MUMBAI/BENGALURU - Physical demand saw an uptick in the world's biggest gold consumer, China, after prices fell to six-week lows this week, while discounts narrowed in India as buyers postponed purchases, awaiting a bigger fall.
Premiums in China strengthened to $6.5-$8 an ounce from last week's $4-$6.50, traders said.
"Cheaper gold prices led to increased buying in both Hong Kong and China. Shanghai premiums increased on Friday, reflecting higher demand," said Peter Fung, head of dealing at Wing Fung Precious Metals in Hong Kong.
However, the National Day Golden Week holiday next week is likely to slow activity in China, traders said.
Buying remained subdued in India, the second biggest buyer of the precious metal, as buyers delayed purchases.
In the Indian market, gold futures were trading around 30,255 rupees per 10 grams on Friday afternoon, after falling to 30,220 rupees earlier in the day, the lowest level since Sept. 5.
Dealers in India were offering a discount of up to $2 an ounce over official domestic prices this week, compared to discounts of $5 last week, the highest in three months. The domestic price includes a 10 percent import tax.
"Jewellers aggressively bought last month when prices were below 30,000 rupees. They are now waiting for prices to fall below that level," said a Mumbai-based dealer with a private bank.
India's gold imports more than doubled in August to hit their highest level in 15 months as lower prices prompted manufacturers to replenish inventory for a jewellery exhibition, provisional data from metals consultancy GFMS showed.
Benchmark spot gold prices fell to a fresh six-week low on Friday, as the dollar firmed after upbeat U.S. economic data supported the Federal Reserve's resolve for steady interest rate hikes, putting the metal on track for its longest monthly losing streak since January 1997.
Meanwhile, premiums in Hong Kong remained mostly steady around 70 cents to $1.30 and slightly firmed in Singapore around $1-$1.50 from last week's range of 80 cents and $1.20.
"We have seen some pick-up mainly from the businesses and a few retail investors as prices came down ... People are looking at a lower level to commit," said Brian Lan, managing director at dealer GoldSilver Central in Singapore.
In Japan, prices were on par with the global benchmark, unchanged from last week, with retail buying propping up demand for gold bars, a Tokyo-based trader said.