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Asia Gold-Physical demand in China, India continues to wane as virus weighs

* Chinese discounts rise to $20-$25 per ounce

* Domestic prices in India soar to all-time high

* Some consumers start selling gold to cash in on high prices

* Steady activity in Singapore, Japanese premiums up

By Arpan Varghese and Rajendra Jadhav

BENGALURU/MUMBAI, July 3 (Reuters) – Physical gold demand in top consumers China and India continued to struggle due to the COVID-19 pandemic this week, while investment activity ticked up in Singapore and Japan.

Chinese discounts rose to $20-$25 an ounce over benchmark spot prices from $10-$20 last week.

“Most physical businesses are still down. There’s only some trading on the Shanghai Gold Exchange,” said Peter Fung, head of dealing at Wing Fung Precious Metals.

Global spot gold prices hit a near eight-year peak of $1,788.96 this week.

“People who lost jobs are selling their gold,” said Samson Li, a Hong Kong-based precious metals analyst at Refinitiv GFMS.

In Hong Kong, gold was sold at $0.50 an ounce discounts to a $0.50 premium.

China’s May net gold imports via Hong Kong fell below exports for the second straight month in May as domestic supply remained abundant.

The mainland could be a net exporter in June too, Li said.

In India, gold futures hit a record of 48,982 rupees ($655.63) per 10 grams on Wednesday.

“Jewellery stores have resumed operations, but retail buyers aren’t making purchases due to higher prices,” said Ashok Jain, proprietor of Mumbai-based gold wholesaler Chenaji Narsinghji.

Discounts rose to about $22 an ounce over official prices, including a 12.5% import and 3% sales taxes, from $18 last week.

India’s gold imports plunged 86% year-on-year in June amid coronavirus lockdowns. Meanwhile, the country’s cases crossed 600,000 on Thursday.

Meanwhile, activity picked up in Singapore, where gold was sold at $0.80-$1.50 per ounce premiums.

“We saw more activity compared to last week, but 70% of all these trades were clients selling to us,” said Brian Lan of Singapore-based dealer GoldSilver Central. Japanese premiums rose to $0.25-$0.50 an ounce. With retail prices in yen soaring, “people are paying more attention to gold as an investment asset now,” a trader at Tokyo-based retailer Tokuriki Honten said. ($1 = 74.7100 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Arpan Varghese and Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Rashmi Aich)


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