers were offering a discount of up to $2 an ounce over official domestic prices on Friday, down from $4 on Monday, and compared with last week's $5 discount range. The domestic price includes a 10 percent import tax.
"Jewellers were postponing purchases expecting an (import) duty cut. They will resume buying in coming days," said a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion importing bank.
Retail demand was also weak as prices held near their highest in more than five years, he added.
India's bullion industry has been urging a tax reduction to combat smuggling, which has increased since the country raised the import duty to 10 percent in August 2013 to narrow its current account deficit.
However, the interim budget presented by the Indian government on Friday did not include a change in the duty.
"We are disappointed that demands for a decrease in import duty of raw materials like gold, silver, cut and polished diamonds and coloured gemstones were not included in the budget," said Pramod Kumar Agrawal, Chairman, Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council.
In Japan, gold was sold at a discount, of about 50 cents, for the first time in about 20 weeks as prices rose, a Tokyo-based trader said.