By Brijesh Patel and Rajendra Jadhav
BENGALURU/MUMBAI (Reuters) - Most Asian hubs experienced a slight uptick in physical gold demand this week as consumers took advantage of a retreat in prices, with cheaper silver continuing to be the preferred bet.
While global benchmark spot gold prices were on course for a weekly decline, they hovered close to $1,500 an ounce as uncertainties surrounding U.S.-China trade and fears over the global economy offered support.
"Demand has picked up because investors have realised that geopolitical risks are still around and are looking for safe havens," said Brian Lan, managing director at Singapore dealer GoldSilver Central.
Silver, meanwhile, was heading for a third straight weekly gain.
"Silver is still the choice asset, especially for new investors, because it is poor man's gold," Lan said.
In top gold consumer China, gold premiums edged slightly higher to $8-$10 an ounce over the benchmark, versus $6-$9 last week.
"In Hong Kong, demand is not so good. You don't have travellers going there," said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.
Premiums in Hong Kong were unchanged at $0.50-$1.20, with prolonged protests sparking fears that the financial hub's economy is entering a slowdown phase.
"The unrest has hit the retail market and jewellery demand," said one Hong Kong bullion dealer.
In Singapore, gold was sold at a premium of $0.50-$0.80 an ounce, unchanged from last week.
"We see customers looking for a good point of entry into the gold market and, with prices retracting, some of them have jumped at the opportunity," said Vincent Tie, sales manager at Silver Bullion.
"We're seeing an increase in demand for silver from customers based in Hong Kong, who are buying and storing with us in Singapore because of the uncertainties."
In India, gold was being sold at a discount for the 12th straight week, with domestic prices soaring.
"Consumers are postponing purchases due to higher prices. They think prices may not sustain at higher levels," said Chanda Venkatesh, managing director of CapsGold, a bullion merchant in the southern city of Hyderabad.
Gold futures were trading around 38,000 rupees per 10 grams on Friday after hitting a record high 38,666 rupees this month.
Dealers were offering a discount of up to $31 an ounce over official domestic prices, down from last week's $33 discounts. The domestic price includes a 12.5% import tax and 3% sales tax.
Jewellers have nearly stopped purchases from banks because they have been receiving a large amount of scrap, said one Mumbai-based dealer at a private bullion-importing bank.
In Japan, gold was sold at par against the benchmark, with a strong yen capping demand, a Tokyo trader said.
(Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Arpan Varghese and David Goodman)