By Nithin ThomasPrasad and Rajendra Jadhav
BENGALURU/MUMBAI - Demand for physical gold remained lacklustre across top Asian centres this week as buyers were put off by a rally in prices, but an approaching Chinese New Year could reignite appeal for the yellow metal.
Gold prices rose for a third session on Friday to hit their highest since September, with a slump in the U.S. dollar helping drive bullion towards its fifth straight weekly gain.
High prices are weighing on physical demand for gold, but demand is expected to rise ahead of the Chinese New Year, according to Brian Lan, managing director at dealer GoldSilver Central in Singapore.
In top consumer China, the range for premiums broadened to about $5-$8 an ounce from $6-$7 last week.
The Chinese New Year holiday will kick in by the middle of next month.
There is not too much demand currently and if prices come down to the $1,300 level, demand and premiums will increase, said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.
Premiums of 60-80 cents an ounce were being charged over the benchmark in Singapore this week, while in Hong Kong, premiums ranged between 60 cents and $1.20, against 70 cents previously.
Demand remained subdued in India, the world's second largest consumer of the metal, as well, since jewellers and retail buyers were postponing purchases due to a rally in local prices to the highest level in 1-1/2 months.
Jewellers need to buy gold for the next month's jewellery exhibition, but they are postponing purchases due to the price rise, said Mukesh Kothari, director at bullion dealer RiddiSiddhi Bullions in Mumbai.
"They will wait for a week or so for price correction. Then they have to make purchases."
Local gold prices jumped to 29,550 rupees per 10 grams, the highest level since Nov. 20, 2017.
Dealers in India were offering a discount of up to $2 an ounce this week over official domestic prices, unchanged from last week. The domestic price includes a 10 percent import tax.
Jewellers were keeping a lower inventory as some people are speculating the government will reduce import duty in the budget on Feb. 1, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a private bank.
India's gold imports surged 67 percent in 2017 from the previous year to 855 tonnes, provisional data from precious metals consultancy GFMS showed.
Meanwhile, in Japan, public selling volumes rose, causing sellers to keep offering discounts of 50 cents, unchanged from the previous week.
(Reporting by Nithin Prasad in Bengaluru, editing by David Evans)