Physical gold demand in India stalled this week after local prices rebounded from a one-year trough and coronavirus restrictions were imposed, while buyers in other major Asian hubs were also put off by an uptick in prices.
"This week gold prices rose in the international market and rupee also fell. That led to a big jump in local prices, which consumers are struggling to digest," said Mukesh Kothari, director at Mumbai bullion dealer RiddiSiddhi Bullions.
On Friday, local gold futures were trading at around 46 600 rupees ($623.99) per 10 grams after falling to 43 320 rupees last week, the lowest level since April 2020.
Dealers were charging a premium of up to $3/oz over official domestic prices, inclusive of 10.75% import and 3% sales levies, down from the last week's $4.
Jewellers curtailed buying as state governments have started imposing restrictions to arrest the spread of Covid-19, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion importing bank.
India's richest state, Maharashtra, imposed stringent Covid-19 restrictions from Monday, after a rapid rise in infections.
Meanwhile, India's gold imports in March surged 471% from a year earlier to a record 160 t, as a reduction in import taxes and a correction in prices from record highs drew retail buyers and jewellers.
In Singapore, premiums of $1.5-$2 an ounce were charged over benchmark spot gold prices, compared with $1/oz to $2/oz premiums last week.
"Demand is rather muted because of higher gold prices, compared to last week when prices were lower and investors who wanted to take positions have already taken it," said Brian Lan, MD at dealer GoldSilver Central.
Chinese customers were charged premiums of $7/oz to $10/oz, while in Hong Kong, premiums of $0.50/oz to $1.80/oz were being charged, both unchanged from last week.
In Japan, gold was sold at a $0.50/oz to $1/oz premium over benchmark prices.