Physical gold buying faltered in India this week as prices climbed and rising coronavirus cases prompted consumers to postpone purchases, while demand in top consumer China stabilised as Lunar New Year festivities approached.

Local gold prices in the world's second-biggest consumer have risen nearly 1% this week, and that along with weak retail demand, has pushed jewellers to reduce purchases, said a Mumbai-based bullion dealer.

Dealers charged premiums of up to $0.5 an ounce over official domestic prices—inclusive of 10.75% import and 3% sales levies—down from last week's $1 premiums.

Many retail buyers are delaying purchases, said Ashok Jain, proprietor of Mumbai-based gold wholesaler Chenaji Narsinghji.

India reported 264,202 new cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking its total tally to 36.58 million. 

While demand in Asia has been relatively lacklustre with higher spot prices, there might be some tightness in the market as some refineries tend to shut for a week or two at the end of the year (2021) for seasonal close outs, inventory checks and audits, independent analyst Ross Norman said.

In China premiums widened to about $4-$5 an ounce versus benchmark spot gold rates, from $3.5-$5 last week. 

Hong Kong saw premiums steady at $0.50-$2.00.

In China, the level of premiums suggest interest is firm but not exceptional heading into the Lunar New Year, which comes at the tail end of a cluster of seasonal festive physical buying, Norman added.

Singapore dealers were charging about $1.80 per ounce over global rates versus a $1.50-$1.80 premium last week.

As the Lunar New Year approaches, we are seeing increased gold buying at our retail store for gifting, said Vincent Tie, sales manager at dealer Silver Bullion.

In Japan, discounts of $1 continued to be offered.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Asha Sistla and Bharat Govind Gautam in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel) ((; +91-80-6182-3021/ 3590 (If within U.S. call 651-848-5832 );))