By Rajendra Jadhav and Vijaykumar Vedala
MUMBAI/BENGALURU Gold demand in Asia was mostly subdued this week as buyers stayed on the sidelines due to a rebound in bullion prices.
The international benchmark spot gold gained nearly 2 percent this week, on track for its biggest weekly gain since mid-April as political turbulence in the United States triggered safe-haven demand.
Bullion prices have risen about 3 percent since hitting an eight-week low of $1,213.81 on May 9.
"When compared with last year, physical demand in Asia has not picked up for the same period in 2017. There could be some uplift if gold prices drop another $20-$30 per ounce," a Hong Kong-based precious metals refiner said.
In China, the world's top consumer of gold, demand for the metal fell after improving in the previous three weeks. Premiums in China fell by about $5 an ounce to $10, traders said.
Consumers in China could return if benchmark prices dip to $1,220-$1,225, said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.
Premiums in Hong Kong were priced at about 60 cents to $1 an ounce, almost unchanged from the week before.
In India, the second-largest consumer of the metal, gold demand this week remained tepid.
"Wedding season is coming to an end. Footfalls in showrooms were going down drastically in last few days," said Ashok Jain, proprietor of Mumbai-based wholesaler Chenaji Narsinghji. "Some buyers are waiting for a price correction."
Local market gold futures were trading around 28,600 rupees per 10 grams on Friday, up nearly 2 percent from last week.
Dealers in India were charging a premium of up to $1 an ounce this week over official domestic prices, unchanged from last week. The domestic price includes a 10 percent import tax.
"Demand will fall further in the next few weeks as farmers will start focusing on sowing. Gold could even start trading in discount," said a Mumbai-based dealer with a private bank.
Farmers start sowing in India with the arrival of monsoon rains in June.
India's gold imports in April jumped 211 percent from a year ago on strong demand during the festival Akshaya Tritiya that prompts purchases.
Singapore was an exception with consumers seeking refuge in the metal, pushing up premiums slightly to $1-$1.20 per ounce from 70 cents to $1 last week.
"In Singapore, we are seeing quite good buying of gold and silver at the moment," said Brian Lan, managing director at gold dealer GoldSilver Central in Singapore, adding that buyers were seeking to hedge currency risk.
Prices in Tokyo were quoted at a discount of 50 cents, unchanged from last week on subdued demand.
(Editing by Edmund Blair)