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BENGALURU: Chinese gold dealers were forced to offer the steepest-ever discounts this week as physical demand plunged, while the Indian market flipped to a premium again. Discounts of $42-$88 per ounce were offered versus global benchmark rates in top consumer China, against last week's $20-$37 range.

International spot prices hit a new record of $1,980.57 on Tuesday on surging safe-haven investments due to the coronavirus outbreak. "This means the Chinese think the international price is too high, no one's bidding and the sellers keep selling," said Samson Li, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Refinitiv GFMS. The Chinese market has been in discount since February.

Indian consumption could plunge to a 26-year low in 2020, the World Gold Council said. Indian dealers charged premiums of about $8 an ounce over official domestic prices, inclusive of 12.5% import and 3% sales taxes, versus last week's $6 discount, but retail demand remained weak.

"Physical supplies are tight. Marginal improvement in investment demand pushed prices to a premium," said Mukesh Kothari, director at Mumbai-based dealer RiddiSiddhi Bullions. India's gold imports plunged 96% year-on-year in the June quarter to 13 tonnes.

Local gold futures hit a record 53,844 rupees per 10 grams on Friday. Hong Kong prices fluctuated between a $0.50 discount to a $1.50 premium. Singapore premiums were unchanged at $0.8-$1.50.