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Asia Gold-Virus stifles activity in trading hubs, discounts deepen

Logo - The Daily Drill - Digging Deep for precious metal news

By Brijesh Patel and Rajendra Jadhav

BENGALURU/MUMBAI, March 13 (Reuters) - Physical gold markets in major Asian hubs this week reeled from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and dealers offered deeper discounts in top consumer China.

"The physical market in Hong Kong is quiet. We're only seeing investment-side buying. China is also the same," Ronald Leung, chief dealer, Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong, said.

Discounts of up to $10 an ounce were offered in China this week compared with last week when gold was sold level with the benchmark.

In Hong Kong, premiums of $0.30-$1.20 an ounce were charged, versus last week's premiums of $0.30-$1.

"Physical demand is weak. Prices have become more volatile because more speculators are in the market, making bets for a living now," Samson Li, Hong Kong-based precious metals analyst at Refinitiv GFMS, said.

Benchmark spot gold had a volatile week, ranging between $1,702.56 an ounce and $1,551.

Prices were on course for their biggest weekly decline in more than three years as panic-selling in wider markets in response to growing fears over the coronavirus pandemic infected the mood on the precious metals markets.

In Japan, gold was sold at between a $0.50 premium and a $0.30 per ounce discount.

Activity has been slow, in terms of both buying and selling, a Tokyo-based dealer said, asking not to be named.

In Singapore, premiums were quoted at $0.50-$0.60 an ounce, little changed from $0.40-$0.60 last week.

In the world's second biggest gold consumer, India, a dip in domestic prices failed to boost a sluggish market.

"Prices have corrected but consumers are still reluctant to make purchases. They're waiting for prices to stabilize," said Harshad Ajmera, proprietor of JJ Gold House, a wholesaler in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata.

Indian gold futures were trading around 41,700 rupees per 10 grams on Friday, having jumped to a record high of 44,961 rupees earlier this month.

Dealers in India offered discounts of up to $33 an ounce to official domestic prices, the most since late September, and up from last week's $25 discount. The domestic price includes a 12.5% import tax and 3% sales tax.

Volatility in global gold prices and the Indian rupee has confused buyers, prompting them to postpone purchases, a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion importing bank said.

India's gold imports fell 41% in February from a year earlier as a price rally trimmed retail demand, a government source said on Tuesday. (Reporting by Brijesh Patel and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; additional reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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