Gold demand in Asia picked up modestly this week as global prices wallowed near multi-year lows, but buyers in the world's biggest consuming region for the precious metal were in no hurry as they waited for the market to weaken further.
Bullion is en route to fall for a seventh straight week, its longest retreat since 1999, with investors looking ahead to Friday's US nonfarm payrolls data that may help determine how soon the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates.
Spot gold has languished mostly below $1,100 an ounce since breaching that support level in a July 20 rout, sinking as far as $1,077 on July 24, its weakest since February 2010.
Premiums in India, the world's second-biggest gold consumer after China, hovered between $1.30 to $2.10 an ounce over the global spot benchmark, up from $1.50-$2 last week, with ample supply offsetting an improvement in demand.
"Jewellers have increased buying for the peak festive season. They are replenishing inventory," said Pradeep Nagori, senior vice president at Edelweiss Metals Ltd in Mumbai.
Nagori said jewellers are expecting increased retail demand during the last quarter of the year amid lower prices. Demand for gold jewellery is usually strong in India during the time, when it celebrates festivals such as Diwali and Dussehra and gold buying is considered auspicious.
"India's gold imports in fiscal 2015/16 are likely to be between 900 and 1,000 tonnes as lower prices will boost demand during the festive season," said Rajesh Khosla, managing director of MMTC-PAMP India Pvt Ltd, the country's biggest gold refiner.
Still, "retail demand is not as robust as it should be as consumers are thinking prices will go down further," Khosla added.
Buying interest in China, where the economy is facing headwinds from weaker exports and slow demand, is unlikely to be robust even if the gold price falls further, said Dick Poon, general manager at Heraeus Precious Metals, also in Hong Kong.
"I don't think it's a really good time to buy," said Poon.
In Hong Kong, premiums inched up to $1-$1.20 an ounce from 90 cents to $1.10. On the Shanghai Gold Exchange, premiums were steady at $3-$4 an ounce.
"There's no rush to buy. People are not sure if the price is low enough," said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.
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