TOKYO, April 23 (Reuters) - Japan's biggest gold retailer Tanaka Kikinzoku has shut all its stores since last Saturday to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.
The 11 shops that are directly managed by the company will remain shut until May 6, while about 100 shops that deal gold bullion or coins on behalf of Tanaka will suspend dealing of the precious metal till May 6, she said.
Investors can still buy gold through Tanaka's telephone service although they can't sell gold as the company needs to examine the metals before purchasing them from customers.
Japan has expanded a state of emergency to include the entire country last week in an effort to stem the coronavirus outbreak. The emergency is in place until May 6.
Japan has seen more than 12,000 infections and over 300 deaths from the coronavirus.
Increasing lockdowns and restrictions over the past couple of months have crippled activity in top Asian physical bullion hubs, especially India and China.
Gold was sold at small premiums of about $0.50 to $1 an ounce over global prices in Japan, which did see some safe haven buying and demand for silver ingots over the past few weeks, as per dealers in Tokyo, although increasing restrictions following the emergency declaration have kept most buyers away.
Benchmark spot gold prices have rallied about 14% this year, hitting an over 7-year high earlier this month, and are now holding well above the key psychological level of $1,700 an ounce. (Reporting by Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo; Additional reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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