Asia Gold-High prices leave demand in the doldrums ahead of holidays
* Discounts widen in India, jewellers hold off on fresh purchases
* Activity quiet in China, premiums narrow to $5-$6.50/oz
* Singapore premiums ease slightly to $0.50-$0.60/oz
Dec 14 – Demand for physical gold was lacklustre in major Asian hubs this week as high prices dented bullion's appeal going into the holiday season, with buying interest in second biggest consumer India likely to be subdued for the rest of the year.
Global benchmark spot gold prices scaled a five-month peak at $1,250.55 an ounce at the beginning of the week and looked set to notch up their best quarter in seven.
"It's very quiet … the gold market is firmer, so people are hesitant to buy," said Peter Fung, head of dealing at Wing Fung Precious Metals in Hong Kong.
Top consumer China saw premiums of $5-$6.50 per ounce being charged over the benchmark, down from last week's $5-$7.4 range.
In Hong Kong, premiums were unchanged at $0.60-$1.50 an ounce.
At the current price level, people are not interested in making purchases and are waiting for a correction
"Even with the festive season, if the prices are too high, buyers will not budge," a Hong-Kong based dealer said.
Meanwhile, premiums in Singapore were also slightly lower at $0.50-$0.60 compared with $0.60-$0.70 last week.
"We could perhaps see gold (demand) coming back below the $1,220 (price level)," said Brian Lan, managing director at Singapore dealer GoldSilver Central.
"If prices come down, we might see some buying because both the new year and the Chinese new year are coming up. Also, this is the wedding season, so these are times where people need to buy."
In Japan, prices were on par with the benchmark for the thirteenth consecutive week, a Tokyo-based trader said.
Demand was subdued in India as well, with retail buying curtailed by a rally in domestic bullion prices to their highest level in seven weeks.
At the current price level, people are not interested in making purchases and are waiting for a correction, said Ashok Jain, proprietor of Mumbai-based wholesaler Chenaji Narsinghji.
Local gold prices jumped to their highest since Oct. 26 this week, tracking gains in global rates and due to a depreciation in the rupee.
"Even in the next one-month, retail demand will remain subdued due to 'Khar Mass'," Jain said, referring to a period in the Hindu calendar from Dec. 16 to Jan. 14 considered inauspicious, when people avoid weddings, buying gold or property.
Dealers in India were offering a discount of up to $4 an ounce over official domestic prices, versus a $1.5 discount in the previous week. The domestic price includes a 10 percent import tax.
Jewellers were not making big purchases as they expect weak demand in the next few weeks, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion bank.
(By Sumita Layek and Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Arpan Varghese and Mark Potter)