Gold demand in Asia hit by weak local currencies; Indian prices at discount

Singapore (May 8)  Gold buying across Asia was sluggish this week despite prices holding below $1,200 an ounce, as consumers waited for more clarity on market direction, with demand also hit by weak local currencies.

Bullion prices in some of the top Asian consumers slid to a discount to the global benchmark due to weak appetite, while in others they remained largely unchanged.

Global gold prices held below $1,200 an ounce this week, with attention turning to U.S. nonfarm payrolls data later on Friday to gauge the strength of the economy and how that will affect the Federal Reserve's interest rate policy.

The sub-$1,200 mark is typically an attractive level for physical buyers but uncertainty over the price outlook and local currencies curbed purchases.

In top gold consumer India, prices swung to a discount of $2 an ounce to the global price from flat to a $1 premium last week, traders said.

"Gold demand has fallen and is expected to remain weak for a month or so because of rupee depreciation and a jump in gold prices," said Mayank Khemka, a bullion trader in New Delhi.

The number of auspicious days for weddings - for which jewellery buying tends to jump - has fallen, also hurting demand, he said.

The Indian rupee dropped to its lowest in 20 months this week, weighed down by concerns over the government's taxation policies that threaten to reduce the allure of local assets for foreign institutions, while a global debt sell-off also hurt.

Weakness in local currencies make dollar-denominated gold more expensive for consumers.

Gold prices in Japan were also at a discount of up to 25 cents per ounce.

"Gold demand is very quiet in Japan as the yen is weak. Even during the holiday this week, we didn't see much demand," said a trader in Tokyo, referring to the three-day Golden Week holiday that started on Monday.

In the second biggest consumer, China, premiums were stable between $2 and $3 an ounce. In Hong Kong and Singapore too, premiums were unchanged from last week at up to $1.20 an ounce.

"There is not much interest as people are waiting to see the impact of nonfarm payrolls data on prices," said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.

Source: BusinessStandard