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MUMBAI: Physical gold flipped back to premiums in India this week as key festivals ushered in jewellery buying, while a rally in domestic prices curbed demand in top consumer China.

The December quarter usually accounts for about a third of India's gold sales as it takes in the start of the wedding season as well as festivals like Dussehra and Diwali.

"Retail demand has improved to pre-pandemic level. Jewellery stores are witnessing very good footfall in urban and rural areas," said Ashish Pethe, chairman of the All India Gem & Jewellery Domestic Council.

Consumer confidence has also improved with decreasing coronavirus cases and a recovery in economic activity, he said.

Dealers charged premiums of up to $2 an ounce over official domestic prices - inclusive of 10.75% import and 3% sales levies - versus last week's $2 discounts.

A Mumbai-based dealer with a private bank said demand from jewellers, however, was subdued despite robust retail sales as they were confused by a volatile global market and fluctuations in the rupee.

"Jewellers expect the retail sales momentum to continue until Diwali. They have to build inventory in coming weeks," the dealer said.

Premiums in China widened to $6-$12 an ounce charged over global benchmark spot prices, against last week's $8-$9.

"Elevated premiums could also pose a downside risk to demand as it could weigh on Chinese gold imports, though imports will remain resilient," Bernard Sin, regional director for Greater China at MKS said.

Peter Fung, head of dealing at Wing Fung Precious Metals in Hong Kong, said the November-December holiday period could ring in some activity.

In Hong-Kong, premiums were unchanged from last week at $0.50-$1.50 an ounce, while activity was muted in Singapore.

"In Japan, silver demand which is dependent on China, is very weak," a Tokyo-based dealer said, adding gold was sold at $1 discounts.

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