Physical bullion markets in major Asian hubs saw a sharp divide this week with some regions seeing a surge in demand, while others grappled with strained supply and muted activity amid global lockdowns due to the coronavirus.
“It’s just a lot of strange things happening in the market now, because in some parts of the world, you will see massive premiums on gold, while other parts have discounts – just boils down to logistics and supply chain disruptions,” said Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen.
While high value bullion bars are available, low denominations are in short supply, he added.
The market has been plagued by supply concerns following the shutdown of major Swiss refineries and air travel lockdowns.
“The name of the game now is which dealers can supply their clients and where, and which ones have enough inventory,” said Joshua Rotbart, managing partner, J. Rotbart & Co in Hong Kong.
Top consumer China saw weak demand, with gold sold at $15-$20 discounts over benchmark spot prices.
“Gold is a luxury. People would rather go to the supermarket than buy gold,” said Ronald Leung, chief dealer, Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.
Trading was suspended for a second straight week in India amidst a lockdown.
Retail buying could slow due to higher prices even after the lockdown, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a private bank.
Indian gold futures soared to a record 45,800 rupees per 10 grammes on Friday, tracking recent gains in global markets as gold is seen as a safe haven and helped by a weak rupee.
In Hong Kong, some retailers saw good demand.
“We continue to see strong demand across the board from both new and regular customers, both retail and wholesale,” said Keanan Brackenridge, product Manager at LPM Group Ltd, adding premiums on retail gold have jumped.
Demand surged in Singapore, meanwhile, pushing premiums to $1.60-$2.00 an ounce from last week’s $1.20-$1.60, with traders still seeing a sharp disconnect between spot and physical prices.
“People are trying to accumulate for protection in uncertain times,” said Spencer Campbell, director at Precious Metals Consultants SE Asia Consulting in Singapore, adding silver demand has outstripped gold of late.
However, traders kept a close track on latest virus-led restrictions announced in Singapore.
“We’re waiting to hear the status of secure logistics employees and refiners same as financial institutions, to know whether we can trade in Singapore and whether vault facilities are still operational,” said Rotbart.
Premiums of $0.50 an ounce were charged in Japan, a Tokyo-based retailer said, with higher interest for gold bars from individual investors.